Dear Members
In November, the 15th ICA-AP Regional Assembly at its hybrid meeting in Seoul elected a new Board and a new set of office-bearers. The board has representation from across all the subregions and is well equipped to lead the region for the next four years. Dr. Chandrapal Singh Yadav (India) was elected as President and Mr. Cai Zenhong (China) and Datuk Seri Dr. Abdul Fattah Hj. Abdullah (Malaysia) as Vice Presidents. The other members of the board are Ms. Chitose Arai (Japan), Ms. Natalie Browning (Australia), Mr. Mohamadali Zeygami (Iran), Mr. Sung-hee Lee (Korea), Mr. Min Raj Kadel (Nepal), Mr. Antonio Arañas (the Philippines), Mr. Sarath Weerasiri (Sri Lanka), and Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Bao ((Vietnam). Mr. Alireza Banaeifar, who was elected as Chair of the Youth Committee, will be the Youth representative on the board. We would like to take this opportunity to recognize the leadership provided by Mr. Li Chunsheng and the previous board for their dedicated work in advancing the growth and development of cooperatives in the Asia-Pacific region.

The 33rd ICA World Congress on the theme, Deepening the Cooperative Identity, was held from December 1 to 3 in Seoul. The Congress was held in a hybrid manner under the shadow of the lingering COVID-19 pandemic with its ever-recurring variants. The Congress provided the opportunity for members to come together in person and celebrate 125 years of ICA and 25 years of the Statement of Cooperative Identity (SCI). To provide the Asia-Pacific perspective, we organised a series of online consultations with members from the Philippines, Nepal, Iran, ASEAN and MENA (with our ICA Africa Office) region, and India to reflect on the SCI in their day-to-day operations and engagement with stakeholders. The SCI continues to be seen as foundational and integral to the sustenance and growth of the cooperative movement. It helps connect this vast movement across countries, divided by geography and culture, and offers cooperators a noticeable sense of collective belonging that is unparallel in a globalized world. The relaunched COOP Dialogue covers views of members, cooperators and practitioners on the SCI. We encourage you to read the first edition and share your comments.

The ICA Asia and Pacific region has 112 members from 31 countries. During the year, we were joined by six new members, the Matara District Health Cooperative Society, Sri Lanka; the Network Consolidated Cooperative Bank (NCCB), Philippines; National Yuva Co-operative Society Ltd. (NYCS), Centre for Cooperatives and Livelihoods – Autonomous (CCL), Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), and the Tamil Nadu Small Tea Growers ICTFs Federation Ltd. (INDCOSERVE), India; and the Educational Cooperative Union of Limited Liability, Jordan. The 21 country snapshots provide a rich overview of the history, policy environment, case studies and international engagement.

We mourn the passing of Dr. Gopal Saxena, Dr. Daman Prakash, Mr. P. Nair, and Mr. Mohammad Sharif Bhaiji. Dr. Gopal N. Saxena served as the Chairperson of the ICA-AP Committee on Cooperative Research. He joined India’s largest farmers’ cooperative, Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO) as a junior statistician and retired as Director of Cooperative Development after a career spanning 43 years. He was closely associated with the ICA-AP Research Committee for over a decade until he retired in 2016. Dr. Daman Prakash worked in ICA-AP from 1962 to 2002. During his illustrious career, he held various positions - Director Agriculture Cooperative Management, Technical Advisor in Sri Lanka with the ICA-SCC-NCC/SL Co-operative Teachers’ Training Project, Chief Technical Advisor with ILO in Indonesia, and Senior Consultant with JA-Zenchu of Japan. Mr. Nair had joined ICA-AP in 1987 as Communications Officer and served as Secretary to various ICA-AP committees during his tenure until 2007. He was instrumental in organizing research conferences and workshops as part of his committee activities. Mr. Mohammad Sharif Bhaiji got involved in the world of cooperatives in his early years and continued his father’s legacy through cooperative housing societies where he established many hospitals, schools, rehabilitation centers and recreation parks. He served as a Board Member of the Cooperative Housing International (CHI), the sectoral organization of ICA, from 2009 to 2013.

The Third Asia-Pacific Cooperative Youth Summit, on the theme, ‘Celebrating Youth as the Torchbearers of the Cooperative Identity’ was held in July. The Summit held virtually attracted 3,500 registrations from 23 countries. The winners of Coop Pitch were: Eco-Clean (Indonesia), a platform cooperative for cleaning-service providers; Himalayan Hemp Cooperative (India), a community of artisans and farmers creating eco-conscious products; and Udara Cooperative (Malaysia), food production through aquaponics systems. A multistakeholder consultation on “Autonomy and Independence of Cooperatives in India” was held in September to discuss the prospects for the cooperative sector, considering the current political economy in India. The consultation brought forth the Anand declaration, containing a set of policy recommendations. The ICA-AP Committee on Cooperatives in Educational Institutions organized an online global workshop on the theme, ‘Building and Strengthening Cooperative Identity among Youth through Cooperatives in Educational Institutions’ to bring perspectives from experts on global best practices and recommendations to strengthen Cooperative Identity among youth. The ICA-AP Committee on Women during the ICA Congress organized the 11th Asia-Pacific Cooperative Women Forum, “Why Cooperative Identity matters to Women,” in a hybrid manner. The forum deliberated on how the Cooperative Identity positively impacts women cooperative members and the challenges experienced by women in practising cooperative principles and values; and what can be done to further strengthen the impact. The ICA-AP Committee on Consumer Cooperation organized a series of webinars to highlight the role played by cooperatives to bridge the gap between producers and consumers during the pandemic.

We celebrated International Day of Cooperatives, #RebuildBetterTogether and showcased how cooperatives in the Asia-Pacific region are meeting the COVID-19 pandemic crisis with solidarity and resilience and offering communities a people-centered and environmentally just recovery. The training programs under the aegis of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), Government of Japan continued to be carried out online. The ICA-EU Partnership on Cooperatives in Development People-Centered Businesses in Action Project came to an end in August and was successful in addressing the Project’s three strategic priorities – Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Youth Inclusion, and Work and Ownership. It helped to strengthen the capacity of the federation, increased advocacy, and improved the visibility of cooperatives as development actors. ICA President Ariel Guarco attended a National Cooperative Conference organised by the Indian cooperative movement under the leadership of the National Cooperative Union of India (NCUI) and IFFCO to welcome the Union Minister of Home Affairs & Minister of Cooperation, Mr. Amit Shah

We would like to thank Ms. Savitri Singh who worked at ICA-AP for 20 years! She contributed immensely to the development of the ICA-AP Committee on Women and in organizing important regional events like Cooperative Ministers’ Conference, Cooperative Forum, and the ICA-MAFF (Govt. of Japan) training course.

We are thankful to our MBO sponsoring organizations – All China Federation of Supply & Marketing Coops (ACFSMC), Japanese Consumers’ Cooperative Union (JCCU), Malaysian National Cooperative Movement (ANGKASA), and National Agricultural Cooperative Federation (NACF). We continue to receive generous support from the MAFF, Government of Japan to foster leadership and develop cooperatives in the Asia and Pacific region. During the year, the regional office continued its engagement with Aflatoun International, Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA); Fairtrade Network of Asia and Pacific Producers (Fairtrade-NAPP); Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA); Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. (GCMMF, AMUL), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, SAARC Agriculture Centre (SAC), Mahila Abhivruddhi Society, Andhra Pradesh (APMAS), Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), SEWA Cooperative Federation, and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).