Co-ops up and down the country are gearing up for a year of celebrations with the launch of the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives 2012.

There are over 1.4 million co-ops across the globe, which between them have nearly a billion members.

Receptions were held yesterday in the Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies to mark the launch, along with tastings, conferences and book launches across the UK.

An International Co-operatives Day will also take place on 7 July, and Co-operatives United, a world co-operative festival and expo, will be held in Manchester in October.

“2012 is a truly unique year for the co-operative movement,” said Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK.

“This is an opportunity for every co-operative, from locally-owned community shops to national brands in the UK co-operative sector, to show how they build a better world by pursuing both economic viability and social responsibility.”