Cooperatives in the World Today
The first consumer cooperative was founded in Rochdale in 1844 and just fifty years later the Global Cooperative Association was founded.
Today, the cooperative movement is comprised of over one billion members internationally. According to UN estimates, the existence of about half the world's population is dependent on activities of cooperatives.
The International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) is an umbrella organization of international, regional and national cooperatives and is the world's largest non-governmental framework. Each year about 150 million people join cooperatives worldwide.
Cooperatives are divided into four types according to their main field of operation:
- Agricultural Cooperatives – support farmers in the marketing, delivery, finance, production and processing of agricultural products.
- Consumer Cooperatives – create favorable conditions using collective purchasing from the wholesaler or manufacturer. (Co-op Israel falls into this category.)
- Manufacturing Services Cooperatives – engage in industrial manufacturing and the transportation of raw materials and finished products. They also provide supplementary services to industry including insurance, air and freight shipping.
- Credit Cooperatives (cooperative banks) – allow members to receive loans on more favorable terms than they might in the private sector. In most instances these cooperatives form for practical purposes, such as establishing enterprises, purchasing of agricultural or industrial equipment.
Sometimes they serve to provide loans to private individuals for purchasing an apartment or pension savings.
2012 was declared by the United Nations to be the “International Year of Cooperatives".
In explanation of the decision, the United Nations reasoned that cooperatives are the most successful form of incorporation witnessing unprecedented growth around the world.
The International Year of Cooperatives was designed to increase awareness of cooperatives and their social and economic contribution to society in the countries in which they operate. This recognizes their influence on democracy and peace and their unique role in fulfilling the needs of disempowered populations.
Further goals of the declaration aimed to promote the establishment of new cooperatives as well as develop of existing ones as a tool for social and economic change.
In addition, the initiative sought to create closer links between cooperatives at a regional and international level and to strengthen the relationships between the United Nations and its associated organizations with the international cooperative movement.
One of the main activities of the International Year of Cooperatives was to form a National Committees in each country.
The committee includes cooperative associations, public organizations and government institutions related to the issue for cooperation with all relevant fields – public sector, academia, voluntary sector, media, etc.