Sunday, May 13, 2007
World Fair Trade Day
Yesterday was World Fair Trade Day, an annual global celebration. We celebrated by purchasing and consuming wonderful Fair Trade Certified tea and chocolate.
Around the second Saturday of May every year, fair trade organizations, stores, consumers, and supporters based in 70 countries campaign for justice in trade and host events promoting fair trade. The days and weeks around May 12 offer the opportunity for people worldwide to help to spread the word about fair trade. People around the world host events, such as fair trade breakfasts and talks, house parties and music concerts, photo exhibitions and crafts sales, fair trade soccer games, etc.
Others use World Fair Trade Day to launch longer-term initiatives. This year in the United States, some fair traders will launch campaigns in their communities to bring fair trade to their schools--through fundraisers using fair trade chocolate, buying fair trade uniforms, or playing sports with fair trade soccer and volleyballs. Others will use WFTD as an opportunity to open new fair trade retail locations or inaugurate efforts to make their municipality a Fair Trade Town.
The theme of this year's celebration is Kids Need Fair Trade.
Fair trade aims to change the economic and social structures of our world, and empowers marginalized people to avoid or escape the poverty trap. If adults are paid a fair price for their work, their children are able to go to school and live a healthy and full life, rather than having to work. Fair trade not only benefits adults; it helps their children, too.
In 2004, 246 million children aged between five and seventeen were child workers, 73 million working children were less than 10 years old, 180 million worked in extremely dangerous conditions and 6.4 million children were trapped in slavery, trafficking, debt bondage, prostitution, pornography and other illicit activities.
Governmental programs to stop child labor and bring children back to school are having some impact on addressing these issues. But these cannot be effective without addressing the root cause of child labor: poverty.
The unfair terms of trade for raw materials, crippling import tariffs in industrial countries, and heavily subsidized goods from industrial countries are all practices that exclude and marginalize millions of people in the rural South. Fair trade makes a concrete contribution to the reduction of poverty and therefore has the potential to significantly reduce the incidence of child labor.
What Is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade means that consumers have the power to improve lives by supporting:
• fair wages in a local context
• environmental stewardship
• equal opportunities and democratic decision-making
• long term trade partnerships
• cultural connections
According to the International Fair Trade Association, “Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers, especially in the South. Fair Trade organizations (backed by consumers) are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.”
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Fair Trade Certified
The Fair Trade Certified label is the only independent, third-party consumer guarantee that companies have complied with strict economic, social and environmental criteria for particular products, thereby creating a more equitable and sustainable trade system for producers.
The principal criteria of Fair Trade certification are:
* Direct trade with farmer organizations, bypassing unnecessary middlemen
* Fair prices for farmers, and decent working and living conditions for workers
* Free association of workers and farmers, with structures for democratic decision-making
* Access to pre-financing, and additional premiums for community and business development
* Sustainable agricultural and farm management practices, including restricted use of agrochemicals and no GMOs
When consumers see a product with the Fair Trade Certified label, they are guaranteed that farmers received a fair price and all of the other benefits of the Fair Trade system. To date, sales of Fair Trade Certified products have supplied nearly $80 million in above-market revenue to millions of farmers, workers and their families in over 50 developing countries worldwide.
Be informed when buying products. By buying fair trade, you ensure that the artisans and farmers that make your food, clothing, and other goods are involved in a commercial exchange that is not exploitative. If you buy non-fair trade products, you may unknowingly be buying something made in unfair conditions or supporting the deterioration of the environment.
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You can find out more information about Fair Trade and about World Fair Trade Day at Wikipedia, Fair Trade Resource Network (especially here), Fair Trade Federation, TransFair, and Global Exchange.