Cooperative enterprise law is only rarely part of teaching curricula, even if about one billion members around the world are involved in this special form of enterprise with an economic and social impact to match. The shortcoming is further highlighted by the repeated crisis resilience of cooperatives and the growing awareness that sustainable development issues must also be addressed by and through enterprises. Something is, however, being done about this, for the issue is tackled by international governmental and non-governmental texts; according to its Blueprint for the Cooperative Decade 2011–2020 cooperative law is also high on the agenda of the International Cooperative Alliance.
This course is to create an understanding of the factors which shape cooperative law. The term ‘cooperative law’ also incorporates other fields of law as they impact on the structure and operations of co-operatives, such as labour law, tax law, competition law and accounting and bookkeeping standards, as well as law making and implementation procedures.
As students come from different national backgrounds, reference to specific cooperative laws will only be made by way of an example.
The course is complemented by visits to and presentations by cooperative organisations.
At the end of the course the students will be able to distinguish the cooperative form of enterprise from other forms, especially from the stock company, in terms of its legal structure. This includes the objectives of cooperatives, their management and governance, the nature and structure of cooperative capital and its control mechanisms.
The students will learn about developments that shape cooperative laws, not least as cooperatives take new forms under the effects of globalisation. These complex developments include a general trend to harmonise law; the emergence of international regulations which directly impact on enterprises; regional cooperative legislation and regional model laws.
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