The Alliance first celebrated International Day in 1923, though the earliest record we have in digital format on this web site is from the year 2000. In 1994, thanks to the lobbying efforts made through the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC) of which the Alliance is a member, the United Nations recognised and reaffirmed that co-operatives have an important role to play in economic, social and cultural development and proclaimed an UN International Day of Co-operatives to be celebrated for the first time in 1995, marking the centenary of the establishment of the Alliance. The UN requested all its member governments to join with their co-operative movements to celebrate the day.
The decision of the UN to celebrate an international day with the Alliance highlights the complementarity of the goals and objectives of the United Nations and the international co-operative movement. Both the Alliance and UN Days are celebrated on the same day - the first Saturday in July every year.
Since 1995, the Alliance and the United Nations through COPAC jointly set the theme for the celebration of the International Day. It underscores the contribution of the movement to resolving global issues addressed both the Co-operative Movement and the United Nations. The theme is generally selected in spring. The Alliance prepares a message for the Day which is disseminated to all Alliance members, international organisations including the United Nations and its agencies, development partners and the press.
The theme of the International Day of Cooperatives is determined by COPAC, the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives. The theme is announced at between January and March.
Below are the themes of the International Day of Co-operatives from 2000 till present:
- 2014: “Co-operative enterprises achieve sustainable development for all.
- 2013: "Co-operative enterprise remains strong in time of crisis"
- 2012: "Co-operative enterprises build a better world"
- 2011: "Youth, the future of co-operative enterprise"
- 2010: "Co-operative Enterprise empowers women"
- 2009: "Driving Recovery through Co-operative Enteprise"
- 2008: "Confronting Climate Change through Co-operative Enterprise"
- 2007: "Co-operative Values and Principles for Corporate Social responsibility."
- 2006: "Peace-building through Co-operatives."
- 2005: "Microfinance is OUR business! Cooperating out of poverty"
- 2004: "Co-operatives for Fair Globalisation: Creating Opportunities for All"
- 2003: "Co-operatives Make Development Happen!: The contribution of co-operatives to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals"
- 2002: "Society and Co-operatives: Concern for Community"
- 2001: "The Co-operative Advantage in the Third Millennium"
- 2000: "Co-operatives and Employment Promotion"
How to Celebrate the International Co-operative Day?
Co-operatives around the world celebrate the Day in many different ways. Below are examples of some of the activities organised by co-operatives around the world:
- The messages of the ICA and United Nations are translated into local languages and widely disseminated to co-operators, media, government officials at all level.
- Use newspapers and radio programmes to create awareness! Issue a press release on the occasion of the International Day of Co-operatives. For example, in 2014 the US Overseas Co-operative Development Council has released its Press Release for the Day (which can be read here). It covers the projects it oversees in terms of co-operatives encouraging sustainable development throughout the world. In the US, the Neighboring Food Co-op Association sent a customizable press release to its member food co-ops. Their member, the Monadnock Food Co-op used the template to publish its own release - click here to read it.
- Co-operative Fairs, exhibits, contests, and campaigns are held.
- Meetings with government officials, United Nations agencies and other partner organisations are held.
- Co-operatives partner with community agencies to champion economic, environmental, social and health challenges (blood drives, tree planting, etc.)
- Cultural events are sponsored - theatre, concerts, etc.