I was reminded last week, in a conversation with one of the members of the conference’s official Validation Committee, that there is only a year to go until the second International cooperative Summit in Québec, hosted by Canadian cooperative bank and insurer Desjardins. The dates are fixed (Oct 6-9), and the themes chosen.
Desjardins’ CEO Monique Leroux pushed the boat out last year for the first Québec summit, one of the main events organised for the UN International Year of Co-operatives. Nothing daunted, she has agreed to do the same again next year. She has talked of Québec becoming a kind of cooperative equivalent to the World Economic Forum’s annual Davos bash.
I was interested to hear that one of the themes focuses on agriculture and food security. There are big agricultural coops in the UK but by and large we don’t hear much of them: with one or two honourable exceptions, they tend to keep apart from the rest of the British cooperative movement. Regrettably too, agricultural coops have historically tended to lead the way when it has come to demutualisation. This is what happened, for example, to Ireland’s once extensive agricultural coop movement.
But internationally agricultural cooperation remains a central part of the movement (35% of all coops are engaged in some way with food, say the Québec organisers). With food security increasingly on the global agenda, it’s right to be reminded of the role that coops can potentially play in trying to tackle the issue.