With the theme of “Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World”, the Year seeks to encourage the growth and establishment of cooperatives all over the world. It also encourages individuals, communities and governments to recognize the agency of cooperatives in helping to achieve internationally agreed upon development goals, such as the Millennium Development Goals.
The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives, highlighting the contribution of cooperatives to socio-economic development, particularly their impact on poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration.
So what exactly are cooperatives? What differentiates them from other forms of business? What are the advantages of cooperatives for members and communities in general? Cooperatives are business enterprises owned and controlled by the very members that they serve. Their member-driven nature is one of the most clearly differentiating factors of cooperative enterprises. This fact means that decisions made in cooperatives are balanced by the pursuit of profit, and the needs and interests of members and their communities. Cooperatives take many forms and operate in all sectors of society. Most share a unique set of principles which keep them attuned with their member-driven characterization.