Sri Lanka’s ILO backed national co-op policy becomes a reality | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka’s ILO backed national co-op policy becomes a reality

After a decade’s efforts involving multiple stakeholders, a national policy for Sri Lanka’s cooperative sector is a reality thanks to the backing of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The final policy document, the National Policy on Cooperatives, was presented to ILO Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Simrin Singh by the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development and Vocational Training (ICTPDPCDSDVT) Rishad Bathiudeen recently. An ILO Sri Lanka official said, “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 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 organising 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-centred, 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 official said. The 111-year-old Sri Lankan cooperative sector employs 46,000 people and has a membership a little over eight million. The Lankan cooperatives assets and savings base is estimated at US $ 2.8 bn (2017/18). At present there are over 14,400 cooperatives - n various sectors - including production, services, SMEs, women’s development, rural banking, insurance and farming - active across Sri Lanka’s nine provinces.