Change of Dates

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 33rd World Cooperative Congress has now been rescheduled to take place from 1 to 3 March 2021.

The 3rd International Forum on Cooperative Law, which is one of the preparatory events to the Congress, has been rescheduled to take place on 27 and 28 February 2021*


To celebrate the 125th anniversary of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) and the 25th anniversary of the ICA Statement on the Cooperative Identity, the 33rd World Cooperative Congress will be held at COEX in Seoul, Republic of Korea, from 1-3 March 2021 and its preparatory events, namely the ICA Cooperative Research Conference and the International Forum on Cooperative Law, will be held from 26-28 February 2021. The Congress offers a unique opportunity to celebrate and deepen the understanding of the cooperative identity and the profound social and economic impact of cooperatives worldwide. How does the cooperative movement transform societies? How does the cooperative way of doing business create an innovative pathway to a sustainable future?The Congress will explore how the cooperative identity positively addresses current global issues that demand a resolute response — climate action, sustainable development, conflicts and violence, income and wealth inequality, gender equality and the future of work. The competitive advantage of the cooperative identity — business performance, market share, best governance and management practices and the unique nature of cooperative capital will also be explored.A “Call to Action” on the occasion of the ICA 125th anniversary will bring together the cooperative movement to discuss commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals that will most directly impact both global stability and human development.

What is a World Cooperative Congress?

World Cooperative Congresses, organized by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), convene only on very special occasions: the creation of the ICA (1st Congress, 1895); the approval of the Statement on the Cooperative Identity (31st  Congress, 1995); or the UN International Year of Cooperatives (32nd Congress, 2012).These are gatherings of cooperators at large including representatives of ICA member organizations. The 33rd World Cooperative Congress 2020, initially foreseen for December 2020 and now postponed to 1-3 March 2021, still in Seoul will be only the second Congress to be held outside Europe and is an opportunity to reaffirm the universal value and recognition of the cooperative identity.

The 3rd International Forum on Cooperative Law will be organized on 27 and 28 February 2020 in Seoul as a pre-Congress event. The Forum will be a precursor for debates and discussions during the Congress.

 Background on the International Forum on Cooperative Law and Suggested Topics

After the 1st International Forum on Cooperative Law at Montevideo in 2016 and the 2nd such event at Athens in 2018, the 3rd Forum takes place at Seoul, i.e. in yet another region of the ICA, namely in the Asia and Pacific. It is organized by the Ius Cooperativum Association, with the support of the ICA through its Cooperative Law Committee. The theme of this Forum is “The Identity of Cooperatives and the Harmonization of Cooperative Laws. Match or Mismatch?”Cooperative law is increasingly understood as the translation into legal rules of the cooperative principles as related to the cooperative values and to the definition of cooperatives laid down in the 1995 ICA Statement on the cooperative identity (ICA Statement). Not the least the 2001 United Nations “Guidelines aimed at creating a supportive environment for the development of cooperatives” (Paragraphs 9.-16.) and the International Labour Organization “Promotion of Cooperatives Recommendation, 2002 (n° 193)” (Paragraph 10.(1) et passim), attest to that. While this shared understanding recognizes the role of law as concerns the strengthening and the protection of the cooperative identity and as it confirms the raison d´être of cooperative law as a distinct field of legal science, the potentially counterproductive effects of the harmonization of cooperative laws, which these same international texts support, raises concerns.Indeed, Paragraph 18 of ILO R. 193 suggests that “[I]nternational cooperation should be facilitated through […] developing, where it is warranted and possible […] common regional and international […] legislation to support cooperatives.” Opinions on the desirability and feasibility of the harmonization of cooperative law are divided, among practitioners and academics alike. Opponents invoke the close link between the idea of cooperatives and cultural givens to conclude that harmonization should not be pursued; proponents of the harmonization tend to refer to the harmonization of other business organization laws to conclude that harmonized law would create the same competitive conditions for cooperatives as it does for other types of enterprises. The former overlooks the fact that a great number of cooperative laws are already harmonized and more are in the process of being harmonized; the latter tends to overlook the problems of harmonization; each emphasizes a different aspect of cooperatives, namely the associative and the entrepreneurial aspect, respectively. Both sides operate with a rather vague notion of “harmonization”. Both sides hint to an issue in the translation of the cooperative principles into law which is prone to turning the match between identity and harmonization into a mismatch: Principles imply diverse applications, including diverse cooperative laws; harmonized legal rules imply homogenizing abstractions from this diversity. The challenge consists in matching the possible need for harmonization with the need for diverse identities which constitute the identity of cooperatives.The 3rd International Forum on Cooperative Law is to produce insights into how to deal with this challenge and into the question whether the harmonization of cooperative law/s is an obstacle to or a facilitator for the translation of the cooperative principles into legal rules. Particular attention might be given to the impact the current pandemic will (have to) have on (cooperative) law.Therefore, contributions may deal with either or both of two interrelated sets of questions:

Questions concerning the cooperative principles, such as (among others)

Do cooperatives have a legal obligation to respect the cooperative principles?
Do cooperatives translate the cooperative principles into rules of their statutes?
Research from a legal sociological point of view.
Considering the legal nature of the ICA Statement and the ILO R. 193, do legislators have to take the cooperative principles into account?
Considering the legal nature of the ICA Statement and the ILO R. 193, is the difference between the ways they express the cooperative values and principles relevant?
What is the entry point for the cooperative principles into legal rules?
Direct or via legal principles, especially the legal principle of solidarity?
Legal principles of the legal order concerned or autonomously developed cooperative legal principles?
What are the legal effects of the different ways by which the cooperative principles are being translated into legal rules (“simple” reference, inclusion, transcription…)? 
Do legal traditions in the sense of comparative law impact the way the cooperative principles are being translated into legal rules?
Do different notions of law effect the way the cooperative principles are being translated into legal rules differently?

Questions concerning the harmonization of cooperative law/s, such as (among others)
Clarification of the term “harmonization”.
Harmonization, unification or approximation?
At which level (national, regional, international)?
Harmonization of what (the legal rules, and/or the interpretation of the cooperative principles)?
Mapping of existing and planned harmonizations.
Classification of the way they take the cooperative principles into account.
Assessment of their implementation, possibly as compared to the implementation of harmonized law governing other types of enterprises.
“Pros” and “cons” of the “harmonization”.
From the point of view of economics, taking into account overall aims such as sustainable development and new technologies used in the production, distribution and consumption processes; from an organizational point of view where new technologies of telecommunication and blockchain allow for memberships in different jurisdictions and for the organizational integration into value chains across different jurisdictions; from the point of view of socio-psychology (collectives/connectives; individualization/singularization and their impact on solidarity as the kernel of cooperatives).
Prerequisites for an effective “harmonization” in terms of a harmonized interpretation/ implementation/application. For example, the use of the   methodology/methodologies suggested by comparative law for the “harmonization” of laws.
The byelaw autonomy granted under law as a possible guardian of diversity in the unity of harmonized law/s.
Harmonized regional and/or international cooperative law as a guarantor of the identity of cooperatives?
Possible harmonizing effects of the 1966 Human Rights Covenants on cooperative law.

Details for submissions

Participants interested in presenting a paper are kindly invited to send an abstract of a maximum of 300 words in English/French/Spanish/Korean before the 15 July 2020 to Ifigeneia Douvitsa, at [email protected] with IFCL in the subject line of the email.

Scientific committee

Chair: David Hiez (Luxembourg)
Members: Apps, Ann (Australia); Cracogna, Dante (Argentina); Fajardo, Gemma (Spain); Kurimoto, Akira (Japan); Meira, Deolinda (Portugal); Münkner, Hans-H. (Germany); Prasad, Bhagwati (India), Tadjudje, Willy (Africa); van der Sangen, Ger (Netherlands), Vladimirova, Oksana (Russian Federation), Nominee (Korea),

Notification of acceptance of the abstract

Participants will be notified in August 2020 about the acceptance or rejection of their abstract. There is no travel or dearness allowance provided to the selected presenters. However, a limited number of partial grants may be offered to young legal scholars to promote cooperative law among youth.  

 Date and place of the Forum

The 3rd International Forum on Cooperative Law will take place on 27 and 28 February on the occasion of the World Cooperative Congress to be held at COEX in Seoul, Republic of Korea between 1 and 3 March 2021.

Conference language

English, French, Spanish and Korean


Full information about the Forum will be posted on and

Please send your queries regarding the 3rd International Forum on Cooperative Law to Ifigeneia Douvitsa at [email protected] or [email protected] with IFCL in the subject line of the email. 

These dates are subject to be further rescheduled should the COVID-19 pandemic make it necessary for force majeure.