“Today marks 100 days to the 33rd World Cooperative Congress, and this year more than any other, I am very proud to be attending this event in Seoul, Republic of Korea, from 1-3 December.

Congress will be the first opportunity since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic for cooperators from around the world to meet, network and learn from each other and from internationally renowned speakers.

The overarching theme of Congress this year is Deepening our Cooperative Identity and was chosen to mark the 125th anniversary of the ICA and the 25th anniversary of the Statement on the Cooperative Identity. This Congress is an opportunity to celebrate both and to look to the future through a cooperative lens.

This will be a historic Congress — we will have the opportunity to meet in person or connect with each other online. This hybrid event will make the Congress accessible for more people in the cooperative movement than ever before. We will be looking at the foundations of our movement exploring its identity to build a more secure future. Looking at how to address challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, sustainable development, peace and equality, future of work, housing and energies, discussions will aim to deepen the cooperative identity by examining its values, strengthening its actions, committing to its principles and living its achievements.

Cooperatives have a vital role to play in this future, by helping the world Rebuild Better Together. This means rebuilding back fairer, rebuilding back greener and rebuilding back cooperatively.

The pandemic has claimed so many lives – and has also accentuated the existing inequalities in the world. Today, more than ever, the world needs an economic model with community leadership at its heart, focused on the common good. In short, the world needs to embrace the cooperative way of doing business and together, we can help to make the needed shift. To emerge better from this pandemic, I passionately believe that the world must learn to cooperate better with each other.

As cooperatives, we have one billion members who are part of three million cooperatives on all continents. This global reach gives us an unprecedented chance to make our influence felt. Congress offers us the opportunity to do that by bringing together thinkers, doers, activists, and storytellers who will lead conversations on four sub-themes.

Congress will also be a time to celebrate how cooperatives have led the way through the pandemic and to thank our members for the enormous efforts they have made.

This month also marks our 126th anniversary of the ICA. With the world going through so much, this is an important time for us to come together. I very much look forward to welcoming you to Congress, whether that is in Seoul or online.”