Housing, services and cooperative health, keys to sustainable local development

During our 23rd Regional Conference we received different testimonies that demonstrate why the cooperative model can respond to great needs of the people in the territories where they live.

Essential public services, housing and health were some of the aspects linked to local development that we addressed during one of the nine thematic panels of the 23rd Regional Conference, held on November 29 and 30 in Comayagua, Honduras. 

The debate was opened by Alicia Maneiro, president of the Uruguayan Confederation of Cooperative Entities (Cudecoop) and President of the Cooperative Housing Network of the Americas: “Inequality and poverty exist throughout the region. “A third of the population does not have decent housing or basic services.”

Maneiro recalled that, during the pandemic, many could not abide by the slogan “Stay at Home” and it was the cooperatives that provided support in the most affected communities. Currently there are still 46 million people with a housing deficit.

A living example of this drama was given by the Minister of Social Development of Honduras, José Carlos Cardona, who said that there are still more than two thousand villages in extreme poverty in his country and that the government effort to reverse this situation requires the involvement of cooperatives. .

The official commented that, at the beginning of the current administration under Xiomara Castro, there was 74 percent of the population below the poverty line. Through a program to generate infrastructure, environment, social protection and local strengthening, they are bringing services and housing conditions to these marginalized places.

Although they put rural savings banks into operation in the villages, Cardona conveyed President Castro's express request for these resource mobilization instruments to become cooperatives, giving communities more and more participation in the solutions they need to get out of poverty. poverty.

To explain the global framework of housing cooperatives, the head of CHI – the sectoral organization of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), Blase Lambert – intervened, who considered that this type of problem “requires long-term solutions.”

Cooperative Housing International is made up of more than thirty organizations from various countries on all continents and seeks to unite housing cooperatives from around the world, share information, exchange good practices, provide resources and data to position the cooperative housing model, understanding that There are different models for acquiring territories and financing mechanisms. 

In relation to the supply of essential public services, the experience was presented argentina led by Ángel Echarren, who also leads the network of service cooperatives at the American level.

Echarren said that 1167 cooperatives provide 17 percent of the population of that country with services such as electricity, running water, sewage, natural gas, connectivity and many others “that are not fundamental for roots.” In that sense, he highlighted that 80 percent of rural electrification networks are in cooperative hands.

Finally, experiences of health cooperatives were presented, such as that of Unimed, in Brazil, and the American Sanatorium, in Uruguay. In the first case, director Marcos Cunha commented that 720 cooperatives with 254 thousand members and 136 direct jobs make Unimed the first health cooperative in the world.

Founded in 1967, it provides quality services with an impact on local and regional economies, even in very small cities and towns.

The president of Sanatorio Americano, Ariel Bango, outlined the trajectory and magnitude of the Uruguayan cooperative by saying that it was born six decades ago as an initiative of local medical unions that found in cooperativism the best way to carry out their work.

Currently, the entity's spirit of providing collective, non-profit medical assistance is present in 40 urban centers with more than 5 thousand inhabitants and in dispersed rural areas, reaching approximately 85 thousand users. 

The closing of the panel was led by the member of the Executive Committee of Cooperatives of the Americas, Miguel Castedo, who highly valued all the experiences and testimonies, as well as the challenge posed by Minister Cardona, taking cooperatives as “the best tool to work together for the good of the people.”

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