On the 26th September, the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) organized a side-event as part of the UNESCO’s Conference on Cultural Policies and Sustainable Development – Mondiacult 2022. Through this conference, UNESCO is reinvesting in the global policy dialogue in the field of culture, building on its mandate and expertise to foster multilateral cooperation and action.

ICA’s side event was themed on “Cooperatives are Key Stakeholders in advancing SDGs through the culture and creative sector” and was organized in partnership with organizations that had participated in the parallel session dedicated to culture and cooperatives during the 33rd World Cooperative Congress in Seoul, Republic of Korea, in 2021.  

200 people participated online and on site in the side-event which was hosted by Smart Belgium, in Brussels. The event has its roots in the 2016 inscription of the idea and practice of organizing shared interests in cooperatives in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It explored the role of cooperatives in safeguarding cooperative culture and cultural heritage as well as in shaping a resilient cultural and creative sector that faces global current challenges. The discussion revolved around the following points: : 

  1. celebrating the inscription of the cooperative idea and practice 
  2. addressing the role of cooperatives in safeguarding cultural heritage
  3. acknowledging how the cooperative model is a suitable alternative for workers of the cultural and creative sector
  4. understanding how education is a key tool cooperatives employ in achieving sustainable development.

Almost 35 panelists comprising cooperative practitioners, members of the academia and international organizations, and cooperative leaders from 20 countries contributed to the conversation demonstrating how the cooperative identity – characterized by democratic and participative governance, the application of ethical values, and long-term vision – can shape a more sustainable cultural sector that puts the people and the planet at the center.

The expert at the German Commission for UNESCO, Christine M. Merkel supported the idea of creating an international networking platform of cultural cooperatives. “Cooperatives, don’t be shy. The time to act is now”, she said.

“We are looking forward to strengthening our links with international organizations such as UNESCO, which, based on the recognition given in 2016 to cooperation, can also help us to incorporate our principles and values at different levels of the education system and to disseminate among the new generations the possibility of building an economy based on democracy and mutual aid”, said the ICA President, Ariel Guarco.

“Cooperatives are key players in preserving and developing global cultural heritage. They provide good working conditions and opportunities to solidarize and organize cultural workers, and pass our heritage on to future generations in a sustainable and inclusive way.” added Iñigo Albuzuri, CICOPA President.

“We are convinced we have been able to defend the distinction received in 2016 in the most complex and critical moments. Cooperatives of the Americas offers governments cultural and educational practices to transmit confidence, listening skills and valuable knowledge from technical but also from ancestral perspectives.”, noted Graciela Fernández Quintas, President of the Cooperatives of the Americas.

Martin Lowery, chair of the ICA Cooperative Identity Committee, stressed the importance of cooperative values and principles to shape a cultural sector that looks at the future.

The event was co-organised with CICOPA and Cooperatives of the Americas, and designed with partners from around the world.