Dame Pauline speaks to the IMF and World Bank on co-op strength

18 Oct 2012

Piet Moerland, President of Rabobank, handing Dame Pauline Green the first copy of the study

Leaders of banks around the world attended a keynote speech by Dame Pauline Green during the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group in Tokyo last month.

Invited by Rabobank, which hosts the annual lecture in commemoration of Willem Duisenberg, the first Governor of the European Central Bank, Dame Pauline outlined the key role co-ops play in tackling food scarcity and poverty.

The ICA President said co-ops are not just sustainable enterprises, but also “a business model that puts people at the centre of their economic decision-making”. She said: “Co-operative businesses around the world are owned by nearly one billion people. And for nearly 200 years, co-operatives have been creating jobs across the world – currently over 100 million of the world’s citizens are employed within a co-operative. In effect co-operatives have taken millions out of poverty with dignity, by helping them to build their own co-operative businesses.”

Dame Pauline Green also explained to the IMF and World Bank leaders how agricultural co-ops boost local income and empower small farmers. She further mentioned how the world’s largest 300 co-operative businesses are worth US $1.6 trillion, equivalent to the 10th largest economy in the world. For this reason, the ICA President argued that co-ops should take part in the B20, the business group that advises the G20.

Dame Pauline Green said: “Those 300 businesses operate in some of the most competitive industries in the world, banking, insurance, agriculture, retail, housing, health, energy and others, and the 300 list includes co-operatives from 25 different countries. Co-operatives contribute directly to improve the standards of living of half the world’s population. In effect co-operatives have taken millions out of poverty with dignity, by helping them to build their own co-operative businesses.”

Dame Pauline sees co-ops as part of the solution to extreme poverty and the way forward for African farming communities. She also addressed the issue of “false co-operatives” or co-operatives without co-operators, phenomenon increasingly common in African states. The ICA leader also mentioned the importance of co-operation and exchange between co-operatives.

She spoke of the need to start now developing a grass roots agricultural co-operative economy in sub Saharan Africa in order to deal with the key issue of food scarcity by 2050 and allow any benefits of increasing trade and prosperity in Africa to be enjoyed by the African people rather than by the share holders of remote multinational businesses or predator states.

Dame Pauline added that co-ops could play an even more extended role in solving the world food problem but in order to do so, they need to enjoy the support of political actors. The ICA President concluded by saying that co-ops have the agricultural and financial expertise needed to build a better world, but they require a favourable environment to flourish.

Rabobank also issued an in-depth study on small farmers in developing countries to coincide with the speech. Download Dame Pauline's full speech (pdf).

Photos: Piet Moerland, President of Rabobank, handing Dame Pauline Green the first copy of the study; Dame Pauline Green delivering her speech.

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