2012 has a lot of meaning to people all over the world, from the end of the Mayan calendar, a US presidential year, economic turmoil, and the year my little sister became a teenager. For the billion people worldwide, who are members of cooperatives, 2012 means something else. 2012 was deemed the International Year of Cooperatives (IYC), by the United Nations. The IYC was created to spread awareness about the cooperative business model, especially as a tool in the realm of poverty reduction, job creation and other components of socio-economic development.
Mid-November brought the official closing ceremonies of the International Year of Cooperatives, to which I was invited to attend. During my time there I was one of a dozen youth delegates selected to meet and craft the International Youth Cooperative Statement (pdf). During the course of October, and early November, the UN solicited opinions on the role of cooperatives in young people’s lives. A majority of respondents were young cooperators, from across the globe. And it was the role of the dozen of us to compile all the feedback into a cohesive youth statement. No small task! So we got to work on the first day of the closing ceremony, and tinkered away until 1am to get the document to as inclusive, assertive, and complete a form as we could before presenting it the next day.
The process of crafting the International Cooperative Youth Statement was amazing. Young people from countries including Ethiopia, China, Ghana, Mexico, Canada, Germany, Argentina, and the United States worked together to draft the document. The statement recognizes that through co-ops youth can overcome many challenges that affect them ranging from unemployment, underemployment, disempowerment and disengagement. The statement is intended to be a document that is acted upon. So in crafting it we included recommendations for governments, policy makers, educational and research institutions, cooperatives, broader society and the international community in working together with us to address youth engagement in the cooperative sector. What is key is that as creators of this document, as young people, and as young cooperators, we also made a set of commitments that we, along with other young people, are going to carry forward. I see this as being crucial for the success of youth engagement in cooperatives, beyond the International Year of Cooperatives.
I urge you to read and sign on with support as either a youth signatory to the statement, or as a supporter and promoter of youth engagement and empowerment through cooperatives. You can do so through this link. And while you do so, jam out to the official anthem of the International Year of the Coop, found at the top of this post.