Global voices from the cooperative movement at the International Labour Conference 2016

Article | 03 June 2016
Rodrigo Gouveia, Policy Director, International Co-operative Alliance

Would you introduce yourself and explain what brought you to the 105th Session of the International Labour Conference, held in Geneva from 30 May to 10 June, 2016?

My name is Rodrigo Gouveia and I am the Director of Policy for the International Co-operative Alliance. My main responsibility is to represent the cooperative movement to international organizations, including the ILO. Cooperatives need to be represented in these global discussions in order to present their specific concerns and solutions to relevant issues and this year’s International Labour Conference includes in its agenda relevant topics for cooperatives.

Would you talk about your experience at the International Labour Conference? What discussions are you following? What do you expect out of your participation in these discussions?

I have been mainly following the discussion on decent work in global supply chains. This issue is a very important one for cooperatives, and the International Co-operative Alliance produced a brief for this occasion explaining the values and principles of cooperatives and their specific contributions in developing global supply chains. My expectation is to get reference to cooperatives in relevant places in the outcome documents of the discussions.

Would you reflect how cooperative difference is leveraged for fairer global supply chains and decent work today?

Since their beginning, cooperatives have been an important model of organization for producers, workers and users of goods and services to gain scale and be empowered to negotiate better conditions for themselves, including in terms of decent work. The major difference between cooperatives and other business models in terms of supply chain intervention is that cooperatives integrate their values and principles into those supply chains, and not just to reap the economic benefits. Every day cooperatives in various sectors of the economy are contributing to the promotion and advancement of global supply chains and, through it, to decent jobs.

  • Provide scale to small and marginalized groups such as small-scale farmers, enabling them to access markets, information, technology and finance with conditions that they could not enjoy as individuals.
  • Provide a governance model that allows participation and inclusion of all stakeholders, including workers, in the management of the enterprise.
  • Redistribute the economic benefits of the operation of global supply chains to their members and stakeholders including small-scale producers, workers and consumers.

Jean Louis Bancel, President, Credit Cooperatif and President, Coop FR

Would you introduce yourself and explain what brought you to the 105th Session of the International Labour Conference, held in Geneva from 30 May to 10 June, 2016?

I am Jean Louis Bancel, the chair of the Credit Cooperatif, a French cooperative bank created 123 years ago by workers’ cooperatives. Its operations extend to a variety of social and solidarity economy sectors such as all types of cooperatives, mutuals and associations, but also small and medium enterprises (SMEs). I am also the chair of Coop FR, the national apex organization of all French cooperatives. France is the country with the second highest ratio of inhabitants being members of coops.

At the international level, I am the chair of the International Co-operative Banking Association (ICBA) a sectoral organization of the International Co-operative Alliance ICA. For almost ten years now I have been an ICA Member of the Board, and I am currently chairing the Committee on the Co-operative Values and Principles.

I attend the International Labour Conference on behalf of the ICA for a number of reasons.
  • First as a French person we always keep in mind that since its creation the ILO has always taken into consideration the role of the cooperatives. The first ILO Director was after all a French co-operator and a member of the ICA Board.
  • This year particularly we are glad to see that the ILO has included two important items for cooperatives in the Conference agenda: the role of SMEs in the global supply chains to create sustainable jobs; and the question of helping populations in case of crises.
Last year the ICA was very much involved in the UN conference on financing for development in Addis Ababa and on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I feel that the themes of this International Labour Conference are very much linked with these issues.

Would you talk about your experience at this International Labour Conference? What discussions are you following? What do you expect out of your participation in these discussions?

I am used to attending different international conferences, and my stay at the ILC has been short so I cannot say too much. Thanks to Rodrigo Gouveia the Policy Director of the ICA who also attended the Conference, and through Simel Esim of the ILO’s Cooperatives Unit I had opportunity to meet with different persons attending the Conference. This gave me the opportunity to emphasize the long common history between ILO and the cooperative movement to build a "better world" for women and men workers and entrepreneurs.

Why is the discussion on the Committee on decent work for the transition to peace important to the ICA? How is the discussion at the International Labour Conference related to the upcoming ICA board deliberation on refugee response through cooperatives?

When listening to the Committee debates on the transition to peace I felt that the ILO processes might be lengthy considering what is going on around the world with the refugee crisis. In the meantime, I can tell that the ICA has decided to work promptly on the topic. A few weeks ago, on the proposal of our Swedish board member, we exchanged on the topic at the ICA Board. Also the question of refugees and the ways cooperatives could be helpful has been one of the themes of the Conference organised a month ago by Cooperative Europe in Brussels. We expect the ILO to keep its momentum on this major issue.