Cooperatives, like any financial institution, have become very organized and systematic in carrying out their functions. Although some might not find their system of operations appealing, ironically, most people explore cooperative societies for their financial needs because of the ease of operations and lack of lengthy and bureaucratic processes characteristic of banks and micro-finance institutions. In fact, these societies have become so structured that they have a global body, International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) charged with the responsibility of controlling and regulating their activities.
The ICA, which was established in 1895 as a non-governmental organization, is tasked with the job of uniting, serving and representing cooperatives worldwide. It has since been the global voice and platform through which knowledge and proficiency is distributed amongst cooperatives to initiate concise actions. It has also ensured that it maintains through its activities and goals what a cooperative should be as defined in the Statement on the Cooperative Identity. With a membership of about 272 cooperatives, the ICA’s reach is in about a 100 countries with over one billion individuals to cater for.
This validates the strength and influence of the regulating body all over the world, and in its bid to strengthen its goals, the ICA in conjunction with the United Nations declared the International Day of Cooperatives on December 16, 1992; a movement proclaimed to mark the centenary celebration of the establishment of the ICA. The United Nations endorsed this day in recognition and reaffirmation of the importance and role of cooperatives in cultural, social and economical development as well as its influence in the accomplishment of social policy objectives.
Since its proclamation, the International Cooperatives Day has become a landmark celebration for cooperative societies round the world. Although not recognized as a public holiday, the International Cooperatives Day is observed on the first Saturday of July every year with a different theme addressed each year. However, organizing institutions must ensure that the theme conforms to the fundamental purpose of the day, part of which is to increase people’s awareness of cooperative societies. This is usually done before the event through news publications and radio programs.
Another purpose of the day is to forge and reinforce partnerships between the international cooperative movement, governments of nations and other supporting organizations. Partnership with community organizations and agencies to tackle environmental, social and economical and health challenges are also discussed. This is because ensuring and maintaining good and acceptable living conditions for communities of the world further buttresses all cooperatives’ vision and goals.
Other activities involved in the celebration include campaigns, fairs, contests and exhibits focused on the theme of the day and designed to initiate membership interaction, sponsored cultural events like concerts and theatres and dissemination of messages of the ICA and United Nations to members of cooperatives, government officials and members of the press. These messages are often translated to local languages for easy consumption.
Fundamentally, the International Cooperatives Day is geared towards empowering lives as well as developing various sectors of the economy.