The global commonweal

IssueMarch - June 2002
Feature by John Courtneidge

The global, Co-operative Commonweal a long desired dream is now becoming a practical reality: it is a vision of global peace and security, through practical, local and co-active co-operation.

Over the past seven years, this dream has been turning into real, tangible action. Here, I hope to share these developments and give some pointers to the next steps.

These developments got under way in 1995, when The International Co-operative Alliance (the ICA) met to refresh the Statement, Principles and Values of The Co-operative Identity.

Now, it has reasonably been said that there can be no security without peace, no peace without equality, and no equality without co-operation: the vision thus becomes driven by principled, practical co-operation. This vision is fast becoming a practical reality. What a prospect!

The International Co-operative Alliance Statement of the Co-operative Identity


A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.


Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.


The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.

1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership

Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, 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 organisations 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 organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, 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.

Source: International Co-operative Alliance News, No 5/6, 1995. I IC CA A, 15, route des Morillons, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, Geneva, Switzerland (tel +41 22 929 8888; fax 798 4122; email;

The co-operative way, the Fair World Action List

  • Co-operation, not coercion. Convert competitive, market-based businesses into workplace co-operatives and reorganise monopoly activities as stakeholder co-operatives: each co-op having respectful stewardship of necessary land and knowledge resources: all held of the commonweal, and with each co-operative demonstrably working to the seven International Co-operative Principles
  • Predistribution, not redistribution. Distribute the created wealth through nationally collected, co-operatives taxation, distributed into local, democratically controlled, Community Banks, so that money and credit are available for responsible wealth creation, environmental care and community development.
  • Global stewardship for needs, not private resources for profits. Provide for more human needs (health, education, libraries, telecommunications, transport and so on) on a free-at-the-point-of-use basis.
  • Fair, guaranteed incomes for all. Introduce guaranteed fair income for all, within upper and lower brackets and, so, do away with personal taxation (income tax, VAT etc), perhaps incorporating elements of as-of-right Citizens Income.
  • Banking as public service - not as global warfare. Abolish money lending and credit-creation for profit.
  • End global exploitation through financial speculation. Reintroduce international exchange controls as necessary.
  • All our sisters are our brothers, and all our brothers are our sisters Make capital grants (not loans) to developing countries.

The Fair World Project: For peace, equality and co-operation, c/o The Global Cafe, Golden Square, London W1, Britain.
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