2 July 2001


NEW YORK, 29 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the occasion of the United Nations International Day of Cooperatives, 7 July:

The theme for this United Nations International Day of Cooperatives –- "the cooperative advantage in the third millennium" -– highlights the cooperative movement’s potential for addressing global, social and economic challenges in the modern age. Crucially, cooperatives put people first. They are member-owned, governed under democratic principles. They are collective enterprises, driven by members’ needs.

Cooperatives are at work in almost every country and economic sector. More than 760 million people are engaged in the cooperative movement. Whether a rural development cooperative in Benin, which ploughs back profits into building reservoirs and upgrading roads, or a savings and credit cooperative in Sri Lanka, providing insurance and postal services to its members, a cooperative can play a significant role in fulfilling development objectives.

The United Nations recognizes the contribution cooperatives can make to achieving the Millennium goals of full and productive employment, eradicating poverty, enhancing social integration and promoting the advancement of women. For the cooperative movement to fulfil this potential, Governments need to develop and sustain a supportive environment that allows autonomous cooperatives to grow. The United Nations, in collaboration with the world cooperative movement, has drafted guidelines for the creation of such an environment, which will be discussed by the 56th General Assembly this year.

Cooperatives, in turn, must respond with flexibility and innovation to changes and challenges in the political and economic environment, and especially the forces of globalization. Globalization has yet to benefit that half of the world's population which lives on under $2 a day. By extending ownership, cooperatives give their members the opportunity not only to become stakeholders in an economic enterprise, but actively to participate in its future.

The values of cooperation –- equity, solidarity, self-help and mutual responsibility –- are cornerstones of our shared endeavour to build a fairer world. I am confident that, given a supportive framework, the cooperative movement will be an increasingly adaptable and valuable partner of the United Nations in pursuing economic and social development for the benefit of all people.

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