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Resurgent World Organization of Producer Co-ops:  CICOPA
By   Betsy Bowman  & Bob Stone

CICOPA  is the specialized world  organization for  producer cooperatives  of the  International Cooperative Alliance  (ICA),   headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.  The ICA  represents all types of  co-ops, and CICOPA represents worker or producer co-ops.  CICOPAÍs members are  national or regional  co-op federations.   Once formed,  the proposed  US federation of worker co-ops might join  CICOPA.  

A U.S. worker co-op federation would then be part of CICOPA Americas, which embraces both North and South  America. With its president in Sao Paolo, Brazil, it is one of  two new  regional bodies to integrate CICOPA members at the world level.  The other regional  group,  CICOPA Europe,  has 37 member groups representing 1.3 million ñself-managedî workers.  Regional groupings of Asian and African members are in a preparatory phase.

    Who better to move CICOPA to these new levels of integration than a person who speaks 8 languages?  Bruno Roelants, Belgian by birth, spent 8 years in China where he was in close contact with the Gung Ho co-ops and with the Gung Ho International Committee.  While funding  restraints at CICOPA mean his job is at present part-time, Roelants works full time on integrating the worldÍs worker cooperative movement so it can act in unison. Invited by organizers to participate in the Midwest Worker Cooperative Conference in Madison, April 11-13,  Bruno accepted, remarking       ñI think the Madison Conference is extremely important, and if I can help in any way to the constitution of the planned US national worker cooperative federation, I want to do it. Indeed, in my view, this would be one of the most significant developments in the contemporary history of worker cooperation in the world.î  

GEO is helping search for funds to defray costs to CICOPA of BrunoÍs participation. His knowledge of the types of national organizations and of the benefits of international inter-cooperation would be a valuable for US federation organizers.  Since 1990, CICOPA and its regional members, have helped development projects mainly in West Africa, South America, India, China and Central-Eastern Europe.

    CICOPAÍs lobbying culminated this past June in the  ñRecommendation on the Promotion of Cooperativesî „ a guide to national policy-making on co-ops drafted for the International Labor Organization  (ILO),  affiliated  with and funded by the United Nations.  

    Generating  a ñstrategic documentî was the first task given Bruno by CICOPAÍs Executive Committee.  

To help with drafting  this statement, Bruno sent a questionnaire to members.  In it, he  proposed other uses of CICOPA„besides development and lobbying„including:  an up-dated database listing the worldÍs self-managed enterprises, including  products and needs for inter-cooperative relations ; dialogue with trade unions at the world level,  already afoot in Europe;  a web-site partly open to non-members, partly a forum for members; video-conferencing for global and regional meetings; print and on-line information service with movement news;  follow-up on ILOÍs Recommendation Promoting Co-ops; and co-op law comparisons. Which services CICOPA will focus on will be based on questionnaire results.

     CICOPA will help a US federation wishing to put its co-ops in contact with foreign co-ops, either for movement solidarity or business or both.  As is shown by last JulyÍs Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy, collecting co-ops into a single data-base listing can have empowering results.  Results of a global listing, while unpredictable, will certainly also strengthen the  movement and open possibilities  for inter-cooperation.     Can CICOPA foster co-ops as an alternative to the present economic system? That will be CICOPAÍs choice.  Several  members  of CICOPA Europe had panels at the European Social Forum in Florence in November 2002.  For the present BrunoÍs aim is simply to help empower the global movement by making it aware of itself.    

CICOPA World Secretariat: Rue Guillaume Tell 59, B„1060 Brussels, Belgium
Phone  32 2 543 81033 - - Fax + 32 2 543 1037.

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