activist notes

Canadian fair traders send feedback to IFAT and FLO on their definition of Fair Trade by activistnotes

[This might be said to be the first collective accomplishment of the emerging umbrella organization of the fair trade movement in Canada. Over 100 fair traders from across Canada have participated in this process. This is something of which we should be very proud. I know I am. …Ian Hussey]


July 28, 2008


TO: Paul Myers, IFAT Chair and Barbara Fiorito, FLO Chair


RE: Charter of Fair Trade Principles


Hello Paul and Barbara,


We received a copy of the Charter of Fair Trade Principles (IFAT/FLO May 2008 meeting notes) in May that invited public debate. We thought that you would be interested to know that in Canada over the past year we have held 3 strategic planning meetings working towards a Canadian Platform (Network) on Fair Trade. During the last two meetings in Montreal and Vancouver we had the opportunity to discuss a working definition of Fair Trade in Canada.


Over 100 fair traders from across Canada have contributed to these meetings to date. We have not had the opportunity or time to fully discuss the principles at this time, only the definition of Fair Trade. Our comments are meant to be constructive and intended to develop our working definition. It would be useful from a lobbying and advocacy point of view if there was one accepted global definition therefore we are sending these comments for your consideration.


1. The IFAT/FLO definition


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 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.


2. Results from our Second Strategic Planning Meeting (Montréal: October, 2007)


The meeting was two and a half days in length and had about 60 participants from across Ontario and Québec. It was organized by the Canadian Student Fair Trade Network (one of the youth-led organizations currently merging together to form a new organization called Equinomics), Équiterre, and TransFair Canada.


The platform’s working definition of “Fair Trade” from the Montréal meeting


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.


3. Results from our Third Strategic Planning Meeting (Vancouver: June, 2008 )


The meeting was a half day in length and had about 30 participants from across British Columbia. It was organized by 3 members of the organizational development committee of the emerging national fair trade platform from Just Trade, Ten Thousand Villages and Equinomics.


Discussion of Definition of Fair Trade:


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


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 Montréal meeting to IFAT and FLO.
  • 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 IFAT/FLO in May 2008
  • Are producer associations Fair Trade Organizations according to the IFAT/FLO definition? Yes, but this also isn’t clear, like it isn’t in the platform’s working definition
  • The line in the new IFAT/FLO 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 IFAT/FLO 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 IFAT/FLO 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 IFAT/FLO 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 Global North and Global 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 IFAT/FLO definition should say “marginalized producers and workers worldwide”, instead of “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 IFAT/FLO 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)


We look forward to your response and thank you again for considering the commentary from Canadian fair traders,


Jacqui MacDonald, Just Trade

Ian Hussey, Equinomics


Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: