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President Ariel Guarco

 

 

ICA President Guarco recently visited Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, China, Korea and Japan. He met with ICA members, called on Ministers and representatives in charge of cooperatives, and visited cooperatives to gain first-hand understanding of the movement in these countries. Here is an interesting and insightful look into the President’s tour, his vision for ICA and the way forward!

 

Q1. You had mentioned in one of your interviews that ICA "needs to be the lighthouse that guides these one billion cooperators, but it shouldn’t be a lighthouse in the distance, isolated with a light that barely shines." What would you say, based on your visit to Asia, about the intensity of light ICA is shining in the region?

 

In this region there is a very dynamic cooperative movement, with great heterogeneity and a lot of potential to assume regional and global challenges. The regional office is doing a very good job to integrate the different organizations and commit them to the Sustainable Development Agenda, as the International Cooperative Alliance did. As President of the ICA I wanted to see this development in the first person and I could confirm it, accompanied by the leaders of the six countries I visited and by the Regional Director, Balu Iyer.

 

Q2. What are the common features the Asian cooperative movement shares with cooperatives which you have visited in other regions?

 

 

In Asia, as in the rest of the world, the cooperative movement has very diverse organizations. We have large enterprises that dispute the market with very powerful capitalist companies, and others with small productive units that meet the needs at the local level. There are cooperatives with many decades of operation as well as new ventures that are at the forefront in the creation and application of new technologies. Beyond these differences in scale or trajectory, throughout the world there is a clear commitment to Sustainable Development and a global comprehension that integration between cooperatives, within each country, in each region and worldwide, is what makes us a key tool to meet the objectives set by the United Nations and build a more just, more solidary and more peaceful world.

 

 

President Guarco during the Indonesian leg of the tour.

 

 

 

Q3. What are the challenges in front of cooperatives in the region? How are cooperatives meeting these challenges?

 

Cooperative organizations in the region are aware of these global challenges and are willing to face them together with the rest of the entities that are part of the International Cooperative Alliance. Meanwhile, I believe that they are assuming with creativity and a great cooperative spirit the role they have in solving certain needs of the societies where they operate. For example, with the inclusion of young people to cooperative enterprises, where there must be opportunities for the new generations to carry out all the innovations of this era under the cooperative principles and values. At the same time, I see cooperatives that are meeting the needs of older adults and are already giving an answer to the aging of population. I also welcome the development of cooperatives that bring producers and consumers closer together to make the population's access to healthy and fair-priced food possible. All these are, among others, challenges that we have on a global scale and in Asia you are solving very well.

 

 

Q4. You would have seen that the relationship between the government and cooperatives in the region is ambivalent – supportive in some countries, controlling in some, and indifferent in others. How do you see the relationship between cooperatives and the government. This keeping in view the 4th Cooperative Principle on Autonomy and Independence?

 

In all countries I was able to exchange views with government representatives and explain to them what the ICA represents worldwide. In some cases, it was not necessary to explain too much since the representatives were quite aware of what the cooperative movement means. Others may lack more information but, precisely, these visits are a way to make this type of incidence, among other things. I think that in general there is a base of knowledge and promotion quite acceptable. In each country the movement must act together and take advantage of the support of ICA Asia and Pacific to increase this incidence and reinforce to the governments the importance of the sector in the economy and society.

 

Q5. Would you like to share some memorable anecdotes from your visits with our readers?

 

First of all, I want to thank the kind hospitality of all those organizations that were my hosts. They not only allow me to know first-hand what cooperatives do in each country, but they kindly shared with me their culture, customs, ways of thinking and seeing the world, which is always enriching. They showed me very creative things that help to promote the cooperative movement within the society. I was surprised with the excellent museums, for example, as well as the quality of the products and services the cooperatives provide.