The International Movement Today

International Co-operative Alliance

International Co-operative AllianceThe International Co-operative Alliance is an independent, non-governmental association which unites, represents and serves co-operatives worldwide.

The ICA was founded in London in 1895. Its members are national and international co-operative organizations in all sectors of activity including agriculture, banking, energy, industry, insurance, fisheries, housing, tourism and consumer co-operatives. ICA has more than 230 member organizations from over 100 countries, representing more than 760 million individuals worldwide.

In 1946, the ICA was one of the first non-governmental organizations to be accorded United Nations Consultative Status. Today it is holds the highest level of consultative status (General Category) with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).


The major objective of the ICA is to promote and strengthen autonomous co-operatives throughout the world. Through actions taken at the international, regional and national levels, the ICA also seeks to:

  • promote and protect co-operative values and principles;
  • facilitate the development of economic and other mutually beneficial relations between its member organizations;
  • further the economic and social progress of its members and their communities.

In order to achieve its aims, the ICA organises international, regional and sectorial meetings, thus serving as a forum for the exchange of experience and information among its vast membership.


Information on all facets of co-operative development, resources and statistics are also collected by the ICA and provided to members and other organizations involved with co-operatives.

The ICA has a documentation centre and produces publications on specialised topics, as well as periodicals, including the ICA's official journal, the Review of International Co-operation.

Through its Headquarters and Regional Offices, the ICA also provides technical assistance for co-operative development in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern and Central Europe.

Sectoral organizations and thematic committees are also created by the ICA to address technical issues in specific economic and social sectors.

The ICA collaborates with the United Nations and its specialised agencies, and non-governmental organizations with similar aims.

International Co-operative Alliance Principles

The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.  They are available in many languages from the ICA website.

1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership

Co-operatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control

Co-operatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.

3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation

Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

4th Principle: Autonomy and Independence

Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter to agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.

5th Principle: Education, Training and Information

Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public - particularly young people and opinion leaders - about the nature and benefits of co-operation.

6th Principle: Co-operation among Co-operatives

Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

7th Principle: Concern for Community

Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.

International Co-operative Day

The first Saturday of July every year is celebrated as International Co-operative Day. The aim of this day is to increase co-op awareness, promote solidarity, economic equality, and world peace. Other objectives include a move towards stronger partnerships amongst co-operatives and governments at international as well as local levels.  For more information, including documents from previous celebrations, please see the ICD page of the ICA website.

International Labour Organization

International Labour AllianceThe International Labour Organization is the UN specialized agency which seeks the promotion of social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights. It was founded in 1919 and is the only surviving major creation of the Treaty of Versailles which brought the League of Nations into being and it became the first specialized agency of the UN in 1946.

The ILO formulates international labour standards in the form of Conventions and Recommendations setting minimum standards of basic labour rights: freedom of association, the right to organize, collective bargaining, abolition of forced labour, equality of opportunity and treatment, and other standards regulating conditions across the entire spectrum of work related issues. It provides technical assistance primarily in the fields of:

  • vocational training and vocational rehabilitation;
  • employment policy;
  • labour administration;
  • labour law and industrial relations;
  • working conditions;
  • management development;
  • co-operatives;
  • social security;
  • labour statistics and occupational safety and health.

It promotes the development of independent employers' and workers' organizations and provides training and advisory services to those organizations. Within the UN system, the ILO has a unique tripartite structure with workers and employers participating as equal partners with governments in the work of its governing organs.

Co-operatives in the ILO

The ILO views co-operatives as important in improving the living and working conditions of women and men globally as well as making essential infrastructure and services available in areas neglected by the state and investor-driven enterprises. Moreover, co-operatives have the potential to advance the concept of decent work. This is because they:

  • Promote fundamental principles and rights at work by encouraging freedom of association and work-place democracy.
  • Create greater opportunities for women and men to secure decent employment and income by enabling their members to combine resources, skills and talents.
  • Enhance the coverage and effectiveness of social protection by providing the socially excluded with basic social services.
  • Strengthen tripartism and social dialogue by defending the interests of the rural poor and unprotected workers.

The work of the Co-operative Branch, based on the ILO Recommendation No. 193 , (2002), includes:

  • Providing policy advice to ILO Member States;
  • Technical co-operation; organizing international meetings;
  • Producing documentation and information to increase public awareness of co-operatives;
  • Promoting co-operative values and principles.

The technical co-operation activities cover a wide range of themes from co-operative legislation and human resource development to job creation, poverty alleviation and local economic development.

Other Co-operative Organizations Worldwide

International Co-operative and Mutual Insurance Federation - United Kingdom

From website:

International Co-operative and Mutual Insurance Federation "Our purpose is to enhance and accelerate development of a distinct, unified, strong and influential co-operative and mutual insurance sector of the global financial services industry.

We promote international collaboration to help strengthen co-operative and mutual insurers in different countries and regions that operate on the basis of shared principles.

We help our members identify with, remain committed to and contribute significantly to the co-operative movement and democratic mutuality nationally, regionally and globally."


World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) - United States of America

From website:

World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU)"World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. WOCCU promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial co-operatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. WOCCU advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach. WOCCU is funded by government agency and foundation grants, member dues and annual gifts from WOCCU Supporters. World Council of Credit Unions and its subsidiaries are headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, in the United States. WOCCU also has a permanent office in Washington, DC, and program offices worldwide."

Co-operativa de Ahorro y Crédito Jesús Nazareno - Bolivia

A prominent savings and credit co-operative that has operated for more than 40 years.

Conseil canadien de la co-opération et de la mutualité (CCCM) - Canada

Conseil canadien de la co-opération et de la mutualité (CCCM)Founded in 1946, the Conseil canadien de la co-opération et de la mutualité is a national francophone organization involving eight provincial co-op councils and representing more than 3 400 co-operatives. Its mission is to promote co-operatives and socio-economic development in French-speaking communities, by supporting the French-speaking co-operative movement in Canada.

Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) - Canada

From website:

Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA)"We are the co-operatives and credit unions of Canada , valued for fostering social and economic empowerment, and recognized for our unique response to community needs.

We are a not-for-profit co-operative owned by our members. Our members come from many sectors of the economy, including finance, insurance, agri-food and supply, wholesale and retail, housing, health, and the service sector. The majority are "second tier" co-operatives (those that are organized at the regional or provincial level such as credit union centrals or federations, which provide services to "first tier" co-ops such as local credit unions or retail outlets). We also have primary or first tier members, as well as "third tier" members representing co-ops from specific sectors of the economy.

Our mission is to provide leadership to promote, unite, and develop co-operatives and credit unions for the benefit of people in Canada and around the world."

Further Resources: