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The International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), established in 1895 and currently headquartered in Brussels is the global umbrella organization that represents, unites and develops cooperatives across diverse sectors of the economy. The ICA represents 300 plus apex federations and leading sectoral cooperatives from over 100 countries. ICA Asia and Pacific   (ICA-AP), the regional arm of the ICA was established in 1960 in New Delhi (India), and services 107 members from 32 countries.

 

In March 2016, the ICA and the European Union signed a Framework Partnership Agreement (Europe Aid/150-053/C/ACT/Multi) to implement multi-year and multi-country development programme aimed at benefitting and advancing cooperatives worldwide. Titled “Cooperatives in Development – People-centred Businesses in Action”, the programme is implemented by the four ICA regional offices (Africa, Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe) and will run until May 2021. The AP unit has identified three strategic priorities: participation of Cooperatives in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Youth Inclusion, and Exploring Work and Ownership Structures in Cooperatives.  A video explaining the hashtag, #Coops4Dev, and the program can be viewed here.

 

The following is the Year 4 (March 2019 to February 2020) report of the activities carried out by the Asia Pacific Unit. 

 

 

Institutional Strengthening

 

Delegates during the ICA-AP SDG13 workshop in Bangkok, Thailand in November 2019

 

A training program on SDG-13 Climate Action, “Save the Environment to Sustain Future Generations” was held in November, at the Cooperative League of Thailand (CLT) Training Center in Bangkok. The capacity building program was conceptualized and designed in consultation with GIZ, Thailand, to strengthen the capacity of leaders and managers of cooperatives. The 31 participants from eight countries across Asia and Africa deepened their understanding on SDGs and its relevance for cooperatives; explored and analysed the impact of climate change on various sectors (agriculture, credit, fisheries and consumer) and exchanged good practices and lessons-learned to reduce or cope with climate change risks.

 

 

Coop Mic is ICA-AP’s endeavour to provide a platform for experts from within and outside the cooperative ecosystem to talk about topical issues and help spread awareness about the cooperative model. The latest edition of Coop Mic in June was with Mr. Rajiv Khandelwal, Executive Director of Aajeevika Bureau, India. The topic of the talk, ‘Decent and Dignified Work Demands Action Now’, was in consonance with the theme of 2019 International Day of Cooperatives - Cooperatives for Decent Work.

 

Enabling Environment

 

The status of cooperatives in eighteen countries of the Asia and Pacific region were studied and mapped using secondary research. The key parameters were contribution of cooperatives to the national economy, sectoral distribution of cooperatives, genesis and evolution of the cooperative movement, historical and current laws on cooperatives, and association of national cooperatives with the international cooperative movement and ICA.  Eleven national reports on the legal framework have been uploaded on the #Coops4Dev webisite.

ICA-AP entered a joint research project with Access Livelihoods Consulting to ascertain the status of autonomy and independence of cooperatives in India, which can be accessed here. The research on Cooperatives in Industrial and Service Sectors in the Asia and Pacific Region was co-designed with CICO as a participatory study with the engagement of experts and practitioners from 12 countries. Another study on the challenges faced by youth and the role for cooperatives is under finalisation.



Capacity Building

A training of mentors of the Global Cooperative Entrepreneurship (GCE) was held at Manchester, United Kingdom from 18-21 March. The objective of the GCE project is to set up an experimental global community of mentors, mutualize tools and resources and implement activities for cooperative entrepreneurship. From Asia and Pacific unit, 5 mentors from 3 Indonesia, India and Malaysia participated. The mentors continue to collaborate on developing, reviewing and sharing resources related to youth entrepreneurship and cooperative development via an online knowledge base. In collaboration with Uralungal Labour Contract Cooperative Society, we organized the GCE Training for Ambassadors from 25-28 November in Kerala, India. 20 Participants from India and Indonesia attended the four-day training meant to capacitate participants with the skills and knowledge to set up new cooperatives.

 

 

In August, ICA-AP along with the Gujarat Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) Cooperative Federation and SEWA Bharat organized the National Workshop for Women's Cooperatives, in Ahmedabad, India. The workshop stemmed from the need to empower women’s cooperatives and had four-pronged focus: accessing finance, leveraging technologies to boost business, networking and marketing linkages for goods and services, and supporting an enabling environment. We  participated in the India International Cooepratives Trade Fair from 11-13 October, by setting up a stall to promote our activities and display publications on cooperative law, gender, and cooperative development

 

An inter-regional workshop on cooperatives in educational institutions was organised by the ICA-AP Committee on Cooperatives in Educational Institutions in collaboration with ICA Africa in Kigali on October 14, 2019. The objective of the workshop was to share knowledge between ICA members and other stakeholders about cooperatives in educational institutions such as universities, colleges, and high schools. The workshop was attended by 51 participants from diverse backgrounds including policy makers, students, university management and staff, and youth from over 17 countries. We also organised an International Seminar on Curriculum Development for Cooperative Education on 25-26 November in Kathmandu, Nepal. The program was attended by 22 international delegates from six countries and 50 Nepalese stakeholders. The seminar looked at the current status of curriculum development in formal education on cooperatives and in mapping out future needs.

 

 

 

In December, we organized the 2nd ICA-AP Forum on Development of Cooperatives in Pacific Islands in Australia. It came as a follow-up to the one in Vanuatu in 2018 to mainstream cooperatives from the Pacific within the ICA’s development processes. The Forum was attended by delegates from academia, cooperative federations and government agencies from Australia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Kiribati, and New Zealand.{C}{C}

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Delegates during the 2nd ICA-AP Forum on Development of Cooperatives in Pacific Islands

 

 

Cooperative Networking

 

The 13th edition of European Development Days (EDD) took place in Brussels on 18-19 June. The Asia-Pacific unit attended the EDD and discussed with potential partners on the EC’s collaborative platform for the international development community, where cooperative organisations could join the discussions, access resources and learn from peers. This presented an opportunity to meet with the representatives of Cooperatives Europe Development Platform (CEDP) to discuss potential collaboration with ICA members in the Asia-Pacific region and establish a regional platform to promote cooperatives in international development.

 

Advocacy and Political Dialogue

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. We were present at the 63rd UN CSW held at New York from 9th to 15th of March.  Our representative, Dr. Nandini Azad, Chairperson of the ICA-AP Women Committee made a successful intervention to the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, during a Town Hall meeting between the SG and CSOs.

 

We participated in the Annual Meeting of the Global PFD held in Brussels, Belgium from 13-15 March and shared our work in Nepal on the contribution of cooperatives in the Voluntary National Reporting (VNR). The ICA-AP also made an intervention at the panel ‘Towards more effective multi-stakeholder partnerships to achieve the environmental ambition of the 2030 Agenda’ and described the work of cooperatives in saving the natural environment by citing the example of SANASA (ICA member) in the Lassana Lanka (Beautiful Sri Lanka) project. The PFD held its Asia Regional Meeting in Kathmandu, Nepal from 24-26 September to discuss issues on top of global agenda and the progress made in the implementation of the SDGs. Our delegation had the opportunity to meet and greet H.E. Veronica Cody, Ambassador, European Union Delegation to Nepal.

 

ICA-AP staff and delegates with EUD Ambassador to Nepal, H.E. Veronica Cody during the Policy Forum on Development, Asia Regional Meeting

 

 

We partnered with the Vietnam Cooperative Alliance (VCA) to organize the 2nd Asia Pacific Cooperative Registrars' Forum on creating enabling legal framework and policies to promote sustainable development of cooperatives in the 21st Century in Ho Chi Minh City from 16-19 April. The Forum brought together registrars and regulators concerned with the promotion and development of cooperatives nationally; leaders and managers of cooperatives from the Asia-Pacific region; and other stakeholders to discuss matters pertaining to legislation on cooperatives, as well as policies and regulations that complement existing laws. It was attended by 294 delegates from 22 countries including Vietnam and included government representatives from Bhutan, Fiji, India, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. 

 

Training session during the Global Youth Forum (GYF20) in Kuching, Malaysia in February 2020

 

The Global Youth Forum Cooperaitve Entrepreneurship 2020 (GYF20) was a first-of-its kind immersive training for youth entrepreneurs (ages 18-35) and cooperators from around the world. GYF20 took place at the Majestic Riverside Hotel in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia from 3-7 February with over 150 youth participants from 50 countries and 20 trainers, professionals and experts from around the world. From the Asia-Pacific region, we had participants and trainers from Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Palestine, Iran, India, Sri Lanka, Japan and Nepal. GYF20 was a forward-looking event to create a global network of youth in entrepreneurship and cooperation. The main outcome of the event was the passing of the GYF20 Youth Resolution.

 

 

We reviewed the VNRs from 2016 to 2019 to see how cooperatives are featured. Our premise is that cooperatives play an important role in implementation of the SDGs and being part of the VNR process will help put forth the views of cooperatives to focal point and stakeholders, be included in national targets, gain recognition, and provide added avenues for engagement (with government, aid agencies and civil society).

 

We continued keeping track of the consultations organized by the European Union Delegations (EUD) to update and revise the roadmaps on civil society engagement and participated in the consultations for India. The AP unit also engaged in bilateral meetings with EUDs in India and Bhutan, Jordan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. The meetings were to introduce ICA members in the country to the EUDs and to familiarize the EUDs to the Partnership activities.

 

Alliances with CSO actors

ICA-AP was able to actively engage CSOs in its activities through the year. We were able to further progress on the MoUs with the Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA) and the Access Livelihood Consulting India. 

 

We collaborated with Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in India, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation through its Secretariat and the SAARC Agriculture Center to attend the RRegional Experts Consultation Meeting on Family Farmers Cooperatives to End Hunger and Poverty through Integrated Farming in South Asia. The meeting was organized at the Verghese Kurien auditorium of NDDB from 22-24 July. The objective of the consultation was to strengthen farmers’ cooperatives in attaining the SDGs on no poverty and zero hunger in South Asia, by sharing of good practices, through policy formulation, and support incentives.



We also engaged with the Verghese Kurien Centre for Excellence (VKCoE) at IRMA and the Department of Cooperation in Government of Odisha for the Workshop on “Doubling Farmers Income: Exploring Pathways for Cooperatives in Odisha”. It was organized at the Odisha State Cooperative Bank from 29-30 August. The Aflatoun Global Social & Financial Skills Conference took place in Amsterdam on October 30 and November 1. The conference had a dedicated break-out session on ‘Partnering with Cooperatives’ which was facilitated by us. ICA-AP and Aflatoun International signed an MoU to take forward these conversations to a fruitful partnership.