Sept 18, Colombo: After a decade's of efforts involving multiple stakeholders, the first ever national policy for Sri Lanka's historic cooperative sector has been finalized with the assistance of International Labor Organization (ILO).
Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training recently presented the final policy document, called the National Policy on Cooperatives to Ms Simrin Singh, ILO Country Director for Sri Lanka & the Maldives.
Welcoming the cabinet approval received for the National Policy on Cooperatives, the ILO said it is the first national policy on cooperatives, though the cooperative movement itself has a history of over one hundred years and has played a crucial role in the economic development of Sri Lanka.
According to the ILO in Sri Lanka, the work and process on formulating the national cooperatives policy began in 2012, and involved consultations with a diverse group of stakeholders at sub-national and provincial level. This apex policy document originates from the cooperative members, and embeds the spirit of the Sri Lankan experience.
The ILO said it initially started working with a large number of cooperatives in the Northern Province in 2011, several years after the war ended. Although cooperatives had functioned in the region before and to some extent during the conflict, it needed to be re-built and fostered with an attitudinal change to economically and socially empower men, women, youth, persons with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups.
Through the Local Empowerment through Economic Development (LEED) project, which received funding from the Australian Department of Foreign Aid and Trade (DFAT), the ILO supported the formation and functioning of cooperatives. In the absence of trade unions in regions that lack infrastructure due to years of conflict and neglect, cooperatives became an effective instrument for collective organizing and better incomes.
The success of the cooperative concept on the ground led the ILO to develop a roadmap for action on furthering this people-centered, equitable and social principle at work. With technical support from the ILO's Cooperatives Unit in Geneva, the International Cooperative Alliance, and through wide consultations with the Ministry of Cooperatives and Internal Trade and the cooperative movement at the grass-root level, a national policy on cooperatives was drafted, among several other recommendations, the ILO in Sri Lanka said.
Welcoming the finalized policy document, Minister Bathiudeen thanked the ILO for its support towards formulation of Sri Lanka's National Cooperative Policy. "ILO's contribution is valued by us greatly," he said.
According to Minister Bathiudeen, the 111-year old Sri Lankan cooperative sector employs 46,000 and packs a membership total of a little over 8 million. The Lankan cooperatives assets and savings base is estimated at a huge US $ 2.8 billion (2017/'18). At present there are a more than 14,400 cooperatives in various sectors including production, services, SMEs, women's development, rural banking, insurance and farming are active across Sri Lanka's nine provinces.