Tower Hamlets FairTrade 2020

A clear vision for FairTrade

Following last year’s ’25th’ anniversary celebrations of the Fair Trade* Foundation (est 1992) Fair Trade Fortnight (2020) is the start of a new journey of campaigning for Fair Trade and against worker exploitation and poverty wages (in the ‘third world’). Through Co-operative and Fair Trade practices  producers – farmers and makers – will rightfully receive a fair price for their crops and their products, providing the means to improve their living standards and raise their aspirations to the level which we, in the ‘first world’, accept as normal. 

Fair Trade Fortnight is a good time to remind everyone about the economic issues and difficult conditions a substantial number of people in the world experience. There are lots of ways we can all take part in bringing the Fair Trade messages to public attention. In Tower Hamlets there are some positive initiatives being taken and good examples of how the collaborative efforts between the local authority, local community groups, businesses, schools and individuals can be beneficial to everyone.

A good place to start is the annual  ‘Fair Trade Fortnight’ – held for a couple of weeks at the end of February till early March. During this time the local authority provides a space in the Town Hall’s foyer at Mulberry Place for a display of Fair Trade goods and information. During the remainder of the year the council supports a Fair Trade Network – an ‘open group’ made up of councillors, council officers, individuals and representatives from local organisations. The group, which is open to those who are supportive of Fair Trade and Co-operative principles, meets regularly to help shape and develop Fair Trade friendly policies  – such as ensuring a Fair Trade element is written into the local authority’s procurement procedures and that ‘day to day’ purchases include, as far as possible, products with the Fair Trade mark. Another aim of the group is to encourage the council’s franchised services and publicly funded local organisations; schools, colleges and community centres, have a ‘Fair Trade’ policy and support Fair Trade through their purchases – such as community cafes providing Fair Trade tea, coffee, fruit and snacks, and for schools to sign up to and encourage parents purchase fair trade school uniforms, teach ‘FairTrade’ and co-operative economy across their curriculum, stock reference books and FT materials in their libraries, invite experts on FT to talk, share stories and experiences with students, and of course serve fair trade produce in school canteens.

Fair Trade is not simply an issue for people living and working in the “third world” – countries such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Indonesia and Peru, (mainly the southern hemisphere continents) – it affects everyone. Fair Trade represents a collective fight against slavery, it’s a way to ensure the rights of workers, equality for women and minority groups, and the equitable distribution of wealth. It’s not just about protecting the economic interests of powerful countries but about protecting of ourselves too. FairTrade practice impacts on everyone living in the UK. For if we blindly accept that our wealth is created on the broken backs of others then we should also accept the exploitation of ourselves… (for example a growing gig economy, loss of worker representation, an increase of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia) – does this sound familiar? If we can’t accept these conditions for ourselves then why be complicit with the exploitation of others….?

Note* Although Fair Trade is synonymous with the Co-operative Movement the global initiative (The Fair Trade Organisation) is much older than the UKs Fair Trade Foundation, the FTO having been initially established in the US during the 1940s from the ‘Ten thousand Villages’ initiative of buying craft produce from Puerto Rico. This action was followed in Europe by Oxfam taking up the ‘Fair Trade’ baton in the 1950s.


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