Fair Trade Advocacy Office and UNCTAD sign MOU pointing to get rid of fair trade certifications in the long term

The Brussels-based Fair Trade Advocacy Office and UNCTAD have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 19 October in Madrid.

Isabelle Durant (Isabelle Durant, UNCTAD’s deputy secretary-general). © UNCTAD

According to the MoU, the partnership will focus on “promoting a fair and equitable distribution of benefits among value chain actors, especially workers, artisans, smallholder producers and micro, medium and small enterprises.”

Both organisations are joining forces to improve the living and working conditions of artisans, workers and smallholder farmers and producers in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Isabelle Durant, UNCTAD’s deputy secretary-general, inked the MOU in representation of UNCTAD. Sergi Corbalán (executive director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office) did the same from Fair Trade Advocacy Office side.

“From day one, our belief was that the best way to help developing countries grow should come not simply from distributing aid, but through encouraging their trade,” Isabelle Durant, UNCTAD’s deputy secretary-general, said.

“But for trade to be a tool for development, everyone must get a fair deal,” Ms. Durant said. “This is a philosophy we share with fair trade advocates.”

Both Isabelle Durant and Sergi Corbalán are in Madrid (Spain) attending the annual International Fair Trade Towns Conference.

Fair trade certifications should disappear in the long term

More than 2,000 fair trade towns now exist. This phenomenon underscores the growing concern citizens and governments have with current trading practices. And concerned consumers increasingly speak up with their purchases.

Global sales of fair trade certified goods ( such as coffee, cacao and bananas ) climbed 8% in 2017 to the €8.5Bn ($9.74Bn), according to Fairtrade International’s annual report. The profits put an additional €178 million ($204 million) in the pockets of 1.6 million farmers and workers. But what about the billions who don’t have a label?

Sergi Corbalán (executive director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office). © Fair Trade Advocacy Office.

For Corbalán, the long-term answer isn’t to increase certification, it’s to change the system so that all trade is fair. “Our ultimate goal is to get rid of fair trade labels” he said.

“We want all farmers to receive a decent price. We want all cooperatives to be strong and able to negotiate the terms of trade. If there’s eventually no need for fair trade labels anymore then it’s very good news,” he added.

“But we need help because we cannot do the job alone.” Partnering with UNCTAD, he explained, will help get things moving in the right direction.

“We trust the cooperation of the fair trade networks with UNCTAD will contribute to more fairness in global supply chains and a proliferation of fair trade enterprises” Mr. Corbalán said, adding that the priority sectors will be agriculture, home-wear, jewellery and clothing accessories, leather, cosmetics and textiles.

Image over the headline.- Peter Ray Mark (Tanzanian tomato farmer). Photo credit: Mwanzo Millinga. From UNCTADon Flickr.

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