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Americas Cooperative Summit focuses on future of the sector

5 June 2012

The second Co-operative Summit of the Americas took place in Panama in celebration of the International Year of Co-operatives. The event was held to give a greater insight into the co-operative movement in the Americas and to create a Final Declaration to determine the future direction for the sector to take.

Ramón Imperial, President of the International Co-operative Alliance for the Americas, said it was the "most critical event in the Americas".

The theme of the summit was ‘Sustainable Development with Social Equity in the Co-operative Model’ and it focused on four themes: identity and co-operative business management; development paradigms and social equity; social and environmental responsibility; and public policy and advocacy.

"Overall there is an imbalance. We emphasise the co-operative philosophy and neglect the business side. We must create good products and good services with good management," Mr Imperial said.

The event took place from 28 May to 1 June, and it had almost 1,000 international and local participants. There were 17 different activities and over 80 exhibitions.

Manuel Mariño, Regional Director of ICA Americas, explained: "The issue of integration of co-operatives in Latin America is a serious problem. In many countries, the co-operative movement is fragmented. No integration organizations are truly representative and comply with their duties. We must concentrate on what unites us.”

He explained the importance of signing an agreement with the Latin America Parliament called the Framework Law on Co-operatives, created by ICA Americas: “We must be clear that in many countries, co-operatives are not competing with private companies under the same conditions. This framework law provides that level playing field, no privileges are being asked, but everyone can act on the market under the same conditions.”

The event was opened by ICA President, Dame Pauline Green, with a lecture about social equity, sustainable development and good governance. She said the Summit is a great opportunity to send the message of the global co-operative movement to a wider audience: "As a global movement we have to convince those leaders of all nations who understand the value of the co-operative economy, to help us incorporate this key message in their agendas. Our values define our identity.

"For two centuries our values have served to reduce conflict, build social cohesion, giving people skills and experience, develop local leadership and support women in their economic activity and leadership in their communities. Co-operatives have lifted millions out of poverty with dignity, allowing them to build their own business and giving it a future. Co-operation is the best initiative in the world to reduce poverty."

The event was hosted by IPACOOP, the institute responsible for delivering the state’s co-operative policy, and CONALCOOP, which represents and develops the movement in Panama.

Ana Giselle de Vallarino Rosas, President of IPACOOP, said that Panama has never had the opportunity before to celebrate co-operation on a big scale such as this event. While José Montenegro, President of CONALCOOP, added: “One of the goals of our movement in Panama was to bring an event of this magnitude the country. Through this activity we are a unified voice of the entire region.”

The event follows the First Co-operative Summit of the Americas, which took place in Mexico, 2009

Picture: Manuel Mariño, Ana Giselle de Vallarino Rosas, Ramón Imperial and José Montenegro launch the second Co-operative Summit