But, amid all of the difficulties the Spanish people are facing, co-operatives in Valencia added jobs in the past year. Anecoop and Consum, two co-operatives I am very much looking forward to visiting, have put in strong financial performances in difficult economic circumstances. Consum has even found the impetus and funds to dramatically improve its environmental performance. That’s the co-operative difference!
This past week saw the two day B20 summit take place in Mexico. The first discussion panel for this group – which at this summit consits of 350-something business ceos and chairmen of large global companies and other academic and international experts – focused on the stumbling world economy and the role that governments and multilateral institutions need to play in reinventing themselves in order to find new ways of ensuring growth. José Ángel Gurría, Secretary General of the OECD, said the epicenter of the economic crisis had shifted from Europe and was now a systemic challenge which was already affecting other markets. Robert Zoellick from the World Bank said that, unlike in the past, the countries of Africa and Latin America are not facing the same problems and are in fact helping in the global recovery process.
Which brings me to my point.
Where were our co-operative leaders? There are few better business leaders qualified to debate how to drive our troubled global economy forward because co-operatives generally outperformed their stockmarket-listed counterparts. Mr Zoellick, perhaps you should consider that one of the reasons Africa and Latin America are helping the global economy recover is that they have a better balanced systems with the co-operative sector often playing a significant part in their domestic economies. And while we’re at it, the absence of the co-operative business voice from across the World Bank’s representative structures may just be helping to make co-operatives invisible too!
Don’t get me wrong, this is not an effort to pile blame for the lack of co-operative representation just on the global bodies.
The fact that a business model that is owned by one billion of the world’s people, employs 100 million people across the globe, and which, according to the UN, sustains the standards of living of half the world’s population, is not represented at the highest levels of global decision making rests just as squarely with the co-operative sector itself. We have not been good enough at promoting ourselves and more importantly, our growing impact on the global economy, which cannot be denied. But times are changing, and through better global co-ordination and communications, through better networking, through growing confidence and cohesion of our global co-operative businesses we are now starting to turn that around.
And we are also looking for champions in government to help us along this path to greater engagement and therefore greater influence as this global economic picture develops from day to day.
When I was in China recently I discussed this point with the Hon. Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China, Mr Hui Liangyu and other leading Chinese politicians. China makes the case perfectly, with a co-operative sector of the economy that has had double digit growth figures for the last ten years, and now numbers 550,000 co-operative enterprises, taking it rapidly towards overtaking India, as the largest national co-operative movement, the Chinese, like the Indian and Brazilian governments understand what this people-based business model does for their domestic economy, local communities and growing local standard of living.
The global co-operative movement is looking to many of these governments and others like them to make the case for a more diversified and balanced global economy in the coming decades.
2012 is the year that the United Nations has chosen to celebrate and communicate the co-operative movement’s story and its strengths. On this blog you can expect to find my comments on the important conversations that I am having with co-operative leaders. I hope to give you an insight into the debates I am having with the politicians who drive the laws governing and enabling co-operatives. It is because of this that I am spending much of this year on the road, talking but also listening to co-operators. And that is also what I intend to do on these pages, I want to listen to your views, your questions, your ideas which will take co-operatives from this important, celebrative year, into the next decade as a vital part of a recovering global economy. I look forward to the conversation.