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Versión Español | March 2014


The Cooperative Model as a Driver of Economic Growth with Equity

The Cooperative Model as a Driver of Economic Growth with Equity

Member States have repeatedly recognized the value of Cooperatives “to contribute to economic growth, job creation, and poverty alleviation in the countries of the Hemisphere” (VI Summit of the Americas 2012 and General Assembly 2013). On March 20, 2014, over 160 participants gathered at OAS headquarters in Washington DC to explore the next steps for promoting and strengthening the cooperative model in the region at the conference “Cooperatives in the Americas: Driving Economic Growth with Equity and Inclusion”.  

The event brought together cooperative leaders and Member State representatives to discuss key issues and opportunities facing the cooperative sector. Cooperative’s capacity for growth and social inclusion was highlighted, along with current challenges faced by the sector to endure and compete in a global economy. The conference was organized by the OAS-SEDI Department of Economic and Social Development in collaboration with the United States National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA); Co-operatives of the Americas; and the Permanent Mission of the United States to the OAS.    

“Cooperatives are well placed to promote self-help, democratic processes, and for putting economic power in the hands of marginalized populations” observed OAS Assistant Secretary General, Ambassador Albert Ramdin in his opening remarks. He continued by emphasizing potential synergies to advance the work of the organization, mentioning that “the path towards sustainable and inclusive development requires the concerted effort of many actors. There is a need for strong investment by governments, civil society and the private sector forging effective partnerships that make the most of each sector’s unique strengths - the cooperative movement should be a privileged partner in this effort, because it shares many of the values that form the foundation of our inter-American system”.  

“For almost a century now, the cooperative movement in the U.S. has played a fundamental role in furthering economic growth and supporting a vibrant civil society” said Permanent Representative of the United States to the OAS, Carmen Lomellin, stressing that “cooperatives are great examples of effective local institutions with an underutilized capacity to contribute to incomes, to employment, and to the quality of the lives of their members.” The US Ambassador recognized her government’s interest in furthering collaboration with the OAS to move Cooperative development forward.  

The numbers are telling. “There are nearly 42,000 cooperatives in the Americas, with about 242 million members, that create over 350,000 jobs” said Manuel Mariño, Regional Director of Cooperatives of the Americas. Mr. Mariño recognized that working with the OAS is “crucial”, stressing the need to promote knowledge-sharing between both organizations.  

For his part, Ramon Imperial, President of Co-operatives of the Americas, highlighted the importance of regional integration and social inclusion as two fundamental objectives shared by cooperatives and the OAS. He also noted the interest of the cooperative movement to continue working with the organization; "I hope that today’s event can be materialized in very specific and targeted activities - may it be the first of many joint endeavors."

“This conference is timely. There is a great likelihood that today’s discussions will ‘have legs’ and feed into the OAS-General Assembly in June, to focus on Development with social inclusion” declared Executive Secretary for Integral Development, Sherry Tross. The conclusions and recommendations of the conference will serve to inform higher levels of dialogue at the Inter-American level and guide work in this area going forward.

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