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Press Release

Sixty Years of ICA in Asia and the Pacific

    Celebrating Cooperation



November 15, 2020


The International Cooperative Alliance Asia-Pacific (ICA-AP) celebrated its 60th year with a webinar on November 13. The Regional Office and Education Center (ICA ROEC) was opened on November 14, 1960, by late Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. ICA ROEC was the first to be set up by the ICA as the precursor and a model for other regional offices.  The Regional Office has been situated in New Delhi (India) from the start with branch offices in Singapore (1999 to 2012) and Malaysia (2013 onwards). Starting with 7 members from 6 countries, the ICA-AP today serves 109 member organizations from 32 countries.


Balasubramanian Iyer, Regional Director welcomed the participants and said that the pillars of support for the region were the 109 members from 32 countries who provide sustained support, the international community of cooperatives from all the ICA regions, our regional board members and leaders for their steadfast direction, our partners for their solid engagement, and the staff for their unrelenting commitment.


Mr. Ariel Guarco, ICA President, in his message congratulated the region and said that during his visits he had the opportunity to meet dedicated members who were steadfastly committed to principles and upholding the cooperative identity. Mr. Li Chunsheng, ICA-AP President extended his greetings and said that the setting up of the regional office reflected the global cooperative community to boost social and economic development across regions. The work of ICA and its members has been to serve as the bridge between cooperators to share experiences and opportunities to benefit the wider community. Mr. Sung-hee Lee, Chairman of National Cooperative Federation (NACF) Korea said that NACF owed its existence to the successful cooperative models which were passed on from other countries and enabled NACF to grow into the top 10 cooperatives in the world. He also mentioned that NACF was now committed to sharing its best practices with others. Dr. Chandrapal Singh Yadav, President NCUI and Vice President ICA-AP extended his greetings and recollected the role played by NCUI as the apex organization in India right from ICA-AP’s early days. The Indian Cooperative movement currently has 14 members in the ICA, who contribute immensely to the governance (serve on the regional and global board), support in the development and growth of cooperatives through trainings and exchanges; by playing host to important events such as Regional Assembly; and enthusiastically taking part in regional and global events. Mr. Bruno Roelants, Director General ICA who joined the webinar towards the end recollected his association with the Regional Office since 1995 and its contribution to meet the needs and aspirations of members. He spoke of the important relations which the region has established with various constituents.


The segment, Voices from the Past, featured staff who served at the Regional Office. Drs. Robby Tulus, Regional Director (1996-2001) spoke of the challenging times the region had to face due to various economic crises and the landmark adoption of the Statement of Cooperative Identity. He spoke of the multi-faceted staff deputed from six countries, the north-south collaboration, and the major events such as Ministers Conference. Dr. Chan-Ho Choi, Regional Director (2010-2014) spoke of his exciting time in seeing the region celebrate the International Year of Cooperatives in 2012 and the efforts to provide conducive legal environment necessary for the establishment and growth of cooperatives. He said that the Asia and Pacific region has many examples of special cooperatives in a wide variety of sectors, in that it looks like a cooperative department store!  Mr. Amano Haruyoshi, from the International Department of JCCU spoke of their long association with ICA-AP and their contribution in deputing staff to the offices in India, Singapore and Malaysia, and their role in the development of consumer, campus, youth, and women committees. Mr. A.H. Ganesan, Program Officer (1962-1999) spoke of his long association with the Regional Office and having witnessed the 25th anniversary, 50th anniversary, and now the 60th anniversary! Ms. Simel Esim, Manager ILO Coop spoke of the collaboration and cooperation between the ILO and the ICA-AP region from the early 60s; the role played by ILO specialists, trainers, and educators supporting the strengthening of national cooperative movements and governmental cooperative development institutions; and the development cooperation projects.  


The first members from the region were the Cooperative Federation of Ceylon [now National Cooperative Council of Sri Lanka]; National Cooperative Council-Burma [now Central Cooperative Society]; All-India Co-operative Union [now National Cooperative Union of India]; Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives of Japan [now JA-Zenchu]; Japanese Consumer Co-operative Union [JCCU]; Co-operative Union of Malaya [now ANGKASA]; and the West Pakistan Co-operative Union [WPCU]. Mr. Toru Nakaya, Chairman of the Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives, Japan in his message thanked the ICA-AP Regional Assembly for the support extended to Japanese cooperatives when they were facing issues regarding demutualization. Mr. Dato’ Abdul Fattah Abdullah, President ANGKASA, spoke about ICA-AP serving as the platform to connect with cooperatives in the region, opportunity to participate in trainings and conferences, and in networking. He spoke of ANGKASA organizing important events like Ministers’ Conference, Registrars Forum, and the ICA General Assembly in 2017. Mr. Khin Maung Aye, Chairman of the Central Cooperative Society, Myanmar, spoke about the development of cooperatives in Myanmar through the training received from member countries and their active participation in all activities. Mr. Sarath Weerasiri, Chairman of National Cooperative Council of Sri Lanka in his message highlighted the close relationship between ICA-AP and cooperatives in Sri Lanka through trainings, events, and exchange visits. Mr. N. Satyanarayana, CE, NCUI spoke about NCUI’s role from the beginning and the role played by the current 14 members. He thanked members from China, Japan, Korea, and other countries for the support extended through trainings which resulted in professional and personal development. He also spoke of the Blueprint for a Cooperative Decade in providing direction to the cooperative movement and the role in the Sustainable Development Goals.


Dr. U.S. Awasthi, Managing Director, IFFCO in his congratulatory message spoke of their close engagement with the regional and global office of ICA. IFFCO has played an important part in supporting activities, chairing committees, helping during natural disasters, and in advocacy.  He also spoke of the need for cooperatives to look at issues around technology, climate change and global warming, and in development of business opportunities. Dr. Nandini Azad, Chairperson of the ICA-AP Women Committee traced the history of the women committee activities over the past 23 years, the support received from JCCU and the work carried out to increase the presence of women at leadership levels. She touched upon the landmark study on gender disaggregated data in 2005 and 2018; the three Tagatay Women’s Conferences in Philippines (1997, 2006, 2016); and Women Forums. She highlighted the role played by women during the difficult times of the pandemic and the efforts to make them digitally literate.


Mr. Min Raj Kadel, Chairman, National Cooperative Federation of Nepal, spoke of their 23 years engagement with the ICA-AP and the benefits through experience sharing, participation in activities, partnership development, collaboration and advocacy. Mr. Kok Kwong Kwek, Chairman, Singapore National Cooperative Federation, congratulated the office and said it is an established and well-regarded office. SNCF has been a member since 1985 and during all these years it has worked to build the capacity of cooperatives, develop sustainable methods, take a lead in youth related activities, and host several events.  Mr. Bhima Subhramanyam, Chairman, International Cooperative Banking Association in his congratulatory message praised the region for carrying out many programs, timely conduct of statutory meetings, and establishing closer inter-personal relations. He spoke of his good opportunity of associating with ICA AP on many occasions and working closely on few areas of interest. Mr. Alireza Baneifar from the Iran Chamber of Cooperatives extended the best wishes from cooperatives in Iran and spoke about cooperatives and the work being carried out by them. He stressed on the need to look at education and research, role of youth and women in development, promote sustainable production and consumption and strengthen relationship among countries through cooperative experiences.


Balasubramanian Iyer in his closing thanked the participants for joining the celebrations and for the greetings, well wishes, and congratulatory messages! The voices from the region showed the close association with Regional Office, appreciation of the work done by the Regional Office, acknowledgement of the need for reinforcing joint work to look ahead, and add our collective forces in meeting needs of members, interests of women, and aspirations of youth.


Messages were received from the Business Council of Cooperatives and Mutuals, Australia; the Cooperative Business New Zealand; Cooperative Institute of Malaysia, National Federation of University Cooperatives Association, Japan; and the Vietnam Cooperative Alliance.


The webinar was hosted by Savitri Singh and Simren Singh from ICA-AP; sessions moderated by Mr. Mohit Dave, ICA-AP; Prof. Yeshwanth Dongre, and Dr.Mallika Kumar, Shri Ram College of Commerce; and supported by Shivali Sarna and Shree Padmanabhan.


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