The United Nations Secretary-General’s 2023 report on cooperatives in social development has been released. The report comes in response to General Assembly resolution 76/135 of December 2021 on co-operatives in social development, and outlines key policies and actions that can help co-operatives realise their full potential and assist States in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) “for example by creating decent jobs, advancing poverty eradication and promoting environmental sustainability”.
The report uses the enterprise ecosystem approach as an analytical framework to document compliance with resolution 76/135 and provide guidance to Member States on how to help cooperatives become sustainable and vibrant business enterprises.
In the report, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres applauds how cooperatives promote sustainable development in its three dimensions: social, economic and environmental, contributing to “social inclusion and the eradication of poverty and hunger”. Although member states recognise cooperatives as key partners for sustainable development, the report warns that they continue to play ” a relatively small part in overall economic and social policies and practice, compared with their huge potential contribution”.
In this context, Antonio Guterres recommends governments to help cooperatives to become “successful business enterprises” using the ecosystem approach to entrepreneurship, and to continue to advocate the importance of researching which ecosystem is most favourable to cooperatives in different geographical settings and sectors, in order to build a firm foundation for evidence-based policies.
Also according to the report, governments should continue to strengthen their capacities to collect comprehensive and internationally comparable data on the role of cooperative enterprises in social and economic development and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. This should build on available methodologies, such as the ILO guidelines on cooperative statistics, which are already being implemented in some countries in a pilot initiative. However, the Report regrets that the importance of the guidelines and of cooperative statistics in general is often not adequately recognized by national statistical offices.
Governments, the Report concludes, should promote the potential of cooperatives, irrespective of the level of development of the country, by integrating them into national development plans and SDG reporting processes, and by inviting them to participate in national consultations on social and economic policies.