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The ICA-AP in its implementation of the ICA-EU Partnership on Co-operatives in Development identified Central Asia and Pacific Islands as two sub-regions that needed  special focus in establishing and strengthening national co-operative federations and fostering partnerships for development of co-operatives with international and national  actors.  Currently ICA has the Co-operative Union of Kyrgyzstan (CUK), and the Union of Consumer Co-operatives in Kazakhstan as its members in  Central Asia.


The Second International Forum on Development of Co-operatives (Bishkek Forum) was organized on in collaboration with CUK and Consumer Co-operatives Worldwide (CCW) on September 11 and 12, 2018 at the Orion Hotel in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic on the theme Promoting Enabling Environment and Advancing Co-operative Knowledge. The invited participants were legal experts, government representatives, leaders and managers of co-operatives from the Kyrgyz Republic; National Association of Dhakan Farmers, Tajikistan; National Union of Turkish Co-operatives; Univeristy of Helsinki, Finland; All China Federation of Supply and Marketing Co-operatives, China; Korean Federation of Community Credit Co-operatives, National Agricultural Co-operative Federation from South Korea; National Co-operative Union of India and Indian Farmers Fertilizer Co-operative. Among the international development were the European Union Delegation to the Kyrgyz Republic, Food and Agricultural Organization, International Labour Organization, GIZ and others.


The 1st Bishek Forum organized concluded with a call to improve the policy and legal environment for co-operatives in the Kyrgyz Republic, taking into account the ICA co-operative principles and values; create comprehensive co-operative development strategy to strengthen the scale and scope of co-operative business; create facilities to train co-operative board members, managers, and government officials in-charge of registration and co-operative development; provide access to credit and finance as member capital has not been sufficient to run the co-operative business; focus on youth and gender development; and encourage the co-operative movement to work with the government and other civil society organizations to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


The set of conclusions from the 1st forum helped ascertain the objectives of the Second Bishkek Forum, that to facilitate a consultative platform for governments, co-operatives and experts to Identify challenges and suggest revisions in the existing national legislation on co-operatives to promote growth & development of community led business & industry, Enhance linkages among co-operative federations across central Asia and beyond, with the aim to strengthen capacity of co-operative institutions and Human Resource Development, Develop consumer co-operatives & their networks by linking producers and consumer co-operatives to promote sustainable consumption and production.



The Panel during the Opening Ceremony of the Forum.


Kyrgyz Republic’s First Vice Prime Minister H.E. Mr. Kubatbek Boronov, graced the opening ceremony along with heads of parliamentary committees on agriculture and budget and finance opined that Necessary conditions for favorable law and policy for co-operatives must be created for a stronger co-operative movement in Central Asia. In his address the Vice Prime Minister mentioned that since 2010, the law on co-operatives was being researched and revised to suit the needs and conditions of the Kyrgyz economy. He further added that every region in the country would have at least one co-operative pilot project and that, subsidies & support from the state like easy loans would be positively considered. The aspect of professionalization of co-operatives and increasing knowledge on co-operatives was identified as a key result area during the opening session. The opening ceremony was also graced by the presence of Dr. U.S. Awathi, Managing director, IFFCO who delivered the Forum’s keynote address, and Dr. Chandrapal Singh Yadav, President of NCUI who highlighted the importance of India-Kyrgyz relationship and that co-operatives must also be included in this narrative of friendship among the two countries, and that a national policy and legal framework in line with the ICA principles would hold the co-operative movements in Central Asia in good stead.


Mr. Illia Gorokhovskyi, PhD executive committee member and Co-op Ukraine Chairman representing Mr. Peter Stefanov, Chairperson CCW along with Mr. Peter Hunt, Managing Director, Mutuo and Mr. Todor Ivanov, PhD, Secretary General of CCW informed that globally, consumer co-operatives were second in size (and volume), and that they contribute alot to the national and global economies. 26 national consumer co-operatives, 74 % Million members and 600 Billion USD per year is the composition of the CCW – one of the partners of this second forum. He further echoed sentiments of the other dignitaries that Co-operatives were indeed reliable partners of the government and appropriate legislative frameworks were needed to foster robust co-operative movements, and promoting principle 5 – education & training therein. Mr. Kinlay Dorjee of the FAO expressed delight on the success of the 1st Bishkek forum and encouraged all participants to actively join the discussions as the theme and the target areas affected the rights and livelihoods of small farmers who face challenges like access to market & sale, credit etc. Ms. Nazik Beishenaly of the CUK moderated the opening ceremony while informing, along with CUK associates on the status and scope of co-operative development in the Kyrgyz Republic.


The key note address of the Forum was delivered by Dr. Awasthi, MD, IFFCO who educated the house on the formation and functions of IFFCO with the help of co-operatives in the US in the 1960s, and the national legal environment supporting the same. He was particularly interested in exploring cooperation among Indian & Kyrgyz co-operatives, that resulted in the signing of a cooperation MoU between CUK, NCUI and IFFCO to develop co-operatives and education & training thereof, in Kyrgyz Republic. As a start, 5 pilot co-operatives will be identified and supported by Indian co-operatives. Mr. Balu Iyer, RD of the ICA in Asia and Pacific informed everyone on the work of the ICA and its interest in working with all stakeholders involved. He further mentioned that CUK and stakeholders from Kyrgyz republic were provided with learning opportunities in India, Sri Lanka  as well ICA’s training project in association with the Japanese ministry on agriculture and farms. His underlying message was the need to create an eco-system for linking production and consumer co-operatives as well as Capacity building to promote the professionalization of co-operatives.


Six experts including Prof. Hagen Henry and Prof. Huseyin Polat delivered their presentation during the 1st session themed on enabling legal environment that was moderated by Dr. Todor Ivanov of the CCW. The main point underscored by speakers was the urgent need to align the co-operative principles with co-operative law and policy, while taking  into account the principles of the ILO R. 193 on Promotion of Co-operatives.


Seven Speakers including representatives of the CUK, ICAO, Mutuo and ACFSMC delivered presentations on developing linkages between agriculture and consumer co-operatives. The session was chaired by the Prof. Hagen Henry. A range of information from e-commerce to community stores for small farmers and efforts towards advocacy for consumer co-operatives were discussed.


A session on co-operative Principle 5 (Education, Training and Information) and a panel discussion on Partnership among international agencies towards implementation of the SDGs through the co-operative model, that continues to gain relevance in the 21st century development narrative, were organized on day 2. The session on education was moderated by Prof. Polat who reiterated the importance (and the process) of the ILO 193 that is applicable to the Kyrgyz Republic, while the panel concluded with the high-level representatives from GIZ, ILO, FAO, UNIDO and the head of cooperation of the EU Delegation to the Kyrgyz Republic, asserting their faith in the co-operative enterprise model in addressing rights, livelihood, environmental concerns and the prosperity of the planet. Besides the MoU with Indian co-operatives, Kyrgyz co-operatives have also been offered opportunities of cooperation and collaboration with TIKA (the Turkish Government’s development arm) and the KFCCC, South Korea. The program, available presentations can be accessed here and photographs can be found here.