On December 8th, 22 Fairtrade activists from all across London held their fourth annual Fairtrade debate, discussing the topic “Is Fairtrade political?"
The panel for the debate was formed of our CEO Sophi Tranchell, and Kwaku, publisher of “It Takes Two,” a CD that supports Fairtrade in Harrow and Brent.
Fairtrade is a global movement, which encourages simple changes in shopping to support the producers in developing countries. Fairtrade means better prices, improved working conditions and a fair deal for farmers in the Global South. On top of the price for the product, a fair trade premium is paid, and communities decide democratically how this is used. The Fairtrade system has grown exponentially and there are now over 1.66 million farmers in 73 producer countries under the system.
A range of issues were discussed such as the benefits of Fairtrade for farmers, linking them more consciously with consumers in the UK. Future improvements to Fairtrade were highlighted, such as broadening the range of products and moving into the manufactured goods industry. It was also argued that Fairtrade is not the only solution, and cannot achieve everything on its own. Governments need to be more ambitious, and be the drivers, encouraging producers to improve transparency down the supply chain into manufacturing.
To do this, they need to put the needs of the producers living in poverty at the heart of international trade agreements. This would require a long-term approach, and commitment from all stakeholders, for example seeking the support of Borough councils through their procurement policies.
The conclusion of the debate was that Fairtrade is indeed political, as it is largely about power. As Sophi argues, rather than seeing it as a negative, it is a sign of success that Fairtrade is often criticised as being political, as it is constantly challenging the status quo of the World Trade system.