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The International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) recently hosted a Meet and Greet session with Cooperatives in Asia-Pacific to introduce attendees to the impactful work of the ICA Asia and Pacific (ICA-AP) Regional Office on 28 May 2024. Moderated by Ms. Gretchen Hacquard, Director of Membership at ICA, the session aimed to familiarize participants with the ICA’s structure, activities of ICA-AP, benefits of membership, and upcoming events.

 

Ms. Hacquard kicked off the session with a video showcasing the history and global impact of cooperatives, emphasizing their role in building a better world. She outlined the structure of the ICA, including its regional offices, sectoral organizations, thematic committees, and global events like the upcoming General Assembly in New Delhi, India. She discussed the benefits of ICA membership including participation in global conferences, access to cooperative expertise and resources, advocacy representation, and marketing support. She also provided a detailed membership package for interested parties, encouraging participation in the cooperative movement.

 

Mr. Balu Iyer, ICA-AP Regional Director, provided insights into the history and current status of the regional office. Established in 1960 in New Delhi, India, the office initially focused on education and training and has evolved into a comprehensive support system for cooperatives across the region. Mr. Iyer said that the regional office is governed by a regional board and operates through nine committees covering various sectors and interests. ICA-AP, as a members-based organization works across four strategic pillars - promoting the cooperative identity, accelerating cooperative growth, strengthening cooperatives as business and development actors, and serving as a knowledge center for the region.

 

He highlighted several ongoing projects and activities, including training programs, capacity-building initiatives, regional assemblies, cooperative forums, and ministers’ conferences. He emphasized the importance of member involvement in committees and showcased knowledge products like Coop Dialogue and country snapshots. Additionally, he encouraged attendees to engage with the regional office through social media channels for updates and information on the work being done.

 

 

Mr. Santhosh Shukla Kumar, Joint General Manager of International Cooperation at the Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative (IFFCO), shared insights into IFFCO's collaboration with ICA and the benefits of membership. IFFCO, a national-level cooperative in India, focuses on serving farmers and rural communities. Through ICA, it actively supports initiatives like the International Cooperative Entrepreneurship Think Tank (ICETT) and efforts towards sustainable development. IFFCO collaborates with cooperatives from various countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Mauritius, Jordan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka. They engage in projects such as establishing bio-fertilizer plants, providing disaster relief, and promoting agricultural development.

 

Ms. Sylvia Paraguya, CEO of the National Confederation of Cooperatives (NATCCO) in the Philippines, highlighted NATCCO's 45-year journey as an ICA member and the support received from the organization. She underscored ICA's role in providing guidance on cooperative principles and values, citing the cooperative difference as a significant advantage in today's business landscape. She highlighted NATCCO's involvement with ICA through the Climate Action Program, which led to the establishment of the NATCCO Resiliency Fund and ongoing climate action initiatives.

 

 

Moreover, she expressed gratitude for the numerous training programs facilitated by ICA-AP, which have empowered NATCCO and its member cooperatives. Ms. Paraguya emphasized the importance of active participation in ICA events and committees, showcasing how NATCCO's advocacies align with various ICA initiatives, including gender equality, climate action, and youth empowerment.

 

The session also covered the eligibility criteria and process for joining ICA, encouraging interested organizations to reach out for further information and assistance.

 

The participants had the opportunity to ask questions and share their concerns/ suggestions. A question about the lack of attention to cooperatives in the Middle East was asked. Ms. Hacquard and Mr. Iyer highlighted the recent efforts to enhance engagement in the region. They discussed successful initiatives like the ministers’ conference in Jordan, which facilitated dialogue and cooperation among Middle Eastern countries.

 

There were questions about preparations for the upcoming ICA Global Conference in New Delhi. The conference aims to showcase the cooperative movement's impact and potential for prosperity for all. Key highlights include the official UN launch of the International Year of Cooperatives, with expected addresses from the UN Secretary-General and other high-ranking officials.

 

Mr. Nasir Mughal shared insights into the cooperative movement in Balochistan, Pakistan, highlighting challenges and successes in cooperative development, particularly in agriculture and SME sectors. He emphasized the need for international cooperation to expand business opportunities for cooperatives in the region.

 

 

Dr. Chandrapal Singh Yadav, President of ICA Asia-Pacific, expressed gratitude to the participants and emphasized the benefits of becoming an ICA member. He commended the efforts of the ICA-AP regional office in advancing the cooperative movement, organizing policy events, and facilitating capacity-building initiatives. The closing remarks emphasized the collaborative efforts of ICA in promoting and strengthening cooperatives worldwide.

 

Overall, the Meet and Greet session provided valuable insights into the work of ICA and highlighted the significant contributions of cooperatives to global development.