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In 2020, we celebrate 60 years of ICA in the Asia-Pacific region. It has been an incredible journey, and the growth has been hand-in-hand with our many members in the region. To mark this landmark year, each month, we will highlight different areas and sectors of ICA-AP and its members’ involvement over the past 60 years.


ICA comes to Asia Pacific

ICA first came to being as the Regional Office and the Education Centre for South-East Asia in 1960. The Centre was a result of discussions at various ICA Congresses since 1948 on ways to engage  national cooperative movements and bring them closer to the ICA. The aim was to address the socio-economic development challenges through cooperatives.


On November 14, 1960, the ICA Regional Office and the Education Centre was opened by the first Prime Minister of India, Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, on his birthday! In his inaugural address, Shri Nehru said, “My outlook is to convulse India with the cooperative movement, or rather with cooperation: to make it, broadly speaking, the basic activity of India in every village as well as elsewhere; and finally, indeed to make the cooperative approach the common thinking of India…With that naturally comes processes of training, etc. We cannot just ask them to cooperate. Therefore, we have to train them in a very big way – educate them and give them some special training.” Dr Mauritz Bonow, President of the ICA, in his address added that, “In doing so, we naturally would greatly welcome your help and assistance from your great experience in other countries, where this cooperative principle has gone far and is working efficiently in a big way. We would welcome that help and assistance.”


ICA-AP was the first regional office of the ICA, setting the tone for other regional offices in Africa, the Americas and Europe. In 1963, the Regional Office and the Education Centre were merged into one institution, the ICA ROEC; it was placed under the charge of the Regional Director in 1970. In view of the commendable work done by the ROEC, and the considerable demands made by cooperators from the Asia-Pacific region, the office expanded in 1963 from South-East Asia to become the ICA Regional Office for Asia. In 1990, it further expanded to become the ICA Regional Office for Asia-Pacific (ICA-AP). ICA-AP is currently headquartered in New Delhi, India.


Our first members

In 1961, the first year of ICA in Asia-Pacific, we had 7 members from 6 countries. These were the All India Cooperative Union (now NCUI), Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives of Japan (now JA-Zenchu), Cooperative Federation of Ceylon, Cooperative Union of Malaysia, Japanese Consumer Cooperatives Union, National Cooperative Council-Burma, and the West Pakistan Cooperative Union.  


Cooperation among cooperatives (C2C)

ICA-AP has carried out, and continues to engage in multiple development programmes for member organisations in the region, with the help and collaboration of national and international agencies.


One of the longest standing programmes has been the ICA collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), Government of Japan, to implement its training project on Strengthening management of agricultural cooperatives in Asia. The project was initiated in 1986, and is currently in its third decade of implementation. Under this project, training courses on enhancing farmers’ income and poverty reduction through cooperatives, farm guidance methods, joint collection, fostering core leaders of agricultural cooperatives, and other courses have been implemented. In 2017, the project was expanded to include capacity building programmes for Africa, in addition to Asia.


The interest in developing trade among cooperatives in the Asia Pacific region goes back to the 1960s. A trade survey was conducted during 1965-66 to understand needs and followed-up with conferences (1968 and 1970, Tokyo), trade fairs (1969, Iran), and bilateral agreements (Japan and India on sugar, Sri Lanka and India in fisheries).  In 1974, on the recommendations of the Select Committee (1972) on Agriculture and Trade of ICA-AP, an International Co-operative Trading Organization (ICTO) was established in Singapore (with investments from Australia, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand) to encourage trade and render facilities for sale and purchase of produce. However, the ICTO had to wind up operations 1976 due to lack of member support.


The ILO/SIDA project in 1978 was developed to promote trade between cooperatives within Asia and outside. The project was transferred to ICA-AP in 1983 and as part of this, there were trade directories developed, trade fairs organized, training and development programs carried out, the Singapore Business Office established and agreements signed. In 2012, the Regional Board approved the move of Business Office from Singapore to Malaysia.


The Malaysia Business Office (MBO) was set up in 2013 and staffed with seconded staff from All China Federation of Supply and Marketing Cooperatives (ACFSMC), Japanese Consumer Cooperative Union, and National Agriculture Cooperative Federation; with coordination and administrative support from Angkasa. The MBO was set up to increase business interactions and exchanges between/among consumer co-operatives and insurance and banking co-operatives; to promote cooperative trade in the areas of fair trade and B-to-B trade platform; to promote technical exchanges and assistances in IT technology; to transfer technical and managerial know-how in the areas of resource recycling and renewable energy; and to promote cultural exchanges of youth cooperators in the region.