International Day of Cooperatives / International Dag van Cooperaties

The supreme need of humanity is cooperation and reciprocity. The stronger the ties of fellowship and solidarity amongst men, the greater will be the power of constructiveness and accomplishment in all the planes of human activity. Without cooperation and reciprocal attitude the individual member of human society remains self-centered, uninspired by altruistic purposes, limited and solitary in development like the animal and plant organisms of the lower kingdoms. The lower creatures are not in need of cooperation and reciprocity. A tree can live solitary and alone, but this is impossible for man without retrogression. Therefore, every cooperative attitude and activity of human life is praiseworthy and foreintended by the will of God.

The above quote from Abdu’l-Baha in The Promulgation of Universal Peace (p. 337) relates beautifully to the UN’s International Day of Cooperatives on the 1st Saturday in July.

The UN website says: “This year’s theme ‘Driving global recovery through cooperatives‘ focuses on recovery rather than crisis.  It aims to highlight the role that cooperatives have in not only promoting economic growth, but also in promoting ethical values – values which have been severely challenged during the financial and food crisis. It underlines that cooperatives can effectively contribute to global economic recovery and that they will  do so using their Cooperative Values and Principles.”

These 7 co-operative principles (from the International Cooperative Alliance website) are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice. They are:
1: Voluntary and open (non-discriminatory) membership
2: Democratic member control
3: Member economic participation
4: Autonomy & independence
5: Education, training & information
6: Cooperation among cooperatives
7: Concern for their community.

And the ICA website also says: Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

Two sentences from the UN’s Director General’s statement for this International Day caught my eye:

The economic model of cooperatives is based not on charity but on self- help and reciprocity.

In the face of the current economic crisis, communities around the world are rediscovering the critical necessity to work for the common good.

Of course as a Bahá’í, I’m quite used to cooperatives since our whole Administrative System is based on cooperative decision making. As one of the many statements from the Bahá’í International Community says so clearly:

Bahá’ís attach great importance to cooperative decision-making and assign organizational responsibility for community affairs to freely elected governing councils at the local, national, and international levels. This hierarchy devolves decision-making to the lowest practicable level-thereby instituting a unique vehicle for grassroots participation in governance-while at the same time providing a level of coordination and authority that makes possible collaboration on a global scale.

(from Overcoming Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity in Public Institutions, presented at the Intergovernmental Global Forum on Fighting Corruption II, 28-31 May 2001).

So, tomorrow (Saturday 4 July 2009), just do 2 things: be cooperative & buy from cooperatives.

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