activist notes

Notes from Vancouver: Third Strategic Planning Meeting of Canadian Platform on Fair Trade by activistnotes
July 2, 2008, 11:46 am
Filed under: Fair Trade Canada | Tags:

[The organizational development committee is currently preparing for the first annual general meeting scheduled for October 3-5 in Ottawa. Relevant documents will be prepared in both official languages and circulated to participants before the meeting]

Third Strategic Planning Meeting


Canadian Platform on Fair Trade (working name)


1 – 5 PM, June 7, 2008, Vancouver, British Columbia

University of British Columbia


Opening address:Ian Hussey (Equinomics)

Facilitators: Jacqui MacDonald (Just Trade) and Roxanne Cave (Ten Thousand Villages)

Note taker: Ian Hussey (Equinomics)

Administration:Sini Maury sini.maury[AT] (Oxfam Fair Trade)


Participants:Robbyn Scott and Mickey McLeod (Salt Spring Coffee Co.), Michael Zelmer, Jody Levesque (Canterbury Coffee Corp.), Debbie Dergousoff (BC Institute for Co-op Studies and Canadian Social Economy Hub), Kathy Heisler and Ken Creighton (EcoFair Trading Ltd.), Justine Clift and Mike Kang (Engineers Without Borders (UBC/Canada) and Coffee to End Poverty), Silvi Gilberto (volunteer with an Argentinean NGO), Alex Charron (Canadian Community Economic Development Network), Adrienne Kemble (Global Village Store Nanaimo and Friends of Bokonbaevo Kyrgyzstan), Emily Sproule and Viren Malik (Ethical Bean Coffee Company), Mark Hudson (Northern Arizona University), Anne-Catherine Bajard (Canadian Crossroads International), Paul Cabaj (Centre for Community Enterprise), Don Wells (McMaster University), Ian Hudson (University of Manitoba), Susan Albion (Victoria Global Village Store), Janetta Walton (VIDEA), John Kay (TransFair Canada), Darryl Reed (York University), Patrick Clark (Equinomics)


Meeting agenda:(1) intros of all; what peaked your interest in this meeting (2) presentation of emerging platform’s history (3) Lorax Woodlands Future of Fair Trade Roundtable update (4) question and answer about history and meetings (5) facilitated discussion: platform’s functions, definition of Fair Trade, producer involvement, first annual general meeting


Appendix:(1) Email from Peter Julian, MP (2) Lorax Woodlands Roundtable on Future of Fair Trade (3) A Charter of Fair Trade (FLO/IFAT May 2008 meeting notes) (4) Conclusions of first two strategic planning meetings of the emerging platform



What peaked your interest in this meeting? / General opening discussion


  • Less support for non-coffee producers in southern countries. National coffee associations in these nations, but not national or regional associations for producers of other commodities or craft products
  • Want there to be a better understanding of how the fair trade systems work for movement members and the public
  • Want chance to build movement
  • Want to work on a fair trade movement, not fighting amongst ourselves. Dialogue is good and can be critical but must be constructive and respectful
  • Tensions of labelling and branding similar in local food movement and other similar movements
  • Fair trade movement needs to link up nationally and internationally with other movements
  • Local food meeting sponsored by a government branch happening in Ottawa, November 14-15 (organized by CCE, CCA, CCEDNET). Good chance for emerging fair trade platform to network with local food movement in Canada
  • Platform will likely engage in formal political arena given discussions to date
  • People have different interests and will put their energies in different parts of the platform; people will find benefit from some parts of the platform but not necessarily all parts of the platform, hopefully members will be able to live with the rest of the platform and its activities even if these activities don’t benefit their business or organization directly
  • Individual fair trade actors need to get out of their silos and engage with other movement actors
  • Database of Canadian fair trade actors would be hugely useful to people across Canada in and outside the movement and people around the world (producers, FTOs, researchers, etc)



Discussion on functions:


Marketing, communications and public face

  • Small companies need more concrete marketing functions (e.g. local fair trade fairs in communities across Canada, booths in community fairs, etc)
  • Expanding markets locally through concrete marketing, educational campaigning and public engagement
  • Common message to public from movement
  • World Fair Trade Day (second Saturday in May each year): not big in Canada but could be if platform takes on coordinating role
  • National Fair Trade Weeks (first two weeks of May each year): TransFair Canada coordinates so it has grown substantially over last 7 or so years



  • Consolidation in global north as has happened in global south (e.g. maybe we can have consolidated orders for importing, like Cooperative Coffees does)
  • Fair traders in the global south trying to map who is doing what in Canada, platform could build database or map of the Canadian scene
  • We have to start somewhere. Getting people together to meet one another and talk in a national platform is a good place to start
  • We are building on existing organizations and businesses which have resources of various kinds and networks
  • Do we want to incorporate right away or do we want to align with a group like CCEDNET or CCIC? (Canadian Community Economic Development Network, Canadian Council for International Cooperation)
  • Strong leadership is needed to make this happen



Leadership of the movement, alliances, think tank

  • Fair traders in the global south started with their own coops or associations, real business functions and common needs, but the emerging platform in Canada is trying to bring together people from all over the country and different facets of the movement. Can we bring together all these folks? Maybe we need more regional work and coordination. Many different and sometimes competing interests are at play with such a large tent. Businesses can have common interests, but can we have common action with such an array of actors?
  • Maybe a national platform can be supportive of regional and city-based networks
  • Need organizing on various levels, this will be complex and a bit difficult at times but needs to be done; resources and people involved will shape which levels of organization (local, regional, national, international) and parts of the movement get more attention at any given time
  • Need clear distinction between business processes of individual companies and large actions in the social economy and political realms
  • Should the national platform develop regional groups within its structure?
  • Folks seem to want the platform to be more than a business association (a la Fair Trade Federation)
  • Where is the common ground amongst all the interests in the movement? A key point of discussion for the emerging platform to take up
  • Local Food First in BC is a new local food network brought to the emerging platform’s attention. Desire from the local food movement to work more closely with fair trade actors



Other countries and organizations

  • Fair Trade Leaders Group in UK: comprises Executive Directors of several NGOs and CEOs of many businesses. Frank conversation in private; can discuss, for example, theme of Fair Trade Fortnight and then make the theme public.
  • Fair Trade Advocacy Office (funded by EFTA, IFAT, FLO): European Union focus
  • Fair Trade Federation (FTF) brings people together each year, FTF and FTRN (Fair Trade Resource Network) are now separated, but used to be one organization. FTF is a business association. FTRN does educational work.
  • Where do producers fit in the business associations? African region taking over admin functions in IFAT for their region. North American and Pacific Rim region is spread out over broad geography.
  • FLO may be moving toward regionalization.



Going forward

·        In the future, online surveys may be useful tools to get a sense of how fair traders across the country feel about specific issues

·        Process of building the platform can’t be drawn on paper, needs to happen organically by doing as we go along

·        This platform is building on networking and conferences that have happened throughout the last several years

·        There is people dynamics in all of this (politicking, emotions, etc).

·        Say we come up with 4 or 5 functions, maybe we find that we all want to work on number 4 so we go after that out of desire or limits in resources. But we move on that thing or issue together

·        More media coverage of fair trade, a huge increase in recent years. Media and parliamentarians will turn to a body to ask about fair trade, whether there is a platform or not. A common and collective statement from a platform is better than a message from a defacto group that has longstanding relations with the particular media outlet, journalist or parliamentarian.

·        A platform has more of an appearance of a neutral or coordinating body than a business or org that has an individual institutional bias on what fair trade is, how it should be practiced, etc

·        A platform is seen externally as representing the movement and a larger group of actors, etc

·        A platform can create a clear position statement on a deep level of what fair trade is, or can work with Canadian fair traders to promote the FLO/IFAT common statement created in May 2008 (see appendix)

·        Communications! A platform can reach out to lots of folks in communities, media and government of different levels

·        As fair trade grows a consistent voice is need so what fair trade is doesn’t become fractured in the consumers’ minds

·        Policy and advocacy is a role that needs to be shared by businesses and education/advocacy organizations

·        From TransFair Canada’s perspective (John Kay, Chair of TransFair’s Board, speaking), getting a better understanding of the opinions and work of fair trade actors across Canada is important. TransFair is always interested in what movement members across the country think about TransFair and FLO, their practices, policies, etc. Internal movement dialogue is important to TransFair, i.e. getting a sense of the pulse of the movement across Canada. TransFair is then better able to see what they can do to improve on current practices and policies, or do to be part of building the movement in Canada

·        We need more internal communication and need to clearly define fair trade so others outside the movement don’t define it for us and/or the public



How do we see producers participating in this platform?


  • Platform could consolidate demand on the Canadian consumer-side and could consolidate who producers can reach out to in the movement in Canada
  • Platform could be a venue for producers to be represented in Canadian movement dialogue
  • Who speaks for producers? Producers, of course, speak for themselves
  • “Local fair trade”: fair trade movement has in the past said deliberately they are working with producers in the majority world, but the attitude of movement members is now changing in Canada and the US with the rise of the local food movement, migrant labour issues, etc. When the platform says “producers” are we talking about producers in the global south or those in the global north as well?
  • TransFair Canada (John Kay) is also dealing with the practical issue of how to bring producers on to their Board or get producers somehow involved in the organization’s governance structure (perhaps in some committee and also having a separate licensee committee)
  • Strong desire by fair traders across Canada to have producers as directly involved in the platform as possible
  • Maybe we could coordinate for producer speaking tours to happen when regional and national meetings of the platform are happening
  • Platform needs to check with producers before representing them in public. We should avoid speaking for producers without speaking with them first about the specific issue at hand
  • It seems that if, for example, we are producing educational materials on fair trade for a school board, then producers don’t need to be involved in that activity
  • We should engage producers to get a common understanding of what issues or activities they want to be involved in and what ones the platform can take on without talking with producers
  • Speaker tours: organizations trying to coordinate speaking tours could use a platform for database of actors across Canada and educational materials
  • TransFair Canada(John Kay): becomes problematic when TransFair promotes fair trade activities that are not strictly about certified commodities considering TransFair licensees are paying fees to use the Fair Trade mark and consumers know Fair Trade in the TransFair Canada-sense and FLO-sense. Licensees might see tension in TransFair Canada putting resources into a platform promoting fair trade in a more general sense and not just the TransFair Canada approach.
  • But at the same time, we need to bring an array and diverse group of fair trade actors together, not just businesses trading certified commodities or groups educating and advocating on Fair Trade in the certified-sense



Discussion on Definition of Fair Trade:


The comments that follow the FINE definition (as articulated in May 2008 draft Fair Trade Charter drafted by FLO’s and IFAT’s Boards, see appendix) and the emerging Canadian platform’s working definition are mostly on the new FLO/IFAT definition. We say it is “new” because it is a more concise definition than was previously agreed upon by FINE.


From FLO/IFAT May 2008 document:


The currently accepted definition of Fair Trade has been agreed by the FINE networks, as follows: 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”.


Fair Trade products are produced and traded in accordance with these principles – wherever possible verified by credible, independent assurance systems.


Canadian Platform on Fair Trade’s working definition of fair trade:


Fair Trade is a partnership based on dialogue, transparency and respect that works towards greater equity in global trade. It contributes to greater social and economic equity and to the protection of the environment by offering better trading conditions and by guaranteeing the rights of marginalized producers and workers, particularly those in developing countries.


Fair Trade organizations, through the support of consumers, are actively committed to working in solidarity with producers in developing countries, to raise public awareness, and to campaign for changes in the regulations and practices of conventional international trade.



Commentary from Vancouver meeting on definition of fair trade:

  • Useful to use the internationally agreed upon definition, especially if we are going to engage governments of various levels, so the Canadian government is talking about Fair Trade defined in the same way other national governments are/will be. Also, an internationally agreed upon definition gives us more legitimacy and also puts the national platform in a better position to speak with the international fair trade bodies. So, if we have issues with the internationally agreed upon definition, then we should engage the international fair trade orgs to try to work with them to come to a definition we can both live with. We agreed to send the following feedback and the feedback from the Montreal meeting to IFAT and FLO (platform’s org dev committee to draft letter)
  • Fair Trade Organizations exist in the global north and global south, the platform’s working definition of fair trade may not be as clear on that as it needs to be, may be moot point if we adopt the newly drafted definition by FLO/IFAT in May 2008
  • Are producer associations Fair Trade Organizations according to the FLO/IFAT definition? Yes, but this also isn’t clear, like it isn’t in the platform’s working definition
  • The line in the new FLO/IFAT definition about FTOs supporting producers seems to imply that producers don’t also have FTOs. So if some FTOs comprise producers this sentence is confusing or not exactly saying what it means to say.
  • The new FLO/IFAT definition is north-centric in saying “supporting producers” because fair trade involves people working together throughout the supply chain and all around the world
  • The word “support” is a lightning rod that draws much criticism, “solidarity” and solidarity philosophy, action and language is preferred and is not currently in the new FLO/IFAT definition or the previous FINE definition. The meeting participants prefer the platform’s definition because it uses language of solidarity.
  • Define “FTO” in the definition of fair trade or as a footnote to the definition of fair trade
  • “Especially in the south” – paternalistic, participants prefer this be struck from new FLO/IFAT definition
  • Instead of reinforcing the binary between producers and consumers through language like “backed by consumers” or “through the support of consumers”, why not something like “uniting people and organizations in the North and the South committed to the common goals of Fair Trade”?
  • Global South, not just South. The distinction seems to be a bit more clear of what geography is being referred to when people use the term
  • Does the public understand terms like South, developing countries, FTOs, etc?
  • The new FLO/IFAT definition should say “marginalised producers and workers worldwide”, instead “especially in the south”
  • Many producers in the majority world don’t like the term “domestic fair trade”; they feel “fair trade” is a “north-south” thing
  • In the new FLO/IFAT definition, the sentence containing “offering better…” has an awkward sentence structure and doesn’t seem to be the message we want to convey (seems paternalistic)



Discussion on Annual General Meeting:


Web conference at the first AGM is very much desired by folks who can’t make it to Ottawa because of funding more than the time commitment


Ask Robin Puga of BCICS about tech support in facilitating web conferencing


Resolve Communications may be helpful to facilitate tech support on web conferencing


Anne-Catherine Bajard (Canadian Crossroads International) to put Ian Hussey (Equinomics) in communication with appropriate Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) staff or member about building relationship between emerging platform and CCIC





1. Email from Peter Julian, MP

2. Lorax Woodlands Roundtable on Future of Fair Trade

3. A Charter of Fair Trade Principles (FLO/IFAT May 2008 meeting notes)

4. Conclusions of first two strategic planning meetings of the emerging platform



1. Email from Peter Julian, New Democratic Party (Trade Critic and Member of Parliament)


Regrettably I will not be able to attend. I am tied up at a community clean up event, which was organized with many of my constituents three months ago. Please pass on my best wishes for success and my message to all the fair traders that are meeting. Please let them know that although I can’t be with you all, my thoughts are certainly with you.
Fair Trade is the future of our planet and represents a key element of our best hopes for sustainable development, and a peaceful co-existence of a cooperative world.

We have seen a lot of right-wing trade agreements over the past few years. Increasingly, we are seeing a small number of people profiting from the world’s resources.  In a very real sense, we have gone backwards over the past twenty years.  

Fair trade and the Fair Trade movement offers hope for people around the world and across Canada. Building fair trade agreements that actually enhance the rights of small producers, small farmers, people in villages and rural areas around the world, primary producers, and others is an essential part of turning the clock forward.  

I thank you for your hard work and commitment on building the kind of fair trade policies and practices we all want to see. I’ll look forward to learning about your deliberations and recommendations coming out of this meeting. Let’s continue to work together and see what we can do to move forward our fair trade agenda.

Peter Julian, MP
Burnaby-New Westminster




2. Lorax Woodlands Roundtable on Future of Fair Trade

“Roundtable on the Future of Fair Trade”

Lorax Woodlands, Nova Scotia – May 23 -24, 2008

This event was hosted by Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-op and Fernwood Publishing and brought together a small group of diverse people involved in Fair Trade from academic, trading and producer backgrounds.

Participants included Francisco VanderHoff (UCIRI), Darryl Reid & JJ McMurtry (York U), Bob Thomson (Ottawa), Bill Barrett (Planet Bean), Harry Cook (TransFair Canada), Brian O’Neill (OXFAM), Jeff Moore, Debra Moore, Kathy Day, Julia Duarte & Tom Walsh (Just Us! Coffee Roasters).

The aim of the Roundtable was to discuss from different perspectives the challenges facing Fair Trade and to develop strategies to maximize the social, economic and environmental benefits to organizations of small farmers.

I. Mistakes, Limitations & Challenges Today of Fair Trade:

· VALUES & LACK OF DEFINITIONS – There is no clear, uniform set of values articulated for the FT stakeholders. Establishing the shared values (caring, sharing, equitable, community, life enhancing, democratic, etc) is significant in creating a different economy. Definitions – values, understanding development, vision, mission of FT.

· THE POLITICAL QUESTION– The political roots of FT stakeholders are diverse and policy development limited by northern biases. Is the debate to be initiated with a critique of neo-Liberalism and placing FT in the larger neo-Liberal context? Is FT prepared to make it a political project? If it is a social & political movement, then our values have to be clear. FT has focused too much on the economic pillar to the detriment of the social & environmental pillars. How to demystify globalization? What alternative does FT offer to everyone in today’s world? How to make FT a political movement (through education, lobbying, linking to other movements, international, local food)?

· PUBLIC POLICY – Lack of a policy framework and legislation in its relationship with the State. How to establish the FT standard before the government regulates it?

· NORTH/SOUTH RELATIONSHIPS– Connectedness of FT from producers to consumers has not been done properly. The producers have too small a voice in FT structures. There needs to be a democratic bottom up approach, not top down. Create a new dynamic with clear goals to “re-launch” the movement as a development approach (create the development of “decent poverty” or dignified poverty). Producers should be linked to the final product as much as possible. The FT value chain is not equitable in how the benefits are shared with producers taking the greatest risk and getting the least.

· EDUCATION/ADVOCACY – Within the FT movement insufficient discussion exists around the meaning of what is “development”. No place where debate, investigation, systematization of experiences on FT issues can take place. How to address larger trade and development issues? The need to locate FT within the social economy and strengthen the SE sector of our societies. How to define social development as in doing so it will be hard for corporations to copy or adhere to its principles. Social justice has to be analyzed internally and externally of FT. How to create solidarity about what FT is meant to be and get this into the mainstream of our societies.

· NEW MARKET APPROACHES – In pursuing new ways to participate in the market it is difficult to be ‘in the market’ but not ‘of the market’. A dilemma… is there a way to do it that will allow producers to sell more products. Fair Trade with its direct producer/consumer relationships has had some relative success eliminating intermediaries and speculation but how to extend this?

· VALUE CHAINS – Insist on transparency where value is added. New models of value chains to be developed. Governance of value chain needs to be taken seriously. Address the distribution question in growing market beyond niche markets.

· LABELS – (ownership, credibility, and relationships) The FT label is easily watered down and a source of conflict as Corporations and plantations receive FT status for their products. Social and environmental consciousness is rising but being co-opted by corporations for CSR. Real risk of potential domination of FT by multi-nationals. There are multiple labels adding to the confusion. How then to properly handle the FT label? Who and how is the label to be paid for? Rather than being penalized for using FT products penalize those that are not fair in their trade relationships!

· SOCIAL MOVEMENT –Lack of clarity as to how to organize the FT movement. How do we create national and international structures for FT? Role of the “Fair Trader” is to have better/more communication channels as real alternative is possible, needed and urgent. Transfair – more focused on the consumer end (a disconnect). Organization building – worker/owner models that are sustainable, develop the worker/owner, we need to tell the success stories. FT is experiencing the risk of an organization that started with high purpose, but ends up being concerned more with survival (self interest, bureaucracy).

· NETWORKS– FT has experienced a loss of connection to social movements. There exists a difficulty in ‘marrying’ the FT Advantage to the Co-op Advantage, and how to connect with other movements. Not enough collaboration in response to the multiple opportunities that Fair Traders have. The movements – women’s rights, environmental issues, racism, FT, etc need to be working in a united way. How to be creating social infrastructure in communities that is transformative?

3. Principal Strategies:

A) Definitions:

· Work on a “Values Statement” to push FT to the level that we think it should be and to create a movement that articulates in a clear way what FT is meant to be. A statement is needed with clarity on mission, vision, values. There will be extensive consultation and a two step strategy implemented for this work:

Step 1) Analyze value statements currently circulating (FINE, FLO, TransFair Canada, CLAC)

Step 2) Prepare a statement reflecting our understanding/vision and circulate it for discussion.

· In the “Values Statement” consider these aspects:

a) FT is for small producers and workers.

b) There should be symmetry between what happens in the North and South.

c) Community linkages essential – control over local development

d) Value chain benefits should be shared in an equitable manner

e) Economic and social capacity building throughout the value chain

f) Democratic control and participation throughout the value chain.

g) Equity, Inclusive and democratic representation in the whole chain.

h) Transparency and education throughout the value chain

i) That there be long term stability in value chain relationships

j) Ecological sustainability

k) Regulations should be established and enforced

l) Credit accessibility

m) Leave traceability open/how it happens

· Establish some form of “think tank” or “task force” that can formulate definitions in association and consultation with all FT stakeholders.

B) Labels/Labeling strategies

· Label is the FT presentation card to the consumer

· The Label carries the weight of the values inherent in the FT Movement.


· TransFair needs to be auditing in the social as well as the economic.

· TransFair needs to be a “movement actor” actively encouraging FT collaboration.

· to create a body for a “Canadian Platform on Fair Trade” – (already being worked on by a diverse group of FT actors)

· TransFair could be part of the movement

· Should licensees and producers be on the TransFair board (representation from movements as well)

Suggested Next Steps:

· Document notes and send out electronically, first to those who were present at Lorax and secondly for input from those who were invited but unable to assist.

· The “Lorax” group should be represented at the UBC Congress to create a “Canadian Platform on Fair Trade” and make a presentation there with emphasis on the values statement.

· Build on the “Manifesto” document from Montreal (October 2007, Canadian Platform on Fair Trade)

· Put “meat” on the label by meeting with TransFair Canada

· Establish a timeline – to be ready by the new year

1. Share value statement in June (Canadian Platform on Fair Trade)

2. Share value statement with TransFair Vancouver Congress in July

3. Share value statement on October 3, 4, 5 in Ottawa (Canadian Platform on Fair Trade)

4. Share value statement on October 8, 9, 10 in Mexico(Comercio Justo)

5. Christmas Declaration!

6. Keep in communication over email – share information and ideas.



3. A Charter of Fair Trade Principles (FLO/IFAT May 2008 meeting notes)



Proposed draft of joint statement by the Boards of the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT) and Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International (FLO), inviting public debate on, and endorsement of, the common principles of fair trade.


Fair Trade is, fundamentally, a response to the failure of conventional trade to deliver sustainable livelihoods and development opportunities to people in the poorest countries of the world; this is evidenced by the two billion of our fellow citizens who, despite working extremely hard, survive on less than $2 per day. Poverty and hardship limit people’s choices while market forces tend to further marginalise and exclude them. This makes them vulnerable to exploitation, whether as farmers and artisans in family-based production units (hereafter “producers”) or as hired workers (hereafter “workers”) within larger businesses.

While this raison d’être underlies all fair trade initiatives, it is expressed in a diverse range of practical activities and programmes in order to better respond to the particular needs and circumstances of the people targeted by each initiative. Clearly one mode of operation cannot address all the problems experienced in different product sectors (from coffee to crafts), geographic locations (from Mali to Mexico) or stages of production (from farmer to factory worker).

Fair Trade therefore aims to be consistent at the level of principles and values but flexible at the level of implementation and this presents challenges in defining the concept in practical and concrete processes that can be applied universally. However, understanding of the underlying principles of Fair Trade is crucial, as adoption of processes in isolation from those principles, risks losing an important element of the overall philosophy that has been developed through experience and dialogue by Fair Trade Organisations[1]over many years. This is analagous to trends in the field of wider corporate social responsibility, where there is increasing acceptance that effective compliance requires genuine commitment. In Fair Trade, it is unquestionable that effectiveness is enhanced not just through what an organisation does, but also why and how they do it.

This statement aims to provide a single international reference point for Fair Trade through a concise explanation of Fair Trade principles and the two main routes by which they are implemented. It is also intended to set the foundations for future dialogue and co-operation among fair trade organisations – and between those organisations and other actors – in order that Fair Trade fully develops its potential to secure greater equity in international trade.

Common Vision

The Fair Trade movement shares a vision of a world in which justice and sustainable development are at the heart of trade structures and practices so that everyone, through their work, can maintain a decent and dignified livelihood and develop their full human potential.

The Fair Trade movement believes that trade can be a fundamental driver of poverty reduction and greater sustainable development, but only if it is managed for that purpose, with greater equity and transparency than is currently the norm. We believe that the marginalised and disadvantaged can develop the capacity to take more control over their work and their lives if they are better organised, resourced and supported, and can secure access to mainstream markets under fair trading conditions.

We also believe that people and institutions in the developed world are supportive of trading in this way when they are informed of the needs of producers and the opportunities that Fair Trade offers to change and improve their situation. Fair Trade is driven by informed consumer choices, which provides crucial support for wider campaigning to reform international trade rules and create a fairer economic system.

Fair Trade connects the aims of those in the developed world who seek greater sustainability and justice with the needs of those in the South who most need those changes. It enables citizens to make a difference to producers through their actions and choices as consumers. Demand for Fair Trade Products enables Fair Trade Organisations and others who adopt Fair Trade practices to extend the reach and impacts of their work, as well as visibly demonstrating and articulating public support for changes in international trade rules to governments and policy makers.

Fair Trade Definition

The currently accepted definition of Fair Trade has been agreed by the FINE networks, as follows: 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”.


Fair Trade products are produced and traded in accordance with these principles – wherever possible verified by credible, independent assurance systems.

Core Principles

The principles of Fair Trade are based on the practical and shared experience of Fair Trade Organisations over many years and reflect the diversity of Fair Trade relationships. The most important of these are unique to Fair Trade and are integral to its developmental objectives. These include:

Market Access for Marginalised Producers

Many producers are excluded from mainstream and added-value markets, or only access them via lengthy and inefficient trading chains. Fair Trade helps producers realise the social benefits to their communities of traditional forms of production. By promoting these values (that are not generally recognised in conventional markets) it enables buyers to trade with producers who would otherwise be excluded from these markets. It also helps shorten trade chains so that producers receive more from the final selling price of their goods than is the norm in conventional trade via multiple intermediaries.

Sustainable and Equitable Trading Relationships

The economic basis of transactions within Fair Trade relationships takes account of all costs of production, both direct and indirect, including the safeguarding of natural resources and meeting future investment needs.  Trading terms offered by Fair Trade buyers enable producers and workers to maintain a sustainable livelihood; that is one that not only meets day-to-day needs for economic, social and environmental wellbeing but that also enables improved conditions in the future. Prices and payment terms (including prepayment where required) are determined by assessment of these factors rather than just reference to current market conditions. There is a commitment to a long-term trading partnership that enables both sides to co-operate through information sharing and planning, and the importance of these factors in ensuring decent working conditions is recognised.

Capacity Building & Empowerment:

Fair Trade relationships assist producer organisations to understand more about market conditions and trends and to develop knowledge, skills and resources to exert more control and influence over their lives.

Consumer Awareness Raising & Advocacy:

Fair Trade relationships provide the basis for connecting producers with consumers and for informing consumers of the need for social justice and the opportunities for change. Consumer support enables Fair Trade Organisations to be advocates and campaigners for wider reform of international trading rules, to achieve the ultimate goal of a just and equitable global trading system.

Fair Trade as a “Social Contract”

Application of these core principles depends on a commitment to a long-term trading partnership with producers based on dialogue, transparency and respect. Fair Trade transactions exist within an implicit “social contract” in which buyers (including final consumers) agree to do more than is expected by the conventional market, such as paying fair prices, providing pre-finance and offering support for capacity building. In return for this, producers use the benefits of Fair Trade to improve their social and economic conditions, especially among the most disadvantaged members of their organisation. In this way, Fair Trade is not charity but a partnership for change and development through trade.

An Additional Fair Trade Dimension to Labour Rights

Fair Trade also adheres to standards (such as ILO conventions) that have been widely – but by no means universally – adopted in national legal systems as well as through voluntary codes of conduct by companies. However, breaches of these principles are commonplace in the developing world, and even in the most developed countries, ensuring compliance remains a major challenge. The Fair Trade approach to this problem is based on its developmental objectives and recognises that exploitation is a symptom of poverty and inequality rather than the cause. Fair Trade therefore seeks to address the underlying causes of poverty through new forms of trading relationships rather than merely tackling the symptoms by checking compliance with standards within individual operators and supply chains. Furthermore, while compliance with legal requirements and respect for basic human rights are of course important and non-negotiable, they are insufficient in themselves to achieve the transformation towards long-term development that is needed. These changes require deeper engagement by actors in the trading chain, and recognition of the wider social and political context of their economic relationships and transactions.

Therefore even in those principles of Fair Trade that are nominally shared with those outside the movement, there is an additional Fair Trade Dimension, as indicated below.

Basic Principles

Additional Fair Trade Dimension

Decent working conditions as defined in ILO conventions


Employment is freely chosen and the rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining are respected. (ILO Conventions Nos. 29, 97 & 98,105)

Organisation of producers and workers is integral to the developmental objectives of Fair Trade and is positively and actively encouraged. Fair Trade Organisations support capacity building in producer organisations.

Decent working conditions are provided including the right to a safe and hygienic environment, working hours are not excessive and no harsh or inhumane treatments are allowed.

Transparent and fair trading terms enable and support compliance with decent working conditions. These are based on written contracts which assure compliance with these principles, specify the mutually agreed price and payment conditions, including prepayment where requested by producers, and take into account sufficient lead time to allow for production without excessive working hours, at the same time as seasonal factors affecting the producer. Workers are supported in actively improving health and safety conditions.

There is no discrimination in any aspect of employment, including hiring, remuneration, promotion or termination, based on race, caste, national origin, religion, age, disability, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, union membership or political affiliation.

(ILO Conventions Nos. 100 & 111)

Improving the relative position of women and of other disadvantaged groups is a critical element in development. Opportunities for groups that are under-represented in skilled occupations or in leadership positions to develop their capacity for such work are actively pursued. Women receive equal pay to men for equivalent work, and fully participate in decisions concerning the use of benefits accruing from production and from Fair Trade relationships.

The rights of children are respected

(ILO Conventions Nos. 138 & 182)

The importance of children’s involvement in the work of family-based production units, and the learning of skills required for their working life is recognised, but any involvement must be disclosed and monitored and must not adversely affect the child’s well-being, security, educational opportunities and need for play.

Environmental Sustainability


Continuous improvement of the environmental impact of production and trade

All parties to Fair Trade relationships collaborate on continual improvement on the environmental impact of production and trade through efficient use of raw materials from sustainable sources, reducing use of energy from non-renewable sources, and improving waste management. Adoption of organic production processes in agriculture (over time and subject to local conditions) is encouraged.

Monitoring and Evaluation


Compliance and impact are verified through monitoring and evaluation.

Fair Trade is a system for development among producers, not a risk-management or marketing tool for buyers, although demonstrating compliance and impact are important elements in building and retaining the trust of buyers and end consumers. Monitoring and evaluation processes should reflect these aims and should be developed and operated in a participative manner, with measures in place to encourage the involvement of small-scale and marginalised producers, and to compensate them for their costs. Monitoring and evaluation processes should be useful for all participants in measuring progress and identifying areas for improvement.

Implementation –Distinct Approaches to Fair Trade

Fair Trade products are goods and services that are produced, traded and sold in accordance with these fair trade principles and, wherever possible, verified by credible, independent assurance systemssuch as those operated by FLO and IFAT.

All Fair Trade products originate from producers and workers committed to Fair Trade principles. However, in the subsequent supply chain, Fair Trade products are traded and marketed through two distinct but complementary channels:

The integrated supply chain route whereby whereby products are also imported and/or distributed by organisations who have Fair Trade at the core of their mission and activities, using it as a development tool to support disadvantaged producers and to reduce poverty, and combine their marketing with awareness-raising and campaigning. 

The product certification route whereby products complying with international standards are certified indicating that they have been produced, traded, processed and packaged in accordance with the specific requirements of the international standards.

Fair Trade is unique

Fair Trade has led the way in encouraging and enabling consumers to take regard of the social, economic and environmental consequences of their purchasing. While other ethical purchasing initiatives are being developed to respond to the growing interest, the unique approach of Fair Trade continues to be most successful in terms of producer and consumer support. The fair trade movement is conscious of the trust placed in it by the public and is committed to developing and promoting the highest possible standards of integrity, transparency and accountability in order to maintain and protect that trust.



4. Conclusions of first two strategic planning meetings of the emerging platform


Over 80 fair traders from across Canada have contributed to the making of this document.


The platform’s first strategic planning meeting was held during the second symposium of the Canadian Student Fair Trade Network (Saskatoon, June, 2007). The platform’s second strategic planning meeting was organized by the Canadian Student Fair Trade Network, Équiterre, and TransFair Canada (Montréal, October, 2007).


The organizational development committee of the emerging national platform comprises: Roxanne Cave (Ten Thousand Villages), Marc-Henri Faure (fibrEthik), Reykia Fick (TransFair Canada), Ian Hussey (Equinomics), Carmen Iezzi (Fair Trade Federation), Dario Iezzoni, Jacqui MacDonald (Just Trade), Julie Marchessault (Équicosta), Sini Maury (Oxfam Fair Trade), Satya Ramen (Just Us! Development and Education Society), and Isabelle St. Germain (Équiterre).


The platform’s working definition of “Fair Trade”:


Fair Trade is a partnership based on dialogue, transparency and respect that works towards greater equity in global trade. It contributes to greater social and economic equity and to the protection of the environment by offering better trading conditions and by guaranteeing the rights of marginalized producers and workers, particularly those in developing countries.


Fair Trade organizations, through the support of consumers, are actively committed to working in solidarity with producers in developing countries, to raise public awareness, and to campaign for changes in the regulations and practices of conventional international trade.


First Strategic Planning Meeting (Saskatoon: June, 2007)


The meeting was four hours in length. 28 people participated. Notes where taken by Caitlin Peeling of La Siembra Co-operative, and the meeting was facilitated by Ian Hussey. The meeting occurred during a larger symposium organized by the Canadian Student Fair Trade Network. CSFTN allocated almost $10,000 of donated funds to getting people to the meeting who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to participate in a national convergence. This proved significant to having an initial conversation about whether the movement saw the need and had the desire to develop a national platform. All Canadian regions and facets of the movement were represented: community and student organizers, coops, regional and national NGOs, researchers, the labeling initiative, businesses who trade certified commodities, IFAT members, FTF members, and businesses not affiliated with the TransFair Canada and FLO systems or IFAT or FTF. The group agreed having such a platform was needed, but recognized many other fair traders who weren’t present would need to participate in the planning process if such a platform was to become a reality.


Conscious that the program for the developing platform needed to come from the movement, there was no agenda set for this initial meeting. Participants set the agenda right then and there. It was an incredible process to participate in. The only parameters the group set was that the meeting was meant to be directional not decisional, and that this meeting was to be part of an ongoing consultative process with as many movement members as possible. The ground rules for the meeting: consensus-building, allow the facilitator to give all participants an opportunity to speak, encourage quieter participants to speak, facilitator expected to keep us moving forward and on topic, we will build a speaker’s list, allowing for points of clarification calls.


Agenda: (1) Why do we want an association? (2) Mandate & mission: how broad? (3) Membership (4) Do we want an association? (5) Next steps


(1) Why do we want an association?


· Desire for greater collaboration, coordination of actors

· Share resources; on the educational front, avoid re-inventing the wheel

· Collectively address “fairwashing” and negative and/or mis- representation of ethical consumption in the media

· Need a national space for nuanced, internal debate

· Need a collective body to advocate on behalf of fair traders in “the north” and in “the south”

· To talk about a “movement” is difficult unless there is a space where fair traders can come together and give some structure & voice to such a movement

· Share information and create coordinated campaigns and messaging

· An association would give us much more political clout in face of the government and, for actors wishing to do so, in asking for support from CIDA for “southern” partners

· Having a coordinated movement voice is very powerful as we address issues within the TransFair Canada & FLO systems, and IFAT system

· An association would allow us to more effectively build linkages with other movements & bring visibility to fair trade as a “sector”

· An association could complement work already being done by these actors & avoid duplication

· An association may allow us to leverage more of the resources “out there” and support and strengthen the fair trade movement in the long-term


(2) Mandate & mission: how broad?


These items could be grouped into several broad objectives. An association would have: (1) a representational function (advocacy, lobbying, negotiation); (2) a resource sharing / networking / clearinghouse function; (3) a movement-building function (building and maintaining solidarity, creating a space for internal debate & nuanced discussion); (4) a coordinating function for collective action & educational campaigns; (5) a capacity-building function (long-term, leveraging resources, supporting research). These objectives would need to be looked at in a priority-setting framework. Suggestion is to put this list into a consultative space to allow others to give feedback & then feed into priority-setting process.


(3) Membership


The identification of members demands a definition of the concept of fair trade. The group didn’t get into trying to define “fair trade” but a definition has since been developed by the emerging association (see above). The group felt that the focus of the association should be fair trade in the traditional, international sense of the term. Other alternative economic models will be considered related movements with whom the association will build linkages when possible. The group acknowledged that the movement can grow into including “domestic fair trade” in the future (it already is in some capacity, really). We recognize that one group cannot be all things to all people, but a statement of solidarity should be made at the founding of the association.


The association considers fair trade “practitioners” to be businesses, organizations and individuals who advocate or educate about fair trade, or work as importers/distributors, etc of fair trade products. Membership will likely need to be tiered between businesses, NGOs, and associate members (individuals, including researchers, and businesses and organizations involved with other alternative economic models or otherwise not directly involved in fair trade).


A concern was raised that the association might develop into another bureaucratic structure that could continue to exclude the marginalized and only include the well-developed fair trade organizations. How do we reach out to those outside the structured systems? The response was that the association could build linkages with like-minded groups, and a tiered membership structure would enable a broad-based membership.


The group felt that it should be made explicit that the association is not accrediting or certifying organizations who work outside of FLO/IFAT/FTF as this could create a lot of confusion and potential loss of credibility for the association.


The group recognized that the language of “north-south” and of “developed” and “developing” countries is problematic as it creates a conceptual, global divide as if there are two worlds, not one. The “north-south” concept implies a political orientation towards “developed” vs. “developing” countries instead of groups around the globe struggling against the neoliberal, unfair trade regime. The group concluded that the terminology we use will always be to some degree problematic and that we should focus our current discussion on the focus of the association. For instance, we need a statement of principles that is inclusive and comprehensive. This will enable inclusion of “domestic fair trade” initiatives in the association in some manner. The argument being that domestic fair trade is where expansion will occur, and is already occurring, in the fair trade movement and, furthermore, that principles articulating fairness all along the commodity chain would exclude corporations with unfair labour practices which everyone agreed we wanted to do though multinationals likely wouldn’t want to be members of the association anyway. Consensus was to begin the association with a narrow focus with a commitment to tend towards a broader engagement with ethical consumption/employment/living.


“Fair Trade in a global context” is the preferred terminology for the group over “north-south”, with recognition that further definition needs to occur to make sure that this maintains focus on marginalized people and groups. Consensus is that we focus initially on existing initiatives working for fair trade in a global context with a commitment to tend towards a broader engagement (you have no idea how long it took us to come up with that sentence! ;).


(4) Do we want an association?


Do we want an association in the provisional sense outlined today? Consensus is YES!


(5) Next steps


The meeting notes were approved by participants for accuracy and completeness. The notes were translated into French before they were circulated to a wider audience.


The group recognized another meeting was needed to bring together “stakeholders” who didn’t participate in this initial conversation. Participants agreed to go back to their own groups and confirm interest by their group in participating in a national fair trade platform.


The Canadian Student Fair Trade Network, Équiterre, and TransFair Canada volunteered to be the initial steering committee of the emerging platform. The committee was directed to organize the next strategic planning meeting in Montréal, make simultaneous translation available throughout the meeting, follow an ethical sourcing policy for the meeting, and find the required resources for the meeting. Finally, the committee was directed to plan the Montréal meeting to build on the Saskatoon meeting’s provisional directions.



Second Strategic Planning Meeting (Montréal: October, 2007)


The meeting was two and a half days in length and had about 60 participants from across Ontarioand Québec. It was organized by the Canadian Student Fair Trade Network, Équiterre, and TransFair Canada. Caitlin Peeling of La Siembra Co-operative took minutes and Chantal Havard facilitated. Ian Hussey delivered the opening address.


Below you will find summaries of seven key points covered over the two and a half day discussion. The seven points are: (1) Definition of Fair Trade; (2) Taking Stock: Strengths, Threats, Opportunities; (3) Do we go ahead with the national platform? (4) Mission and Vision; (5) Next Steps; (6) Establishing the organizational development committee; (7) Next meeting. But, before providing the summary of key points, to provide some context and because the reasons expressed for participants’ interest in building a national platform are quite telling, we have included a list of those reasons below, right after a summary of the opening address.


Summary of opening address by Ian Hussey


We are approximately 60 actors from Fair Trade businesses, certification bodies, NGOs, student activist groups, and researchers. We have converged in Montréal because of our common passion for Fair Trade and our common goal of building a national fair trade platform.


A steering committee was struck at the end of the first strategic planning meeting in June. Our job, predominantly, was to organize this meeting. The committee comprised Murielle Vrins of Équiterre, Nathalie Rodrigue of TransFair Canada, Elizabeth Wallace of the Vancouver Island Development Education Association (VIDEA), and Isobel O’Connell who works in corporate social responsibility. I facilitated the committee. We approached the current process of building a national platform as formalizing an already existing network.


Through past collaborations and conversations, we’ve learned from one another and about one another, and that process is still ongoing. And through previous attempts to build a national network or umbrella organization, we have realized that any national organization has to come from the grassroots of the movement.


That is why we are engaged in a consensus-building process and why the meeting in Saskatoonwas directional, not decisional. And that is why the agenda for this meeting is quite open, so all of us can be involved in developing the agenda through an organic process.


Actors in the movement with many years of experience who were consulted by the steering committee strongly advised that our success will be based on whether we can come to agreement on the following points: (1) the goals of the national platform; (2) the underlying values of the national platform, that is, what definition of Fair Trade this organization will use and support; and (3) what constituency or constituencies the national platform intends to serve.


The steering committee set two overall goals for this meeting. The first is to facilitate discussion on key issues of the national platform’s organizational development and key issues of Fair Trade in general. These discussions will be direction-setting for the national platform, and preparatory for the first general meeting of the platform. The second goal of this meeting is to form an organizational development committee. The tasks of that committee will of course be determined by all of us during the course of this meeting.


The structure of the meeting includes break-out sessions of approximately 10-15 people to discuss particular issues. Each session should designate a note-taker, so that the full notes can be consolidated and summarized for wide circulation.


To ensure the success of this meeting and to ensure a consensus-building process takes place, the steering committee suggests we adopt the parameters and ground rules used during the June meeting.


Parameters: this meeting is meant to be directional not decisional with an ongoing consultative process


Ground rules: consensus-building, allow the facilitator to give all participants an opportunity to speak, encourage quieter participants to speak, facilitator expected to keep us moving forward and on topic, we will build a speaker’s list, allowing for “points of clarification” calls



Reasons expressed for participants’ interest in building a national platform


· ensuring that fair trade maintains or renews its principle objective: defending the interests of small producers

· advocating for an increase in FLO-determined Fair Trade floor price

· pushing for a fair trade system that is more accessible to small producer groups (abolishing or lowering certification fees for producers, simplifying the certification process)

· building alliances so that we can lobby decision-makers (e.g. government, FLO)

· developing responses to consumer concerns or doubts about fair trade

· raising public & consumer awareness about fair trade

· networking to share information/resources and identify possibilities for collaboration

· creating a space for researchers to share their results with practitioners

· bringing attention across Canada(where FTF & IFAT don’t have a strong presence) to fair trade artisans, their work and struggles

· making linkages between the fair trade & co-op movements, and building a national platform that adopts the co-operative principles of democracy, transparency and accountability

· finding a common vision for fair trade

· finding a common voice for the movement



Key Points of Discussion: (1) Definition of Fair Trade; (2) Taking Stock: Strengths, Threats, Opportunities; (3) Do we go ahead with the national platform? (4) Mission and Vision; (5) Next Steps; (6) Establishing the organizational development committee; (7) Next meeting.


(1) Definition of Fair Trade


The group made significant progress on a definition, and directed the platform’s organizational development committee to wordsmith the group’s draft definition for circulation and official approval at a later date (see the “polished” definition above).


(2) Taking stock: Strengths, Threats, Opportunities



1. A grassroots social movement with a broad base of fair trade actors

2. The credibility provided by certification



1. The loss of fair trade’s meaning as conventional business appropriates the message of fair trade and promotes pseudo-labels (fairwashing)

2. Lowering of standards due to the pressures of large importers 

3. The credibility of certification: for example, when the difference between the Fair Trade price and premium and the world market price is minimal

4. The most marginalized of producers face significant barriers to entering the Fair Trade system and the most challenges operating within the system



1. The significant growth of the responsible consumption movement; for example, ethical purchasing policies and other initiatives.

2. The coordination of efforts within the movement and with allied actors (e.g. organic, social economy, domestic fair trade, co-operative sector) to achieve results

3. Learning from the experiences of fair trade actors in other countries who are facing similar issues


(3) Do we go ahead with the national platform?


Would the national fair trade platform (or another organization with a different structure, such as an association, network, roundtable, coalition, etc.) be a tool to help us face the challenges and threats to the movement? Consensus: YES


The possible functions of such an organization:

· A networking and gathering function for movement building and consolidation (maintaining solidarity, creating a space for internal debate, sharing of resources, etc.);

· A coordinating function for collective action & educational campaigns, for bringing greater visibility to fair trade, raising awareness, responding to media attention;

· A monitoring or watch-dog and information-sharing function (e.g. with regard to monitoring the standards, certifications and accreditations that are determined by the responsible bodies);

· A representational function in cases of full consensus and the development of common positions for approval by members as individual organizations – position statements, advocacy or lobbying, and defense of the principles of fair trade;

· An organizational development and capacity-building function for members (supporting research, the development of new groups, etc)


There is a limit to what we can approve here. We will need to return to our organizations for their approval. Furthermore, what is feasible will be determined by the level of involvement of the members and the resources available.


(4) Mission and Vision


The outline of a mission and vision were developed by consensus for general approval at a later time (either by consultation or at the next meeting)



· To contribute to the internal and external development and success of Fair Trade in Canada;

· To strengthen the movement;

· To create a space for dialogue;

· To support Fair Trade actors; and

· To uphold the values of Fair Trade (We will need a separate list with a definition of the values of Fair Trade)



That Fair Trade becomes the norm


There is general agreement that there are several objectives that are not included in this framework, for instance, the organizational objective of becoming the principal voice of fair trade in Canada. There was also concern that if we identify a mission that is too expansive we risk losing our capacity to act in defense of fair trade in the immediate future. However, there is a general understanding that we need to begin by getting to know one another, in building consensus, and that this will allow us to develop the capacity to take action to defend the values of fair trade.


(5) Next steps


· recruiting potential members for the organizational development committee

· drawing out the consensus on membership (structure and eligibility) in order to circulate a proposal

· organizing a consultation process with respect to the mission and membership proposals

· recruiting new potential members

· seeking financing

· organizing the next meeting


(6) Establishing the organizational development committee


Murielle Vrins of Équiterre, Nathalie Rodrigue of TransFair Canada, and Ian Hussey continue on the committee. Dario Iezzoni of Équita d’Oxfam-Québec, Marc-Henri Faure of fibrEthik, Carmen Iezzi of the Fair Trade Federation, and Julie Marchessault of Équicosta are all named to the committee. The committee is given authority to and is responsible for recruiting further members as they deem fit, with an eye to regional and sectoral representation.


(7) Next meeting


We are agreed to meet within a year. We will wait for the organizational development committee to propose dates and a location.

[1] Fair Trade Organizations are organizations of which Fair Trade is part of their mission and constitutes the core of their objectives and activities. They are actively engaged in supporting producers, raising awareness for Fair Trade and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practices of ordinary international trade. IFAT is the global network of Fair Trade Organizations.



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