Happy new year to all cooperators in the world!
With the new year, I started as the new Director-General of the International Cooperative Alliance. I take over this role being appreciative of the impressive work of my predecessors and the long history of the International Cooperative Alliance. This is a humbling awareness and at the same time gives me tremendous pride.
For the last 5 years, I served as Executive Director to Solidaridad. Its mission is to build an inclusive economy through sustainable supply chains in food and agriculture. With operations in 45 countries, with 1100 staff and an annual budget of € 75 million, Solidaridad has a concrete track record in creating tangible sustainability impact for 3 million farm families annually - many of them organized in cooperatives. The organization has been the initiator of well-known consumer labels such as Fairtrade, Utz Certified/Rainforest Alliance, and managed with partners to mobilize 700 million consumers globally to make sustainable shopping choices.
I’m a big believer of the cooperative movement, and in particular of principle 6. Collaboration within cooperatives is well, but collaboration between cooperatives can still be better. With 3 million cooperatives operating around the world, connecting over 1 billion people, we are a tremendous force. Just imagine this significant portion of the global economy together under one electronic roof - a platform that delivers knowledge, business-related services as well aso climate-smart solutions, such as carbon insetting and offsetting between members all over the world. I have plenty of ideas in this direction, and hope to be able to make this work with the ICA members.
2023 will go down in the history books as a year of extreme violence and conflicts. The world counted for 183 armed conflicts, almost as many as there are countries - many are triggered or worsened by rising climate emergencies. As various of the ICA members are living this experience of warfare and suffering devastating losses, I wish to share my solidarity with you.
On the positive note, 2023 was also a meaningful sign of hope as we saw at the COP28 in Dubai. A fossil-fuel phase out agreement was signed and the world of business is recognizing the need to include sustainability in their equations. Also, last November, the United Nations declared 2025 to be the International Year of Cooperatives. It gives us the great opportunity to show the world that at least 1/8th of humanity is working towards a more inclusive and sustainable society.
I dare to dream of a brand new beginning. A world in peace and safety. The social tissue of all the coops can contribute to realizing this. No war, but collaboration, open and free association, fair sharing of profits, autonomy, solidarity and democracy as long standing building blocks for success.
Cooperatives and mutuals have a tremendous future as long as we stick to our values, as long as we create smart market based solutions, as long as we build convincing sustainability and climate solutions and, above all, as long as we cement collaboration between coops. Coops are united in resilience. Coops can deliver on peace. Coops can offer climate smart solutions.
I will do my utmost to contribute to this magnificent agenda. The International Cooperative Alliance is the house to make this new beginning work.
Director-General of the International Cooperative Alliance