You are here

 

 

L to R: Mr. Ridley Joseph (Registrar of Co-operatives, Vanuatu), Mr. Balu Iyer (RD, ICA-AP), H.E. Mr. Bob Loughman (Deputy PM, Vanuatu) , Mrs. Savitri Singh (Program Director) and Mr. Santosh Kumar( Program Manager)

 

Introduction

 

The ICA Asia and Pacific in collaboration with the Office of Registrar and Business Development Services, Vanuatu organized the Pacific Forum (ICA-AP Forum on Development of Co-operatives in the Pacific Islands) on 5-6 July 2018, with the participation of delegates from co-operatives, government and CSO groups from Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Australia and New Zealand, Indonesia and Nepal. The Pacific Forum co-funded by the ICA-EU Partnership on Co-operatives in Development, comes as the first sub-regional activity in the Pacific after the ICA-AP conference on co-operative development in Fiji in 2008.  The activity aimed at mainstreaming representation from Pacific co-operatives in ICA’s development process proved very useful in understanding the realities of doing co-operative business as well as challenges faced by institutions like federations and offices of registrar of co-operatives, in the Pacific Islands.

 

The Forum also proved helpful in bringing co-operative apex organizations in Australia (BBCM) and New Zealand (CBNZ), and sectoral federations in Nepal (NACCFL) and Indonesia (KOPWANI) closer to the stakeholders representing co-operative-development in the Pacific. Additionally, the participation of strategic international development actors like Vanuatu Association of NGOs (VANGO) Pacific Islands Association of NGOs (PIANGO), ILO Coop Unit, ILO Country Office for the Pacific and the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) added the much needed dimension of regional integration for development of co-operatives in the Pacific Islands.

 

Read the detailed Report about the Proceedings and Recommendations of the Forum here.

 

The Forum

 

The Pacific Forum that opened with messages in support of co-operative development in the region by H.E. Bob Loughman, Deputy Prime Minister, Republic of Vanuatu, Mr. Balasubramanian Iyer, ICA Regional Director (Asia Pacific), Mr. Donglin Li, ILO Director for Pacific Island Countries, H.E. Wera Mori, Minister of Trade, Commerce and Industry (PNG), Mr. Peter Eafeare, Deputy Director General, MSG and Mr. Joseph Ridley, Registrar of Co-operatives, Vanuatu, was able to achieve its listed objectives of understanding the challenges, and exploring opportunities for developing co-operatives & institutions in Pacific Island countries. The ICA-AP is currently working to create a platform to work on promotion and development of co-operative enterprise model in the Pacific. A short snapshot of status, realities and challenges presented by key resource persons from Pacific Island countries is placed below:

 

  1. Mrs. Kammani Betiota, Registrar of Co-operatives, Government of Kiribati informed the Forum that there had been a 94% increase in the number of co-operatives in the last 4 decades and that there were 11 business sectors covered by co-operatives in the country with copra-farming and fisheries dominating the space. She stated that there was an increase in government’s subsidy to co-operatives along with the government’s efforts to release contemporary training manuals for members of co-operatives. She also informed that there was an ongoing review of the national ordinance and regulations on co-operatives in Kiribati. Mrs. Betiota highlighted legal compliance, outdated legal framework, political interference and lack of access to international development & capacity building funds as the main challenges faced by co-operatives in Kiribati. Her recommendations for the way-forward included membership to the ICA, exercises to add value to strong business sectors (copra and fishing) and an international review of co-operative laws in Kiribati.
     
  2. Mr. Stephen Sallun, Registrar of Co-operatives from Papua New Guinea joined H.E. Mr. Wera Mori, Minister of Trade, Commerce and Industry (PNG) in representing the country, and stated that there were 6000 registered co-operatives and that almost 60% of co-operatives operated in sectors like coffee cultivation, copra farming and producing vanilla palm oil. He further mentioned that the high quality coffee from co-operatives in PNG were exporting to premium markets. He identified digital payments to members, increasing access to finance and increasing partnerships as areas of opportunity of PNG co-operatives. Mr. Sallun informed the Forum that lack of accurate data on co-operatives, limited research, lack of compliance with financial regulators and an inadequate policy framework for co-operatives, as the main challenges. His recommendations to the Forum included data collection initiatives, accessing development funds to strengthen PNG co-operatives and a comprehensive review of co-operative legislation while also drafting a national policy on co-operative development.
     
  3. Mr. Tony Sewen, Chairperson ORCBDS, Vanuatu with support from Mr. Ridley Joseph, Registrar of Co-operatives informed the house that there were 356 active co-operatives in the country with a membership of 14438 individuals. He mentioned that co-operative average growth was 1.3% in this decade, and that almost 50% pf co-operatives operated in the retail sector. He further informed that co-operatives in Vanuatu had recently established a Vanuatu Co-operative Business Network as an apex body to represent – unite – serve co-operatives and to support the People’s Plan (National Strategic Development Plan) by leveraging the co-operative advantage in sectors like education, sustainable agriculture, food security while addressing issues of inclusion, unemployment and gender equality. Mr. Sewen also highlighted that the legal framework for co-operatives in the country was outdated and that high cost of transportation, lack of proper agri-support infrastructure and training on a range of capacities of members, were the main challenges in the road to development of co-operatives in Vanuatu. He did however bring out C2C trade, increasing co-operative membership, developing visibility strategies and an active membership with ICA as the immediate ways forward.
     
  4. Mr. Benjamin Inukoru, Registrar of Co-operatives for the Solomon Islands informed the Forum that co-operatives in the country were established by virtue of an ordinance in 1957 with the proliferation of consumer co-operatives in the form of rural trade stores. He added that co-operatives in the country declined in the 1980s with more than half the number going into liquidation and the continued absence of co-operative apex associations. He was quick to add that there had been a resurgence in the 1990s albeit a slow one in the development of co-operatives in the country. The credit co-operative sector since then had emerged as one of the stronger areas of business. He further informed that sectors covered by co-operatives like fisheries, land purchase and use, saw-mills had gone inactive and that strong support was needed to develop co-operatives in agriculture and allied businesses. He also brought out an interesting fact that the legislation on co-operatives in the Solomon Islands was based on the colonial 1904 Act on co-operatives in India, and that since 1987 ILO had continued to assist the country in revising their co-operative law. While Mr. Inukoru also identified co-operative legislation as one of the main challenges, he also stated capacity building, especially of youth and women members had become vital. Since their establishment in 1957, only 404 co-operatives had been registered out of which 68% or 274 were not operational, 115 remained dormant and only 4% or 15 were actively functioning.

Participation of ICA Members & International Agencies

 

ICA members CNBZ, represented by Mr. Craig Presland; BCCM, represented by Ms. Alexandra Hordern; NACCFL, represented by Mr. Khem Bahadur Pathak, Mr. Rudra Bhattarai and Ms. Meena Pokhrel; and KOPWANI of the Dewan Koperasi Indonesia (DEKOPIN), represented by Ms. Siti Nurul Aini stepped up to share insights from their respective movements and brought out the their challenges while offering support and guidance to co-operatives in the Pacific. Ms. Hordern facilitated the interactive group-working session while Mr. Presland, Ms. Aini and Ms. Pokhrel joined to help engage group members in highlighting main areas of collaboration  and developing synergies in their plans.

 

The presentations from representatives of co-operatives from the Pacific Island countries and the ICA membership was supported by insightful statements and informative presentations by Mr. Donglin Li of the ILO who brought out the relevance of ILO recommendation 193 on promoting co-operatives; Ms. Davila Andrea of the ILO Coop Unit who introduced important contemporary ILO tools for co-operatives including Think.Coop, Start.Coop, MYCOOP, MY-Fin-Coop etc; Mrs. Savitri Singh of the ICA-AP who highlighted the role of ICA in development of cooperatives and her extensive work in promoting women led co-operatives; and statements in support of co-operatives and regional integration of actors responsible for co-operative development from Mr. Peter Eafere & David Hopa of the MSG; and Ms. Ekta Singh of PIANGO and Ms. Anne Pakoa from the Vanuatu Human Rights Coalition and Board Member VANGO.

 

Main Findings & Conclusion

 

Mr. Balasubramanian Iyer, ICA-AP Regional Director provided a comprehensive round-up and action plan to the participants wherein he highlighted Education, Ineffective legal & policy environment, lack of co-operative statistics, lack of access to finance as the main & common challenges for co-operatives in the Pacific. He further brought out that the two important and ongoing activities of Mapping co-operative actors and the Legal Framework Analysis of the ICA-EU Partnership would certainly benefit the stakeholders. He went on to invite the members of the audience to the Second Asia Pacific Co-operative Youth Summit (18-21 August 2018) in Cebu, the Philippines and the 13th ICA-AP Regional Assembly (26-30 November 2018) in Tehran, Iran, in order to help co-operatives in the Pacific build their network and learn about other movements outside the Pacific. He further stated that the upcoming APEC meeting in PNG and the ADB meeting Fiji, as well as the upcoming Voluntary National Reviews of the SDGs for Fiji and Vanuatu in 2019 at the High Level Political Forum of the UN were important events to make the Pacific co-operatives’ voices heard. He concluded by presented a three-pronged plan to the Forum viz. Short Term: Increasing Membership and inclusion of Pacific co-operatives in ICA-AP committees; Undertake mapping and LFA exercises and arrange exchange visits. Medium Term: Developing Partnerships with MSG, PIANGO and building a favorable eco-system for co-operatives especially in sectors like finance and insurance while promoting cross sectoral synergies, and in Long term: Support the creation of an enabling environment, strengthen co-operative federations and establish a regional network for co-operatives. 

 

International Day of Co-operatives 2018

 

The Forum officially closed with the observance of the 2018 International Day of Co-operatives on 7 July, themed on Responsible Consumption and Production with the participation of H.E. Mr. Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas, Prime Minister of the Republic of Vanuatu along with international participants. The opportunity was live streamed on Facebook as part of ICA-AP COOP MIC series and can be found here:

  http://www.facebook.com/100009208309471/videos/2038151703168420/?source=feed_text