Strengthening cooperatives towards socio-economic development in Timor-Leste

The ILO conducted a training workshop with members of a union-supported cooperative in Timor-Leste on how to establish cooperatives based on community needs and how to put cooperative principles into practice.

News | 21 January 2020
Tendy Gunawan, National Programme Officer, CO-Jakarta at the training workshop
The Government of Timor-Leste is committed to promoting socio-economic development and solidarity in order to strengthen social welfare and justice. In this regard, the cooperative movement is seen as a very effective means to address the issue of social and economic inequalities. The Strategic Plan for National Development of Timor Leste 2011-2030 outlines that cooperative sector development is one of the priority objectives for the country.

Timor-Leste’s Cooperative Law regulates the governance, efficiency and operation of cooperatives. Under the law, the guiding principles of cooperatives are to improve members’ welfare and to participate in developing the national economic system. A cooperative can be established with a minimum of 15 members and minimum capital of $1,000 and must have ‘Cooperativa’ in the title. Financial cooperatives in the country include savings cooperatives and credit unions. Non-financial cooperatives include agricultural production, home industries and services.

Participants in a working group session
Within the framework of Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) Timor-Leste, the ILO conducted a cooperative training for Timor-Leste Trade Union Confederation (KSTL) from 18-19 December 2019 using the ILO’s Think.Coop and Start.Coop training modules.

In 2016, KSTL has established Cooperativa Membru Sindikatu Jeral (CMSJ), a multi-sector saving-credit and consumer cooperative, and requested the ILO’s support to strengthen the cooperative. Currently the KSTL is facing challenges recruiting members and expanding their services.

The training was attended by 29 participants, a mixed group consisting of CMSJ members and their families. The participants learned about how to establish a cooperative based on community needs, the basic principles of a cooperative, and how to put them into practice in their cooperative. At the end of the training, the participants were able to draft an action plan which includes a socialization plan for their cooperative, how to recruit more members, and some ideas on how to expand the business (capital and membership).

“This training gave us a better understanding of the benefits of a cooperative. The genuine characteristics of a cooperative guarantees equal social relations since it is not only profit-oriented but also benefit-oriented. It can tackle poverty and provide affordable finance, building local expertise in our community” said Mr. Almerio J Vila-Nova, President of KSTL during his closing remarks.

In addition to the training, the ILO also held discussions with Mr. Olderico Lopes, Director General and Mr. Renaldo Borges, Director of the Secretariat of State for Cooperatives (SECOOP) on cooperative development in Timor Leste. The Government of Timor-Leste is looking forward to work with the ILO to improve the economic situation, especially in rural areas, through good practices of agricultural cooperatives.