Meeting with Arnaud BREUIL, Director of ICOSI (Institute for International Social Cooperation)
ICOSI is a not-for-profit international solidarity association created in 1983 by union activists with the support of SSE players. Its main objective is to promote, both in France and internationally, the values and structures of the social economy. Since 2007, Arnaud BREUIL has been the Institute’s Director: « We are first and foremost an on-the-ground organization, developing projects that enable local players in our countries of operation to build sustainable solutions for and with beneficiaries, ordinary citizens and workers. Over the past years, we have for instance conducted actions in several countries to support entrepreneurship among young people in the Mediterranean area (Tunisia and Morocco mainly) by creating cooperatives and mutual societies in various industries such as services, fisheries, neighborhood cooperatives… »
Strengthening projects that provide structure and achieve significant scale
Since end of 2015, ICOSI initiated communication with another association whose purpose is similar: ADER-RIED. This association develops projects in West Africa (mainly in Senegal, Benin and Mali) focused on cooperative habitat and family agriculture issues with the CUMAS (cooperatives for union of agricultural resources). These projects have had a significant impact: in the case of cooperative habitat, thousands of families were able, thanks to the « cooperative approach », to access sustainable housing. As concerns family agriculture, the CUMAS model enables modest mechanization in rural areas and strongly modifies the working conditions of members of cooperatives and the quality of life of their families.
Other factors have brought the two associations into even closer cooperation, to strengthen the impact of their respective projects and the visibility of their actions. By pooling their resources, they create positive synergies and critical mass that enable them to submit proposals for major donor tenders, such as the those of the French Development Agency or the European Union…
The large trade unions are getting involved
The CGT, FO, CFDT, CFTC, CFE – CGC and the UNSA Education Federation are all members of ICOSI. For Arnaud BREUIL, « It is a major asset to have such a diversity of representation, all the more significant that they all participate (alternately or jointly) in our projects, often with the trade unions of our countries of operation. Our premise is also that the international labor movement shares most of the values of the SSE, and that this movement is in the best position (because it is organized and represents tens of millions of workers around the world) to promote the leveraging of these values. »
The expertise of these two associations deployed in local projects also illustrates advocacy with partners such as the Mont Blanc Meetings and international institutions (International Labor Organization, FAO, UNDP, International Association of Francophone Mayors…). « For us, the aim is to make the SSE a recognized development model that meets the challenges of sustainable development », concluded Arnaud Breuil.
For more information, go to www.icosi.org
Photo credit : ICOSI and ADER-RIED