2020 has been a year like no other in living memory.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed all our lives, causing a healthcare, economic and social crisis which has plunged the world into the deepest recession since the Second World War. The pandemic has also accentuated many of the other great global challenges that we still face including climate change, inequality and poverty.
As governments around the world look to restart their economies people are demanding that we not only build back better but redesign back fairer and greener. I am convinced that only cooperation offers us a way to do this and provides an answer to the enormous challenges which we all now face.
I am so proud that cooperatives around the world, putting cooperative identity into action, have shown real solidarity and resilience during the crisis. Through our democratic entrepreneurship we have exemplified the cooperative difference and proven that even in the hardest of times it is possible to maintain jobs and create a more equitable and socially responsible society.
Last year I had the great pleasure of celebrating both the 125th Anniversary of the ICA and the 25th Anniversary of our Statement on the Cooperative Identity. With the huge challenges facing our planet there has never been a more important time to promote our history, what we stand for and our guiding principles and values.
As a movement, it has been an incredible journey from our ever first Congress held in 1895 in London to where we are today representing three million cooperatives around the world and with more than one billion members.
Due to Covid-19, our 33rd World Congress meeting scheduled for last month was sadly not possible, but I am delighted that we will be meeting this year instead between 1-3 December 2021 in Seoul, Republic of Korea. This meeting promises to be a truly historic Congress attracting cooperators from all over the world and offering the opportunity to learn, share stories and innovate. We have an exciting programme lined up focusing on the theme of ‘Deepening our Cooperative Identity’ so please visit our World Congress website for more information.
I want to pass on my sincere thanks to all of you for everything you have done and will continue to do, to guarantee the functioning of your local cooperatives throughout the pandemic. Without you we would not have a global cooperative movement of which we can all rightly feel proud. I would also like to thank the ICA Board members for their continued commitment, passion and support. You have been vital in ensuring that we can commit to a World Cooperative Congress which looks beyond Covid-19 to building a better and more cooperative future.
I look forward to meeting you all in Seoul to share the cooperative movement’s commitment to the communities we serve –and showcase how our cooperative identity has overcome crises with solidarity and resilience.
In the meantime, I wish you a peaceful, prosperous and a Happy New Year.