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Global co-op leaders gather for Summit opening

Posted on 10 October 2012 by Ajay Jha, Times of India

Two thousand eight hundred co-operative business leaders from 92 countries watched the opening of the International Summit of Cooperatives in Quebec on Monday.
The event was opened by Monique Leroux, President and Chief Executive of Desjardins, organiser of the conference, and co-hosts Dame Pauline Green, President of the International Co-operative Alliance; and Dr Colin Dodds, President and Vice-Chancellor of St Mary’s University.
Quebec’s Prime Minister, Pauline Marois, welcomed the movement to Quebec. She said: “We have always believed in the social economy; our day care centres are an example. By letting parents come together to look after our young we are giving them the greatest responsibility.”
Ms Marois added that for communities to create quality jobs they must be involved in their own development, and organisations such as Desjardins promote this. She said: “These values are fundamental, solidarity is the ultimate end that has brought your members here to build a fairer and stronger society. By choosing to hold this Summit in our capital you are inspiring us for the future.
In opening the evening, Ms Leroux challenged co-operators to strengthen the co-operative model around the world, while Dame Pauline said “we must walk, the talk” and Dr Dodds added “we have to get the co-operative message out there”.
 
Ms Leroux said two years ago Desjardins imagined a conference that “made it possible to have co-operative leaders of the world and high calibre speakers” come together. She added: “We are very proud to be hosting you here. The declaration of our Summit will be presented to the United Nations and will serve to enrich the final declaration of the International Year of Co-operatives.”
But Ms Leroux told delegates: “Let’s look beyond this meeting. What if this first Summit moved to a second, to a third? If Davos have a forum, why not have a world co-operative forum? With one million organisations, 100 million employees and one billion members we already have a global voice, now we need to make it resonate across the world.
 
“The world is changing. In these times of profound change the co-op movement must act as a pillar of a pluralistic economy, in which the co-operative and mutual sectors contribute wholly for people and societies. We want governments to recognise the full value and unique aspects of the co-op model and to adopt rules and laws recognising the co-op difference.
“The co-operative and mutual movement carries within it a great hope that we can build a better world. So let’s dare, let’s persevere, unite our strengths and work together. Let’s offer the world our strengths and, most of all, show the world the amazing power of co-operatives.”
During the opening ceremony, guest speaker, economist and political scientist Riccardo Petrella, set the stage for a lively debate over the following three days. After recalling the failure of the dominant economic model with its one billion people living in poverty, he challenged the co-operative movement to imagine a “realistic utopia”; and to even set up its own Award for Utopia.
He said: “The role of co-operatives should not be to heal the wounds of capitalism or to save the free market economy. These are collectively owned enterprises. We cannot get out of the repeated crises by strengthening the system that created them. Co-operatives should not be a ‘business model’ and large co-operatives should not act as a large multinationals and seek to grow at all costs.”
Addressing the world’s co-operative business leaders, Dame Pauline said this is a “great opportunity”: “We must not waste this opportunity of this event. We have our largest and most iconic businesses meeting together when the world is in need of urgent support.
 “If we are to change these things, then we, the world’s co-operatives will have to do it. We have to demonstrate that we’ll walk the talk.”
In closing the welcome from the hosts, Dr Dodds underlined the importance of the conference: “Thank you for coming to share and learn, we need you. We are on the journey for seeking a better world and economy. We owe it to our youth and future generations. I’m very optimistic we have a great future, but we have to do it together, and we have to get out that message of the power of co-operatives.
Courtsey-News Hub,ICA
 

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Hilda Smith: a tribute by the Chair of the S Wales Area Committee, the Co-operative, 9 April 2013

As I’m sure you are all aware - with the death of Hilda Smith last month at the great age of 94 - Co-operation has lost a great advocate and worker. Hilda was a former member of this Committee and in such circumstances members would normally take the opportunity of a Committee meeting to pay tributes.

Our circumstances on this occasion are rather different as we have Hilda’s son David as one of our current members.

David has intimated to me that he has been very touched and moved by all the letters and cards of sympathy he has received from Co-operative colleagues expressing sadness at Hilda’s passing and for the wonderful contributions she has made.

He does not feel that he could emotionally cope with a series of tributes this evening and in these circumstances what I propose to do, as Chair, is to make a SINGLE tribute on behalf of us all, followed by a period of silence during which we can all privately reflect on Hilda as a person and a co-operator.

I have known Hilda for getting on for 20 years –not as long as some on this Committee have known her – but still a long time. When she joined the South Wales Committee of the Co-operative Group, I think in 2009, she must have been by a long stretch, its oldest “new” member, although she had been a member of many co-op committees before.

She was very active in what can now be seen as a golden age of Co-operation in the 1930’s and was particularly engaged in the campaigning illustrated in the wonderful films of the London Co-operative Society, with themes of Internationalism, Education Pacifism and Feminism. We have to remember, Hilda was not all that far behind the Pankhurst’s and she was born just after the ending of the First World War.

As many of us know, Hilda was completely passionate about what she believed in and was always a strong advocate for the same.  She was always a master of her brief and fastidious in studying her papers and making reasoned and detailed contributions.

She had a powerful intellect but was still very interested in making practical observations about what a store should stock, what services it should give to the customers/ members and how they could be engaged at shop level.

I remember her observing back in the early days of Recession, that the support work of the Co-operative Group, through such things as the Community Divided Fund would become far more vital, as Public Expenditure Cuts bite and she is being proven right.

To think when she arrived in South Wales in 1986, she did not come for a rest, because at the age of 76, she set about with vigour in a whole new co-operative and mutual scene.

 She was instrumental in establishing the Newport University of the Third Age, The Wales Food Alliance- together with David – which had a number of collaborations with the Group. She was a member of the WG Older Persons Advisory Committee and made a considerable contribution to policy formulation. Of late she has been engaged in modelling social enterprises to deliver home care.

I last saw Hilda at the Members meeting last year at St Fagan’s, when the meeting was somewhat hijacked by Disability Rights Protesters.  I will remember her contribution for a very long time. She was not prepared to sit idly by but rose to make an impassioned speech about how Co-operatives had been at the forefront of protecting and promoting the rights of the disabled for getting on for 100 years.

David, Hilda was highly principled, creative, dynamic not just a thinker and dreamer about the Co-operative Commonwealth but who has actually contributed to help make it happen over 60 or 70 years.

We are all the better for knowing her and she has left you with much to live up to!

Brian Rees

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