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What is a co-operative?

A co-operative is a form of business enterprise, or community organization, incorporated in service to its members and users, in order to meet their shared economic, social, or cultural needs and aspirations. A co-operative is jointly-owned and democratically controlled by their members and users on the basis of `one member, one vote'.
Essentially, co-operatives use democratic, participatory and transparent decision-making processes and organizational structures, so their members and users (i.e. owners, workers, and consumers) may be directly responsible for benefiting themselves, each other and the society at large

Co-operative values and principles

Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, mutual help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. Co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others.
The following principles are the guidelines under which co-operatives put their values into practice are:

  • Voluntary and Open Membership
  • Democratic Member Control
  • Member Economic Participation
  • Autonomy and Independence
  • Education, Training and Information
  • Co-operation among Co-operatives
  • Concern for Community.

See the explanation of each of the principles at

What is ICA?

The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) is an independent, non-governmental association that unites, represents and serves the co-operatives worldwide. Founded in London, on 18 August, 1895, ICA, the largest non-governmental organization whose is headquartered in Geneva. ICA is a member organization with national and international co-operative organization in over 94 countries. ICA's five regional offices in Africa (2), the Americas, Asia/Pacific and Europe, together, serve more than 235 member organizations, including five international organizations, representing well over 760 million individual members around the world

Is the ICA a division of the UN?

No. ICA is not a United Nations' Organization. However, the ICA enjoys General Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN/ECOSOC) and has close and active working relations with several UN organizations

The ICA logo and international co-operative flag.

The ICA logo and international co-operative flag is based on the rainbow as the emblem of co-operatives everywhere. The ICA logo initially designed for the ICA Centennial in 1995, is used on the international co-operative flag. The logo depicts doves of peace emerging from a rainbow, and represents the unity of ICA's diverse membership. The rainbow colors used on the logo symbolise the fading of political divisions and the union of peoples. Composed of the primary shades of the rainbow, each of the seven colours has a special meaning:

Red stands for courage
Orange offers the vision of possibilities
Yellow represents the challenge that green had kindled
Green represents growth, a challenge to co-operators to strive for growth of membership and of understanding of the aims and values of co-operation.
Sky Blue suggests far horizons, the need to provide education and help to unfortunate people and to unite in good with all peoples of the world.
Dark Blue suggests pessimism. It reminds us of the unfortunate peoples of the world who need to be shown how to help themselves through co-operation.
Violet a color of warmth and beauty, and friendship.

The previous flag of the co-operative movement was the rainbow flag. In 2001, the flag was changed to clearly promote and strengthen the co-operative image. The rainbow flag, used by a number of non-co-operative groups, led to confusion in several countries around the world.

What is ICA - Asia & Pacific?

The ICA Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ICA - Asia & Pacific) was established on 14 November 1960 as Regional Office and Education Centre, which was later designated as Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. The ICA - Asia & Pacific serves more than 5.25 million individual co-operative members through 52 national level member organizations in 23 countries in the Region, and one international organization.

What is its vision and mission?

Vision Statement:We, the ICA in Asia and the Pacific, believe in the ICA Co-operative Identity Statement (ICIS) as our guidepost to promote and enhance co-operative development in the region.
Mission: We, the ICA in Asia and the Pacific, shall strive to promote and strengthen the co-operative movement in the region.

What are the main focus areas of ICA's regional office?
  • Policy Development and Legislation
  • Promotion and Protection of ICA Co-operative Identity Statement (ICIS)
  • Sound Leadership and Value-based Professional Management
  • Developing and supporting International Co-operative Trade Network and inter-co-operative trade.
  • Agriculture and consumer sector development
  • Involving women, youth and marginalized groups in co-operative efforts.
What are the main activities of ICA - Asia & Pacific?
  • Co-ordinating co-operative development efforts within the region and facilitating exchange of experiences
  • Project identification, formulation, preparation, and evaluation.
  • Organizing Co-operative Think Tank Consortia and Fora.
  • Convening Co-operative Ministers' conferences.
  • Organizing members' Regional Assembly and specialized committee meetings.
  • Development and facilitating human resource development, research and gender integration activities.
  • Co-ordinating other co-operative-related activities.
Who fund ICA development work?

In order to implement its activities, the ICA collaborates with approximately 30 international and national development agencies and national government ministries. These partners support the ICA Development Programme through the provision of financial and technical assistance.

Which partners specifically fund ICA - Asia & Pacific activities?

The ICA - Asia & Pacific's development partners provide important project funding and support. Our development partners include, among others:

  • Japanese Consumers' Co-operative Union (JCCU)
  • JA-Zenchu/Institute for the Development of Agricultural Co-operation in Asia (IDACA)
  • The Government of Japan - Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
  • National Agricultural Co-operative Federation of Korea (NACF)
  • National Agricultural Co-operative Federation of Korea (NACF) National Co-operative Union of India
  • Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA)
  • Développement international Desjardins (DiD)
  • ILO/Coopnet/Coopreform Programmes
  • Agriterra and Rabobank Foundation, and