The legal framework analysis of Kiribati provides a general overview of the Cooperative Societies Ordinance Cap 14 and the Cooperative Societies Regulations 1977. This analysis also includes some consideration of the Credit Unions Act 1990(as amended in 1993) although to a lesser extent. When Kiribati gained self-independence in 1977, the new government adopted the laws in existence before the independence and consolidated them as ordinances. The Cooperative Societies Ordinance Cap 14 was among the ordinances adopted and remains the current law (as of March 2020). Despite the age of this cooperative legal framework, The Cooperative Societies Ordinance Cap 14 is flexible enough to include a variety of cooperative types.
Main laws relevant to cooperatives in Kiribati
Cooperative Societies Ordinance Cap 14
Cooperative Societies Regulations 1977
Credit Unions Act 1990(as amended in 1993)
Some cooperative principles have been given effect within the legislation. However, The Cooperative Societies Ordinance Cap 14 and the Credit Unions Act 1990 doesn’t specifically set out the ICA Cooperative principles or reference the ICA Statement of Cooperative identity or another instrument which refers to those principles.
The Cooperative Societies Ordinance Cap 14 is more cooperative unfriendly than friendly because the law has not been reviewed or updated since it was adopted in 1977. Also, it is based on a template colonial law known as the British Indian Pattern of Co-operation (BIPC). The fourth cooperative principle of Autonomy and Independence is undermined by the Registrar’s extensive powers to intervene and the ordinance also assumes the Registry to have the resources, skills, and support to make this intervention. The Cooperative Societies Ordinance Cap 14 is not supportive of “Cooperation among Cooperatives” and “Education, Training, and Information” cooperative principles.
Key recommendations for improvement
- Empowering cooperatives(especially small cooperatives) to independently organise and implement auditing, reporting, and business development.
- Investment in a program supporting the cooperative principle of “Education, Training and Information”.
- Incorporation of new technologies such as an e-reporting system to minimise regulatory burdens on cooperatives, especially for those at the formation stage.
- Improvement in processes for the prosecution of offenses along with an updated fines scheme.
Kiribati’s cooperative law requires revision and its government has demonstrated commitment to cooperative development and is currently working on developing a national cooperative policy and revising its law (as of March 2020). Free training to registered cooperatives, conducting awareness programs, working on development projects for strengthening cooperatives, are examples of best practices in the promotion of cooperative business structures in Kiribati.