United Nations praises cooperative business model

The U.N. General Assembly during the IYC launch (photo courtesy of CFC)

At its official launch of the International Year of Cooperatives (IYC) 2012 on Oct. 31, members of the United Nations (U.N.) applauded the important role cooperatives play in society.

“The cooperative movement balances both economic viability and social responsibility,” U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said. “They make enormous contributions not only to their members, but to their communities and societies.”

A portion of the program highlighted the strengths of member-owned cooperative banks, in particular. As values-based institutions, cooperative banks weathered the recent financial crisis by putting members first and making more cautious investments, according to International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) President Pauline Green.

“The cooperative model was a way to bring long-term prosperity to people,” said Monique Leroux, CEO of the Montreal-based Desjardins Group. “It was there to support people and contribute to the real economy.”

There are an estimated 1 billion cooperative members worldwide, according to ICA; one out of every four people living in the United States is a member of a cooperative, including the 42 million who are electric cooperative members.

“The cooperative business model, with its unique commitment to members, has proven itself time and time again,” CFC CEO Sheldon C. Petersen said. “The more member-focused a cooperative is, the more successful it will inevitably be. Lessons learned from this relationship could take us far in addressing the range of economic issues we face today, both globally and here at home.”

Source: National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation

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