By Robin Gomes
For the past 97 years, the International Day of Cooperatives has been celebrated each year on the first Saturday of July. Since 1995, the United Nations and the International Cooperative Alliance have chosen the theme of the annual day. The focus for this year is on climate action for sustainable development for a healthier, fairer and more united economy.
In a tweet for Saturday’s observance, Pope Francis also focused on the role of cooperatives in the fight against climate change. “In some places, cooperatives are being developed to exploit renewable sources of energy which ensure local self-sufficiency,” the Pope wrote on his Twitter account @Pontifex. “They can make a real difference in the fight against climate change, thanks to a strong sense of community and a deep love for the land,” he added.
Cooperatives - people-centred development
The aim of the annual celebration is to increase awareness about cooperatives. Being people-centred, not capital-centred, cooperatives distribute wealth in a fairer way. As farms, businesses, or other organizations which are owned and run jointly by members who share the profits or benefits, cooperatives are committed to the sustainable development of their communities, environmentally, socially as well as economically. They support community activities, local sourcing of supplies to benefit the local economy, and decision-making that considers the impact on their communities.
Healthy, social and integral progress
Pope Francis' tweet is an echo from his landmark encyclical “Laudato Si’”, which addresses issues of justice, peace and development with regard to the use of the goods of creation. He says that technology can be used for a type of progress which is “healthier, more human, more social, more integral”, such as when “cooperatives of small producers adopt less polluting means of production, and opt for a non-consumerist model of life, recreation and community”.
Addressing representatives of the Confederation of Italian Cooperatives on 16 March 2020, the Pope observed that the way of the cooperatives is to “take the lid off” of an economy that risks producing goods but at the cost of social injustice.
UN: Challenges of Covid-19 and climate change
In a message for the June 4 International Day of Cooperatives, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, focused on the role of cooperatives in addressing the challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change and in forging a path towards an inclusive and equitable future for all.
He noted that the dual crises of the pandemic and the climate emergency “are disproportionately affecting the world’s most vulnerable countries and people, and deepening many social and economic rifts”. The crises are also highlighting the need to strengthen global cooperation and solidarity.
This year’s observance, he said, underscores the contribution of cooperatives in addressing these challenges, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and forging a path towards an inclusive and equitable future.
“Cooperatives and other social and solidarity economy enterprises,” Guterres noted, “can also point the way toward resilience in times of crisis”.