The co-operative advantage in fighting poverty
Billions of people live below subsistence levels. Millions die of poverty. The gaps between countries are growing. The United Nations has agreed the Millennium Development Goals and to work for a radical reduction in poverty by the year 2015.
The Swedish Cooperative Centre ( SCC ) was founded in 1958 with the intention of expressing its solidarity from the simple idea of helping poor people to improve their lives. SCC is today one of the most important development agencies in Sweden.
The work is based on the principle ”help for self-help” with the vision ” a world free from poverty and injustice”.
Self-organization by the poor is a pre-condition for successful anti-poverty work. Poor people need influence on their lives, not charity. Development comes about as a result of people taking initiatives and organizing themselves.
Co-operatives combine democracy and social responsibility with business development and
economic activities. As other actors in the business world, co-operatives are exposed to
competition. They need to be skilled and they need support from development agencies in
SCC's main working areas are ” Rural Development ”, ” Housing and Habitat ” and ” Financial Services ”.
An incredible 75 percent of the world's poor live in rural areas and many of them are farmers.
Agriculture is vital if they want food on the table and to earn a living from the harvest. SCC provides training and strengthens the farmers' position in the market.
Adequate housing is a human right. SCC supports local housing co-operatives in which the members themselves build their own houses and together manage their common areas.
Many poor people have no banking system to turn to in order to save and borrow money.
SCC supports the establishment of local co-operative savings- and credit societies.
If co-operatives did not exist, they would have to be invented with the mission to contribute
substantially to the reduction of poverty.
Fund-raising from co-operative members of SCC in Sweden is the most important source of
income. The fund-raising activities stimulate active engagement and participation. The
fundraising efforts have year after year broken records. It boosts the capacity to make a
difference in fighting poverty.
SCC is active in the International Co-operative Alliance ( ICA ), at the moment in planning
seminars and other activities in 2012, the International Year of Co-operatives ( IYC ).
Hopefully the IYC will increase the public awareness and knowledge of co-operatives and
Lennart Hjalmarson, ICA board member (Sweden)