As part of the celebration of the centenary of the creation of the Coop Unit within the ILO, a webinar was organised on Monday 23 March 2020.

This event brought together stakeholders and actors from cooperatives and SSE in general, in the very special circumstances we are living in today.

After an introduction by Ms. Simel Esim, Director of the Cooperatives Unit, Ms. Marieke Louis, Professor at Sciences Po Grenoble, presented the relationship between the ILO and cooperatives in a historical perspective, which led to cooperatives obtaining their observer status at the UN and then at the ILO.

Then it was the turn of Jürgen Schwettman, former director of the Coop Unit, to recall the crucial missions that cooperatives fulfil, particularly in rural areas and in Africa. He ended his presentation on the place that cooperatives, and the social and solidarity economy in general, must occupy for the future of decent work in the context of digitalisation, automation, ageing populations and climate change.

This form of solidarity was also welcomed by Vic Van Vuuren, Director of the ILO's Enterprise Department. He recalled the importance of cooperatives in the light of the current crisis, which will put millions of people around the world out of work. The role of this Unit will therefore be particularly important in the coming months and years. He called on cooperatives to assert themselves as key players in the scaffolding of a new economic model, without ever losing sight of the notion of decent work.

Anna Biondi, from the Bureau for Workers' Activities, agrees, while recalling the importance of collaboration between cooperatives and workers' unions, as their demands are generally identical.

Ramin Behzad, Iranian Minister of Cooperatives, Labour and Social Security, for his part, stressed the importance of statistics and research in order to more effectively promote the role of cooperatives and SSE organisations. The research work presented by Courtenay Cabot Venton, who co-authored a mapping of the responses of cooperatives and SSE organizations to forced population displacements, emphasizes that in times of crisis, it is mainly these organizations that respond by being present, triggering cycles of solidarity and mutual aid. In order to perpetuate this model, it stresses the need to set up a legal recognition framework to formalise the identity of this ecosystem and avoid the risks of recovery by organisations that do not share the same values.

This webinar reminds us that the SSE ecosystem offers innovative solutions and highlights the strength of networks. Elements with a particular resonance in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and the crises it triggered.