“THE existence of cooperatives positively influences the over-all quality of life of the community and the members enjoy better economic position.”
This is according to the research study entitled, “What Difference Do Cooperatives Make” by the International Cooperative Research Group of the U.S Overseas Cooperative Development Council which has been supported by the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID).
It is so inspiring to know that the more than 18,000 cooperatives nationwide with some 11 million members are indeed making a difference in making life better for the poor and the vulnerable, drawing them into the mainstream of development process. We can aptly say that the cooperatives are the new breed of freedom fighters, liberating the people not anymore from colonial rule but from poverty. Not anymore freedom of what they are fighting for, but freedom from poverty, hunger, social inequities and social injustice, winning against the number one enemy of the country which is poverty.
It is even more inspiring to know that according to the research study, the Philippines is the cooperative leader in Asia and the Pacific and cooperatives are known to have played important roles from the early century to today.
We salute the International Cooperative Development Council for bringing cooperatives to the forefront that they are indeed making a difference in a world that is changing profoundly. Everywhere, inequality, financial and economic instability, crisis in democracy, decline in social justice, intensifying ecological turbulence due to climate change and violent extremism are phenomena that are unfortunately becoming ordinary.
It is imperative that we must have now a countervailing force against the dysfunction of the prevailing economic model which has only been successful in sacrificing mother earth and the people to the altar of greed and profit.
What is most challenging is how the cooperatives can make a difference in a world that is so enamored in self-promotion, external looks and superficial trivialities. Indeed, there is denigration of spiritual values and so much veneration of the profit motive that has already captured the mind of almost all institutions. According to a study by a well-known university in the United States, human beings have now been reduced to self-gratification machines.
If that is so, then the only countervailing force for social transformation is “cooperativism” whose DNA is that of being members-owned (no one shall be left behind and development is not just for the rich and powerful but must serve the needs of everyone); second, cooperatives are value-based and principles driven, anchored on the time-honored and universally-accepted cooperative principles and values; and third, cooperatives very essence is sustainability that includes social inclusion and ecological integrity firmly believing that all of us are interconnected and that life is sacred.
That being the DNA of the cooperatives, there is now reason to celebrate as no less than the United Nations is promoting the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to stop hunger and poverty in a turbulent world that is now facing crisis on climate change and violent extremism, to protect the ecosystems, to promote gender and development and to have peace. The theme of the UN’s SDGs is Transformative Cooperatives for People, Planet, Prosperity and Peace. The cooperatives in the Philippines have long ago shown that they are the leading edge of social transformation. Every cooperative has its own amazing story to tell. Most recently, the stories include their coming together as one robust movement to counter climate change and violent extremism.
Indeed, the blooming of the flowers may be very beautiful but such will pale in comparison to the blooming of the cooperatives – all for the greater glory of God!