A sense of global crisis – which is simultaneously a food, environmental, energy, financial, peace, social and economic crisis – and rapid technological change has seized our human civilization. In Rwanda, the trauma of the 1994 Genocide has left painful scars and posed enormous challenges to rebuild the country, to live and work together. Cooperatives have been an incredibly important source in rebuilding the lives of Rwandans for durable peace. It is an example to be wisely valued.

Cooperatives differ from other enterprises in that they pursue economic and social goals indissociably from one another, and in that they are primarily inspired by citizens' concerns and realities on the ground, in their own communities. In addition to their acute understanding of the problems people face, they are characterized by democratic and participative governance, through which they implement their action based on the values of self-help, self-reliance, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. These cooperative values and principles are the heart of the identity and management of cooperatives.

Since the early 19th century, cooperatives have been engaged in the production of goods and services while responding to poverty and exclusion. After almost two centuries, the cooperative movement is bringing a substantial contribution to fulfilling the promise of development with equality and peace. What is fascinating today is that its founding fathers had, before anyone else, the intuition that an ethical commitment was needed, that a change of attitude should be initiated to create responsible and active citizenship, that a vision encompassing the economic, social, human and environmental dimensions was needed since these aspects are intrinsically linked to the quality of life of local and national populations. In the 19th century, another era of rapid change with the advent of industrial society, the cooperative movement was already nurturing the sustainable development flow.

The cooperative movement is visionary because its approach - which combines balance, imagination and realism – is something that fosters practices that no one else has and its solutions are consistently innovative, insightful and original. By placing each person above any other value, it can break up the narrow frames of alienating industrialization and provide agency to the anonymous person. Even during difficult and troubled times, the cooperative movement continues to open up new perspectives and respond appropriately. Whereas its history shows resilience and adaptability, its current practices and innovation bear witness to its dynamism and strength through mutual help and learning.

The cooperative model is now implemented everywhere in the world and in all economic sectors. It shows boldness, resistance and courage to create, produce, organize, help, educate and train, provide, adapt, innovate, save and share.

Cooperative solutions and experiences are everywhere. However, cooperative enterprises are still little known compared to other types of enterprise, and their successes should be better known by the public authorities.

As for sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a central concept to our future in peace, they aroused little interest just a few decades ago. The approval of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 has definitely reversed this earlier trend by stating that the economic, social and environmental dimensions of development should always be combined, and covering a wide array of key issues (from food security to peace, from employment to housing) that can also not be separated from one another. These principles provide a sound foundation for a wider recognition of the cooperative movement’s contribution to development.

The problems are such that solutions call for broader cooperation, partnerships and the intervention capacities of all national governments and international institutions.

The rapid deterioration of the planet - due to deforestation, soil erosion, climate change, demography, food chain imbalances, social inequalities, water supply, energy, urbanization, biodiversity, etc. – are grave challenges and have increased the awareness of citizens and institutions. 

 By signing a framework partnership agreement with the International Cooperative Alliance (March 2016), the European Commission has, for its part, recognized that cooperative enterprises and the cooperative movement can strengthen and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development. 

 It is clear that we need the support and contribution of all to interact in a spirit of transparency, solidarity and participation, and that all economic and social actors – first of all cooperatives - should cooperate in a structured way for the purpose of defining and implementing policies that support sustainable and equitable development as well as inclusive growth.

The Cooperative International Conference « LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS OF A PEACEFUL FUTURE: COOPERATIVES FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT » is meant to be an event providing visibility to the contribution and potential of the cooperative movement for sustainable and ethical development across the world, with a focus on Rwanda and Africa. It is aimed at policy makers as well as the general public, and in particular women, youth, and all partners working with cooperatives.

It is organized by the International Co-operative Alliance in cooperation with its regional office (ICA Africa), in partnership with and with inputs of members worldwide and under the auspices of the Government of the Republic of Rwanda and the European Commission.


This International Conference will be an opportunity to inform the international community on the roles and importance of the cooperative movement in our contemporary world. It aims at sharing and promoting experiences of the cooperative movement from Africa and the wider world for sustainable and inclusive development. It offers an opportunity for Rwandan cooperators and cooperators worldwide to debate on various perspectives and initiatives on this matter. It is envisaged to work as a forum centred around the various issues pertaining to sustainable and inclusive development in industrial and emerging countries.

A second important purpose of this event is to challenge – inside and outside the cooperative movement - creative minds to explore the emerging trends that are moving us all towards sustainable and inclusive development. The idea is to encourage these minds to open up to new ideas and find meaningful ways of applying them in our everyday lives and professional ac