“I welcome this initiative of the ICA Africa Region because it allows us to enlighten some ideas and visions, not only to go through this hard time but also to think about how we are going to get ahead.
We are aware about economic uncertainty over the whole world. We do know it will be shocking social and cultural issues as well. And we do certainly know that there won’t be accurate answers to all the situations until the sanitary processes are under complete control.
That implies research and studies on virology, vaccine design and production, distribution and costs. There are many people and many countries working hard against time. There are no easy explanations and actions to take forward. We are under the voice and recommendations of science.
But I see a few points out of questions I want to share with you:
Cooperatives are stronger than other kinds of organizations, under huge crises like this one.
Cooperatives are managing to take care of jobs, in a labor market that is being strongly contracting by the unprecedented fall of national and global economy.
Cooperatives are providing essential services to mass populations without disruption, even to those families that can no longer pay for those services.
Cooperatives in electrical distribution or internet providers are making communication possible, so that physical isolation does not become an inability to communicate with loved ones and family; so that children can continue with their education at home either, or to be able to have cultural products or logistics available helping confinement easier to get through.
We also see every single day cooperatives in dairies and fresh production in rural areas, and also key supplies for the health sector in urban regions.
Cooperatives at the financial sector that are refinancing their credits or launching new lines, in order to maintain the basic consumption of families and so that production is not fully stopped.
They are dealing all this and more, as I state, in a context of strong destruction of jobs in the global economy, but also in a context drawn by the inability of large consumer chains to guarantee food and other basic goods for the entire population, the lack of essential services in many places. Mass media communication in some countries (not all for sure) increasingly promoting social fears and hatreds rather than prioritizing the care and welfare of all of us.
What are nation States doing in the meantime? They are occupying the center of the political scene. Many States had withdrawn from welfare key sectors and have left the field of action at the mercy of the profit sector (the famous and misguided “spill theory”). This had devastating effects especially in the field of health, for instance.
We also see, as happened over ten years ago at the sub-prime crisis, that public resources are made available to large companies to avoid bankruptcy, both in powerful countries and in dependent countries as well.
We would welcome these kinds of decisions, if they would serve to avoid the increasing destruction of jobs. But we do know they do not provide definitive solutions.
Once again, what is being revealed, under an unprecedented pandemic crisis like this hitting at global level, is that the world cannot overcome it without cooperation.
I could say “great crisis” because, when we finally get out of this pandemic, social inequalities will surely have worsened, ethnic conflicts and global tensions will probably have been further exacerbated, and we will probably continue suffering the effects of our own constant aggression against nature and the environment.
Regarding this last point, it is not by chance that we have chosen climate action as the main theme to celebrate this year our International Day of Cooperatives.
We are aware that an uncontrolled and unnecessary rhythm of production and consumption, bonded to the logic of permanent increasing profit, leads us to a dead end on a global scale in not many more years.
Even in the middle of this health disaster we are experiencing, we could see how Nature recovers its brightness, its colors and its charm when human activity partially stops.
Let me state, in this complex context, it can be clearly seen that cooperatives are resilient and will always be. We will continue staying close with our communities even in the worst moments and we‘ll be able to generate innovative tools to reactivate economies by and for the people and take care of the environment in all its complexity and interactions.
We now need the leaders of each country to see us as strategic allies to overcome together this crisis and to build fairer and more inclusive societies from now on. Time is now!
We can’t return to a normality that excludes millions of people from basic goods in order to have a decent life, we cannot return to a normality that is sustained on the depredation of natural non-renewed resources.
We cannot return to a normality imposed by a small group of people who concentrate the world’s wealth and spins our economies only around financial speculation and the destruction of the settled industrial machinery and other assets capacity of each country, of each town or of each city where we live.
Cooperatives have a different perspective, a different experience and a different proposal. We start from the local, where we meet based on common needs; we debate and democratically choose the way forward.
We are rooted in our territories; we are an expression of identity, but also the diversity that exists in each community. We are building an economy based on reciprocal relationships and with a clear objective: no one can lack food, no one can lack decent housing, no one can lack water or electricity in their home, no one can lack the economic resources to produce and serve others. No one can lack education, health or information.
It is life and it is the economy. It is an economy at the service of life. We must also be clear in that.
It is time to save as many lives as possible and also to save economies, but not at any cost.
For that, it’s necessary to put our values and principles into action. To understand and make other economic, social and political actors understand that cooperation is the finest and quickest way out of the crisis.
This is a task that we have to do in each town and city, as I said before, but without doubts, we must also promote through our apex organizations. Both nationally, regionally and, of course, globally.
That is why I appreciate this initiative of our Regional Office in Africa, which allows us to incorporate all the experience and potential of cooperatives in this continent into the vision that we are developing from the ICA for the post-pandemic.
In these weeks we’ve been collecting news that our members have been sharing on a collaborative platform, called Loomio, which you can access through the web ica.coop.
And we are working at a distance, the directors of the Board, the Global Office staff, the Regions, the Sectors and the Committees, understanding that we must continue to meet, sharing our concerns and proposals and agreeing, as we have always done, on the strategies that we consider more suitable for the cooperative identity to be valued and translated into concrete contributions now and in the next stage in each country, on each continent, and throughout the world.
The task, as I said, starts from the local, from each cooperative, but we need to put all that potential in common instances, like this one; that are also being developed by the other regions of the ICA, in order to unify a voice at global level.
We are going through a crucial moment as humanity, convinced that no one can save themselves and that cooperation is the way to overcome quickly this crisis caused by the pandemic, but also to reverse social inequalities and to stop the natural disasters that we suffer in moments of the misnamed normality.
I invite you to continue building together a new normality based on cooperation, solidarity and social justice. That is the path that we are proposing from the International Cooperative Alliance and for which the contribution of all of you is fundamental. ¡Thank you!”