Memorandum submitted by The Co-operative
1. The Co-operative College is the only
national institution dedicated to the education and research needs
of the UK's large and diverse co-op movement, which includes consumer,
workers, agricultural, housing and credit co-ops. It was established
2. The UK co-op movement has a long history
of internationalism, playing a key role in establishingin
1895and supporting since then, the International Co-operative
Alliance (ICA). The College has run programmes for overseas co-operators
throughout its existence.
3. The college is leading a consortium of
co-operative organisations in a bid to DFID for a Strategic Grant
Agreement, because we believe that the UK co-operative and mutual
sector can play a much greater role in international development,
but needs extra resources to develop the capacity to build on
what it is already doing.
4. Our evidence mainly addresses two of
the issues which the committee has identified:
The accountability of Palestinian
government institutions and the technical capacities of the public
and private sectors to build an autonomous and viable economy;
The role of civil society, including
NGOs, in ensuring a broad popular participation in the development
of Palestinian society.
We believe that a strong co-operative sector
in the OPT will contribute to securing the livelihoods of many,
and also contribute to a strong civil society. Education and training
are key tools in such a development.
5. It is well known that co-operatives played
a important role in building prosperity in Israel, and the UK
co-op movement has had contacts with co-ops in Israel for many
years. The fact of submitting evidence to the inquiry, or the
views expressed here, are not a judgment on the wider issues of
6. Co-ops are recognised in many countries
and institutions as self-help organisations particularly suited
to assisting poor people to work out of poverty. The United Nations
estimated (in 1994) that the livelihood of three billion people
was made more secure by co-operatives. At least 800 million are
members of co-operatives and 100 million are employed by them.
The new International Labour Organisation recommendation The
promotion of Co-operatives (No. 193) states: "The promotion
of co-operatives should be considered as one of the pillars of
national and international economic and social development."
7. Co-operatives were originally established
in the UK as a practical means whereby working people could meet
their everyday needs for good quality foodstuffs at reasonable
prices, as a route to building a better society. Their
vision was not simply about retailing, but about how, through
self-help, they could improve their working and living conditions,
and their communities. It is precisely this model of practical
self-help which poor people in the OPT want and need.
8. There are, in the context of the OPT,
a number of important roles which co-ops can play in securing
the rights and livelihoods of poor people:
(a) Co-ops are schools for democracy, and require
the development of citizenship skills to maximise their potential.
(b) Providing services the state cannot or where
private provision is too costly or too difficult: health, education,
utilities, credit, agricultural extension services.
(c) Business co-operationsmall farmers
and entrepreneurs could co-operate to obtain production inputs,
help with processing and marketing. This has the potential to
enable small primary producers to combine and reach the critical
mass to break into export markets.
(d) Capital accumulation, credit and savingsespecially
important for marginalised groups who do not have access to credit.
9. In 2002 a group of six Palestinian co-operators
participated in one of the College short courses for overseas
co-operatorsLeading a successful co-operative business,
which comprised a combination of tutorial sessions and study visits
to co-operatives. Contact has been maintained with the group since.
The visit was part financed by the Bert Youngjohns Memorial Fund.
Bert Youngjohns was a senior ODA official who did much to support
the co-operative sector in Africa, Asia and the Pacific. The delegation
included members of a womens' handicraft co-op based in a refugee
camp; agricultural and housing co-operatives and the national
Co-operative Development Unit.
10. The Palestinian co-operators identified
two particular ways in which they wanted help:
(a) training in membership development and motivation,
in business planning and business management and in setting up
(b) purchasing Palestinian Co-op products to
UK Co-ops especially olive oil, other food products, medicinal
and culinary herbs and handicrafts.
11. The Co-operative Group has tried very
hard to develop a product line of Palestinian co-operative produced
Fair Trade olive oil, which is a good quality product and can
be supplied in sufficient quantities. However, European Union
tariffs on the product would make its price uncompetitive.
12. It seems absurd that, on the one hand
the EU is one of the largest donors to the Palestinian Authority,
but on the other, protectionist tariffs prevent the export of
a valuable product which would produce a sustainable income flow.
13. The collegeand many UK co-opsare
willing to extend their expertise through a training programme,
but currently lack capacity to directly undertake bi-lateral projectsthe
reason we are seeking an SGA is to build up our capacity. There
would be advantages in a multi-lateral organisation providing
an umbrella for delivering support. It may well be that UK aid
to co-ops in Palestine might be routed through the ILO, the organisation
which has the main responsibility for co-operative development
within the UN system. This could be via the ILO new Palestinian
Fund for Employment and Social Protection.
We would ask the committee to consider these
14. Co-operatives in the OPT have the potential
to make a contribution to building an autonomous and viable economy.
They are an established alternative to the private and public
sectors. They can provide sustainable employment, credit and other
services for Palestinians, and in the long term, an alternative
15. Secondly, as membership-based organisations,
they also have a role in building a pluralistic, open society,
helping to develop popular participation in the development of
16. The UK should use its influence within
the EU to press for a tariff regime which does not make it impossible,
as it does at present, for Palestinian Fair Trade products to
gain market access.
17. Education and training for the co-op
sector in the OPT could play a crucial role in building capacity.
Help to develop Palestinian co-ops might be routed via the ILO
initially, until the UK co-op movement has built up capacity for
a bi-lateral programme.