Minister of Labour, Small and Micro Enterprise Development, the Hon Errol Mc Leod. Photo courtesy guardian.co.tt
July 07, 2012:
Building a solid nation - Co-operative Enterprises Build a Better World
Nothing underscores the potential of a nation to empower its people as the notion of co-operation. As Minister of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprise Development, I also hold the portfolio for the development of the co-operative movement in our beloved twin-island republic. Today, the Ministry joins with the Cooperatives fraternity and the international community in commemorating International Day of Co-operatives, which is celebrated on the first Saturday of July every year.
It is even more instructive that I make this proclamation during the International Year of Co-operatives, as declared by the United Nations (UN), under the theme “Co-operative Enterprises Build a Better World”. In its wisdom, the United Nations has stated the objectives of this year of recognition and celebration of Co-operatives as increasing awareness of these bodies, promoting co-operative enterprise and establishing appropriate policies for co-operatives, which are closely aligned with UN ideals of international solidarity, economic efficiency, equality and world peace.
Apart from pooling talents together in the spirit of co-operation, a co-operative is a distinctive establishment that is created to satisfy basic human needs in the community which may be neglected by larger social institutions. At its core, a co-operative can be defined as an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise. These service-oriented establishments are connected to their local communities in ways that cannot compare with other enterprises. They are structured to guarantee that the business makes the best interests of its members and the community the utmost priority as co-operatives are exclusively owned and governed by their respective membership.
In recognition of this year’s theme of the International Year of Co-operatives, the UN has embraced the idea of partnering with these esteemed institutions for sustainable national development. Over the last year, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has engaged the co-operative movement in the establishment of a local committee to implement a number of nation-building activities that facilitate this objective and engage the wider community. This is accomplished at the domestic level by uniting our numerous stakeholders and internationally through the interaction and commemoration of co-operative-themed activities with bodies such as the World Council of Credit Unions. Consequently, the International Year of Co-operatives has already begun to contribute to the Government’s thrust of people-centred development through public sector and private sector partnering ventures as well as linkages with international bodies.
Today also affords us the time to contemplate and reflect on the future legacy of the co-operative movement. It is imperative that co-operatives partner with the younger generation to ensure their continued survival. Too often our young people are not aware of the dynamics of the co-operative model of enterprise. Many of them remain oblivious to the range of products and services they use are provided by co-operatives that can for example, provide a model of enterprise for them to create their own businesses. Through co-operatives, the young people of this country can help to “build a better world” through collaboration, as co-operatives contribute to an early appreciation of corporate social responsibility and collective governance.
Furthermore, co-operatives reinforce the philosophy that building a better world begins at the level of the individual and extends to the wider community. Families and personalities in the various communities are exposed to a values-based enterprise which both meets their economic and social needs and also creates a fertile environment for sustainable community development. Consequently, an energetic co-operative society within a community positively impacts the lives of a larger number of people. It goes without saying that the domino effect of stronger communities is that they in turn blossom into stronger nations and ultimately create a better world. As we look toward building a sustainable future for our beloved nation, I urge us all to reflect on how co-operatives can support people and become truly excellent business models.
On the occasion of our nation’s fiftieth anniversary of independence, we note the lessons of the past even as we highlight the many progressive successes we have made as a people. This includes the contribution of co-operatives to our economic and social development, which is reflected in so many areas of our national development. It is more than consequential that our golden jubilee of our nation’s birth should coincide with a year-long international celebration of the co-operative enterprise. Both achievements can provide the platform to promote greater innovation and entrepreneurial initiatives among the people of this country. Together, the Government, the co-operative movement and you, the general public, can all build a better Trinidad and Tobago.