TOKYO, Sept. 13 – The head of International Labour Organization’s Cooperatives Unit gave high marks to Japanese cooperatives’ activities, expressing hope that such initiatives will be promoted worldwide.
In an interview with The Japan Agricultural News during her visit to Japan, Simel Esim of the Geneva-based organization said cooperatives can make global contributions by working to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations.
Ever since it was established, the ILO has recognized the importance of cooperatives in carrying out its mission of realizing social justice and prevention of unemployment, Esim said. Based on Promotion of Cooperatives Recommendation adopted by member states in 2002, the cooperatives unit is working to support cooperatives’ activities in five areas, including offering legal and policy advice and developing training programs, she said.
Esim, who visited JA Shimizu, an agricultural cooperative in Shizuoka Prefecture, said she was very impressed with the wide variety of products and how different levels of the supply chain from sorting to marketing are supported by cooperative activities. She said leaders of cooperative organizations in African countries who accompanied her were interested in automation and mechanization introduced in JA Shimizu and wanted to adopt them. She said she expects Japanese cooperatives to transfer the knowledge and innovation to cooperatives in other parts of the world.
Asked how Japanese cooperatives should promote their activities abroad, Esim suggested they utilize the International Cooperative Alliance’s online platform Co-ops for 2030 to make pledges on how they can contribute to achieving the SDGs and report the progress. She said the only Japanese cooperative which has made a pledge on the platform is JA Fukushima Mirai in Fukushima Prefecture, adding that she hopes more cooperatives will take the opportunity to participate in the initiative.
While pointing out that cooperatives have a role to play in achieving the SDGs, she expressed concern that their contributions are little known and that they are often blamed for being inward-looking, focusing on their member community. She called for the need to set targets and indicators for cooperatives’ contributions to the SDGs, adding they might be created through the midterm review in 2020.