Highlights on Cooperatives and the wider Social and Solidarity Economy
The ILO's Cooperative Service was created in 1920 as an international centre for cooperative research, documentation, information and advice as well as liaising with cooperative organisations. The ILO remains the only specialized agency of the United Nations with an explicit mandate covering all cooperatives to this day.
Cooperatives are mentioned in the ILO Constitution in 1946, Article 12, Paragraph 3 indicating that “The International Labour Organisation may make suitable arrangements for such consultation as it may think desirable with recognized non-governmental international organisations, including international organisations of employers, workers, agriculturists and cooperators”.
The ILO's 50th Anniversary in 1969 marked the golden age of ILO’s technical cooperation in the field of cooperative promotion. Of all the funds allocated by the UNDP to the ILO, 15 percent is spent on assistance to cooperative projects. More than 120 ILO cooperative experts work in nearly 70 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
ILO’s Promotion of Cooperatives Recommendation, 2002 (No. 193) was approved at the 90th Session of the International Labour Conference replacing the Cooperatives (Developing Countries) Recommendation (No 127), 1966. Since its adoption, more than 110 countries have used the Recommendation to support the revision and development of national policies and laws, and it has contributed to a number of regional and subregional uniform model laws.
In 2010, the ILO and its International Training Center launched a Social and Solidarity Economy Academy in Turin. Since then the academy has taken place in Canada (2011), Morocco (2013), Brazil (2014), South Africa (2015) and Mexico (2015). ILO has also been responding to requests from national governments for advisory services for development and reform of policy and legislation on social and solidarity economy.
Launched in 2012, Managing your agricultural cooperative (My.COOP) is a training package and programme aimed at improving the management of existing agricultural cooperative enterprises. My.COOP has been translated into ten languages and adapted for use in Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Egypt, South Africa, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Indonesia among other countries. ITC Turin organizes a distance training programmes of My.COOP in English, French and Spanish every year.
In 2013, the 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians adopted a resolution concerning further work on statistics of cooperatives. The resolution recommends that the Office carries out further developmental work on the measurement of cooperatives, carries out pilot studies and prepares a progress report for discussion at the 20th International Conference of Labour Statisticians.
The ILO co-founded the UN Task Force on SSE in 2013, and has been its Chair since 2014, with the taskforce including 19 UN agencies as members and 10 civil society organizations as observers as of June 2021.
In 2015, the ILO and the ICA signed a new partnership agreement that aims to contribute to sustainable development by promoting the role of cooperative enterprises as means of implementation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the context of the 2030 agenda. This agreement is a revised and updated version of an earlier agreement that was signed in 2004 under the framework of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
At the 20th International Conference of Labour Statisticians in October 2018, the Guidelines concerning Statistics of Cooperatives were adopted. Delegates from governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations welcomed the draft guidelines and voted for their adoption at the ILO Headquarters in Geneva. The objective of these guidelines is to facilitate the development of a set of statistics on cooperatives that will provide an adequate information base for a wide range of descriptive, analytical and policy purposes related to cooperatives.
Marking the ILO Centenary, the ILO and the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) co-organized a conference that reflects on the role of cooperative enterprises in promoting decent work for all in a changing world of work. At the conference, a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the ILO and the ICA marking collaboration between the two organizations to work towards a human-centred agenda for the future of work with full engagement of the cooperative movement.
Established through a decision of the third session of the ILO’s Governing Body in March 1920, the ILO marked the Centenary of its Cooperatives Unit in 2020. In marking this centenary, the office launched a specific webpage, held a series of virtual events and activities including webinars, interviews, slide shows, online publications and an international symposium.
At its 66th plenary meeting on April 18, 2023, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution “Promoting the Social and Solidarity Economy for Sustainable Development” (A/RES/77/281). The resolution includes the tripartite international definition for the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) that was adopted at the 110th session of the ILC in 2022.
The 78th United Nations General Assembly has adopted a new resolution on cooperatives in social development calling for the proclamation of 2025 as an International Year of Cooperatives. The resolution was presented by the Government of Mongolian and adopted on 3 November during the 47th plenary meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. This will be the second time that the UN calls for an international year of cooperatives.