The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

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UN Praises Role of Cooperatives in Sustainable Development


United Nations officials are highlighting the role cooperative enterprises can play in economic development, social justice and environmental protection.

In his message for International Day of Cooperatives, marked annually on 5 July, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that this year’s Day falls at a “critical time” with the UN working to reach the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and adopt a long-range sustainable development agenda, as well as a new climate agreement.
“Cooperatives are particularly important to agriculture, food security and rural development. In the finance sector, cooperatives serve more than 857 million people, including tens of millions who live in poverty,” Mr. Ban said.
Ranging from small-scale to multi-million dollar businesses across the globe, cooperatives operate in all sectors of the economy, and provide 100 million jobs worldwide – 20 per cent more than multinational enterprises, according to 2011 figures from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP).
In 2008, the largest 300 cooperatives in the world had an aggregate turnover of $1.1 trillion, comparable to the gross domestic product (GDP) of many large economies, the UN agencies said.

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First Saturday of July Named International Day of Cooperatives

‘The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that the International Day of Cooperatives [is] to be celebrated annually on the first Saturday of July,’ informed Sandeep Marwah President of World Peace Development And Research Foundation and Ambassador of International Human Rights Organization affiliated to United Nation and International Bar Association….The aim of this International Day is to Increase awareness [about] cooperatives; highlight the complementarity of the goals and objectives of the United Nations and the international cooperative movement; underscore the contribution of the movement to the resolution of the major problems addressed by the United Nations; and strengthen and extend partnerships between the international cooperative movement and other actors, including governments, at local, national and international levels.This year’s theme ‘Cooperatives are making a difference in times of financial, food, and environmental crisis confronting societies around the world.’ Financial cooperatives have demonstrated their strength in a time when many financial institutions are failing. In addition, agricultural cooperatives have demonstrated their importance to achieving food security.

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Food Imports on the Rise

Marianela Fader from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany, and colleagues, calculated the growing capacity of every country in the world, and compared it with food requirements, both now and projected forward to 2050.  Using current data on population, and food and water consumption in each nation, they were able to assess what proportion of its food a country could produce.

“Today, 66 countries are not able to be self-sufficient due to water and/or land constraints,” said Fader. This equates to 16% of the world’s population depending on food imported from other countries.

A number of developed countries, including the UK, the Netherlands and Japan, are already unable to meet the food requirements of their populations.

Food security is going to be a big issue over the coming decades. The study indicates that improving agricultural productivity can play a key role in maintaining food security. Meanwhile, a change in diet, such as towards more seasonal and vegetarian food, could also have a significant impact.