European Union External Action

EU and its Member States remain at the forefront in supporting cooperatives; Full speech by Ambassador Nicola Bellomo at the Global Cooperatives Conference in Kigali - 15 October 2019

Kigali, 23/10/2019 - 16:40, UNIQUE ID: 191023_14
Speeches of the Ambassador

Dear (Guest of Honor)

Honourable Minister Soraya Hakuziyaremye, Minister of Trade and Industry of the Republic of Rwanda

Dear Ariel Guarco, International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) President

Dear Japheth Magomere, ICA Africa President

Dear cooperative Chairpersons and members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to join all of you today, distinguished guests, to give an opening address for this "International Conference on Cooperative and Development".

What brings all of us together here today, is our common belief in the importance of leveraging the Cooperatives Movement as a driver of Development.

  • Indeed, the features of cooperatives make them a powerful vehicle to energize development:
  • Cooperatives are owned and run by their members, who have an equal say in what their organisation does and how it generates and uses profits.
  • This model has proven to be a reliable, people-centered mechanism which has enabled people around the world to take control of their livelihoods and improve their wellbeing.
  • Supporting the growth of cooperatives is a worthwhile effort with a guaranteed return on investment. Why? Simply because they empower people and local communities to take charge of their own development, putting people first. Putting people before profit.
  • Europe is the cradle of the international cooperative movement. In Europe, Cooperatives play a prominent role in forging the “European social market economy”.
  • This new model is about embracing economic growth but combining it with ever increasing levels of welfare; it is about combining economic growth with generous systems of redistribution. Cooperatives are therefore a natural ally to pursue the "EU social market economy", as this growth model is about pursuing development in a way that puts citizens first. Ensuring a high level of wellbeing and quality of life for all citizens.
  • And the impact of cooperatives is big and impressive. Today Europe has some 131 000 cooperatives, with more than 4.3 million employees and an annual turnover of €992 billion.
  • And there are numerous examples of successful cooperatives. For instance a cooperative like Credit Agricole just celebrated its 125 years of existence. It has transformed access to finance in rural areas. It cumulates 7 million members, 30 billion € of revenues and 1.8 trillion € of assets.
  • But also at the global level,  there are 3 million cooperatives worldwide. Together, they provide employment for 280 million people, equating to 10 % of the world's employed population.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

  • As you know, elections were held in Europe this year. And a new vision for our international cooperation is now on the table. It will be based on partnerships and focus on sustainability and private sector development. Cooperatives can be at the core of this new vision by upgrading the social market economy. Indeed, cooperatives have always been forerunners in correcting what goes wrong and prospecting what could be the alternatives.

 

  • Similarly as the "EU social market economy", the SDG agenda calls not only for economic and developmental progress, but also for social and socio-economic innovation worldwide.
  • In this context, ICA is both a close partner of the EU and a beneficiary of financial support from the European Commission. A Framework Partnership Agreement (FPA) was signed with the ICA by Commissioner Mimica in March 2016. The priorities of this Partnership between ICA and the EU are threefold:
    • 1 . To enhance our joint efforts to promote a conducive environment for co-operatives in partner countries;
    • 2nd. To promote a meaningful and structured participation of co-operatives in domestic policies of partner countries, in the EU programming cycle and in international processes;
    • 3rd. To increase the capacity of cooperatives at local, regional & global level, so that cooperatives can perform more effectively their roles as independent actors
  • The EU encourages Cooperatives as key contributors to policy-making at national, regional and global levels, especially in the formulation and monitoring of policies and agreements on the successful implementation of the SDGs.
  • The European Consensus for development, which is the EU main policy document guiding our development efforts, acknowledges the democratic and inclusive nature of cooperatives. The  European Consensus for development explicitly states the EU's commitment “to promote private sector initiatives and social enterprises, cooperatives, and women and youth entrepreneurs, to boost the provision of local services as well as inclusive and green business models”.
  • In reflection of our stated ambitions, the EU and its Member States have always been at the forefront in supporting cooperatives. In Europe since 2011 we have a Social Business Action Plan that helps social enterprises, like cooperatives, to have access to funding, access to markets and to make them more visible.
  • The EU also proactively engages and supports cooperatives across the African continent. Rwanda offers a good example of what has been done along the years all over the continent. In Rwanda, we supported the creation of the Rwanda Cooperative Agency in 2009 as well as the National Cooperatives Confederation of Rwanda.
  • As elsewhere, also in Rwanda we have supported and continue to deliver concrete tangible support to numerous individual Cooperatives through our various programmes and projects. We have for instance supported the legalisation of 20 women farmer cooperatives through their registration in the Rwanda Cooperative agency, but also improving their capacity in cooperative management, financial literacy and advocacy. Under another project we supported 11 cooperatives to advocate for their members and engage with local authorities on agriculture and food security. Through these cooperatives, we helped farmers improve the management of their farms and advocate for support better tailored to their needs.
  • Some of these efforts are transforming lives. For instance, Slovenia and the EU Delegation supported the creation of the Umutima cooperative of the Nyamirambo women's center here in Kigali; Thanks to the extraordinary work of committed women, today Umutima employs 50 women. Through their beautiful crafts and community tourism they have secured sustainable jobs and invest in the development of their community.

And now, what's next?

  • In its cooperation agreements the EU and its partners increasingly incorporate joint engagements for sustainable, inclusive economic growth and development as well as human rights, democracy and good governance. This was the case with the recently negotiated Trade Agreements, and will also be the case with the Post-Cotonou agreement that is currently being negotiated.
  • These are opportunities for the cooperative movement. The same goes for the EU-Africa Alliance for Sustainable Development and Jobs that was launched by Pres. Juncker in September 2018 and that will intertwine our twin continents more than ever before
  • Through the EU-Africa Alliance we see a lot of opportunities for cooperatives in Europe and Africa to look for mutual interests, to collaborate with each other, to invest and engage in joint projects, and ultimately to flourish and contribute to development and improved livelihoods.

 

  • I will take this opportunity to congratulate Rwanda's consistent pursuit to becoming a knowledge-based, middle income economy and the translation of that commitment in heavily investing in the cooperatives movement to achieve its Vision 2050.

I wish you all fruitful discussions.

I thank you, MURAKOZE.

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