Speech at the closing ceremony of the 33° World Cooperative Congress, in Seoul, Republic of Korea:

“Dear friends, dear colleagues representing the Cooperatives of the five continents.

On December 1st, at the Opening Ceremony, we said that we were showing a heroic commitment by organizing the 33rd in the context of the worst health, economic, social and environmental crisis that has hit humanity in the global era.

As you all know, we had in-depth discussions and we complied with all the scheduled sessions, but unfortunately, the last day was left unfinished due to the detection of a Covid case.

I want to express my apologies for all the inconveniences caused, for the moment of anguish, for the uncertainty suffered by all those who were participating in person or virtually. Many of the latter in the wee hours of the morning.

But it was necessary to take care of the health of the participants, and this was done.

Today we are here to finish the task. To share our vision of what was discussed and to invite you to continue on the path we have chosen.

In this Congress, we have reunited the representatives of the Biggest Business Network in the world, a network built around values and principles that we have democratically agreed over the past 126 yeas of history of the International Cooperative Alliance.

That is our Coopertive Identity. The cover letter of the largest network of companies in the world. We have been talking about it during these three days.

Of how we have been deepening our identity, so that the contribution of our three million cooperatives become decisive in the face of the biggest challenges we face as humanity.

We have moved forward in our understanding of how we can continue to economically integrates, strengthening the exchange between cooperatives of different countries, different regions and different sectors, fostering the horizontal and vertical integrations in the cooperative value chains, which proves how it is possible to put into action our sixth principle to  smartly mobilize the way the resources our own network has.

As I have said on other occasions, in greatness or smallness, in times of crisis or in contexts of growth, our Identity, our Values and Principles, are an unmistakable guide on how to respond to the necessity to be economically efficient and socially responsible.

And as I have proposed to you at the Opening of this Congress, it is a central element of our advantage to compete with other business models and to keep building on a global scale a paradigm that puts people and the environment at the center of the scene.

All of the contributions that each of you have made in these three days constitute altogether a decisive input of our movement on the road to another development model, that takes care of people and takes care of the planet, our home.

Humanity has great challenges and the main asset that us cooperative members have to help overcome them is precisely our Cooperative Identity.

What does it mean to be consistent with the Cooperative Identity in a world  that has been crossed by poverty and inequality, harassed by climate change, with the enormous challenge of transforming the way we consume and produce?

I am convinced that a key point, to begin to answer this question, is to deepen the Seventh Principle: our commitment to the community.

As you all know, this principle says that “the cooperative works for the Sustainable Development of its community through policies accepted by its members.”

Deepening this principle implies two things: first, working with a triple approach of economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Secondly, understand that the Sustainable Development of each one of our communities is enrolled in the effort that we must make as humanity for Global Sustainability.

I believe that this Congress has given us the opportunity to debate everything that seventh principle demands us to fulfill.   

The 2030 Agenda of the United Nations talks about the need to transform our way of producing and consuming.

An important part of that challenge is to transform the agri-food system.

The World Summit on Agrifood Systems was held in May of this year. At this Summit, convened by the UN and organized by FAO, it was agreed that the transformation of agri-food systems are key to fulfill a large part of the SDGs.

It is necessary that Cooperatives join, in the fulfillment of our seventh principle, this systemic approach that the UN is proposing to us.

Our consumer cooperatives, agricultural and livestock cooperatives, savings and credit cooperatives that fund rural activity, and rural electricity service cooperatives. All, in the fulfillment of the seventh principle, must feel part of the transformation of the agri-food system.

To the community and governments we must say, very clearly, that there is no possible transformation without the active participation of consumers, producers and workers. And that is what our business model guarantees: putting the future of production and consumption in the hands of the men and women who produce and consume.

Another major concern, which we share and have been discussing with the ILO, is the Future of Work.

There are approximately 3.3 billion workers in the world, of which 2 billion, more than 60%, are precarious workers.

In this scenario of job precariousness, digital transformation is being developed, with a formidable impact on the labor organization. We have witnessed how it has grown during the pandemic.

But digital transformation, like any technological innovation, is never neutral.

Whether digital transformation helps overcome the problems of job insecurity and not deepen them, depends to a large extent on the Business Model we adopt.

This is what we have been discussing with the ILO. Within the framework of the tripartite structure of this body, in dialogue with governments, unions and business chambers, we must build agreements to favor the development of business models whose governance conforms to the ILO’s people-centered program.

Cooperatives have a lot to offer in this field, since we are true engines of innovation.

Digital transformation can be a great opportunity for our business model. Data is the new source of wealth, and we must be there, to put that wealth at the service of people. Distributing wealth today can be similar to distributing opportunities to digitally innovate and to share data.

The big corporations of digital economy accumulates that wealth, our challenge is to build cooperative governance over data, programs and digital infrastructure.

Having put this issue under discussion at this Congress has been a real step forward to the task that we have ahead of us.

Another challenge I wish to share with you today, along with the transformation of the agri-food system, the future of work and digital transformation, is the need to transform the financial system.

We are not going to guarantee the Sustainable Development of our communities, as the seventh principle proposes, but we guarantee that the savings of our communities are channeled towards sustainable development.

Restructuring the financial system, to put it at the service of Sustainable Development, is one of the great global challenges we face as humanity.

Cooperatives have the right model to democratize the financial system, so that the community – through cooperative organization – retrieve the sovereignty over its savings.

The different views that have been provided at this Congress, especially in the session organized by the ICBA, form a fundamental contribution in this sense.

Dear colleagues, dear friends. These are just some issues that the seventh principle demands us when we think about the Sustainable Development of our communities, as part of the global challenges we face as humanity.

In this same sense, I do not want to stop adressing the topic of Peace. I sincerely believe that, although it is not written in our Declaration, Peace is an essential value for cooperative members. I am convinced that we must move forward to the construction of a Cooperative Agenda for Positive Peace, as resolved at the Kigali Assembly, and as we were talking at this Congress, in a session specifically adressed to this.

Peace is built from our surroundings, but local efforts must contribute to the global efforts that peace requires.

I am also absolutely convinced that our future debates on our Cooperative Identity should include central issues such as Inclusion, Equity, Diversity.

Of course, I cannot end this reflection on what the Seventh Principle demands of us today, not to mention one of the greatest challenges we face as humanity: climate change.

Many of us cooperative members have closely followed the evolution of the agreements, since the Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro, in 1992.

Our cooperatives, which are a result of having an entrepreneurial model that facilitates commitment to the community and the environment, have naturally accompanied this effort in a sustained way.

The depth of the crisis we are going through will surely accelerate the channeling of growing resources for international cooperation in the next years to all these critical issues in terms of environmental pollution.

It is necessary to reach these requests with a very strong and very firm position on the abiliy of our business model to lead, from the field of civil society, this transformation process.

I am very optimistic in this regard.

I believe that governments and communities are increasingly visualizing and understanding that cooperatives are resilient, supportive and firmly rooted companies.

Our model has been recognized by UNESCO no less than as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

But now it is our job to deepen that learning. We must be capable of convincing our communities that we are too the best Business Model to make possible the social transformation that sustainable development requires.

And this requires, as we have intensely discussed these days, establishing a close link in our minds and hearts between Cooperative Identity and Sustainable Development.

I believe that this Congress and the debate that we will be developing from now on,  will significantly contribute in this sense.

I am very hopeful that the debates we have given these days will help us a lot in the future.

Having set ourselves the goal of deepening the Cooperative Identity has allowed us to share many views that we have been building in the last years through our regional and sectoral organizations, networks and committees.

Thanks to all the speakers, moderators and rapporteurs of each session. Thanks to our sponsors. Thanks to the representatives of international organizations and universities that have accompanied us.

Thanks to all the researchers and academics who participated in the Cooperative Research Conference and the Cooperative Law Forum, who have enriched our debate.

Every idea that has been shared here, and all of the proposals and comments you have sent us, will be worked on by the Advisory Group we form, headed by our colleague Alexandra Wilson. Many thanks to all of its members for their commitment and for sharing your time and experience with us.

Special thanks to the Youth, who have had an important presence and voice in this Congress. I have seen many young people here and that fills us with joy.

Many thanks to all the women, who have played a leading role throughout the Congress, and in whom I place a great part of my hopes to build a transformative and democratic cooperative movement commensurated with the civilizational changes we face.

Finally, dear hosts, dear colleagues of the Korean cooperative movement, thank you very much for having welcomed the cooperative members from all over the world in your land, a land where the Values and Principles of cooperation are alive and where there is an exemplary cooperative movement. We are eternally grateful for the hospitality which you have received us with.

Thank you again to everyone for your participation, for your contributions, for your dedication, for your enthusiasm and for your commitment, which is what allows us to keep building this Cooperative Identity.

To those of you who are here, I wish you a safe return home;  to all the friends who have participated online, also thank you very much for the effort and participation; to those who have worked hard for this congress, thank you for making it possible.

We should be very proud of how much we have made here. As we said, these are historical times.

From our Cooperative Identity, in compliance with our seventh principle, which today commits us to global sustainability, we are going to tell the world, more strongly than ever, with more conviction, that we have the most appropriate Business Model for Development that leaves no one behind and that allows all people to live with dignity, in the place where they choose to live.

For that, let’s continue to put our values, our principles into action and be proud of our Identity.

Cooperative friends, let us keep moving forward, building together a fairer, more supportive, more inclusive, more democratic World, the better world that we all want, the better world that we all deserve! Thank you very much and see you soon!