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N. America Fair Trade Stakeholder Council Summit Makes Progress on Key Issues - Action Plan to Come by June

The following summary is offered by FTRN, and not by the Organizing Committee nor full Council:

Around 50 people representing some of the Fair Trade movement held a summit April 30 – May 2, 2012, in Minneapolis. Important dialogue & learning progressed among diverse stakeholders, including certifiers/standard setters (Fairtrade International – via Fairtrade Canada representative), Fair Trade USA, IMO Fair for Life, Agricultural Justice Project) who participated in just the final day. Many of the stakeholders had never met, communicated, or even known much about each other’s organizations. Valuable relationships were established or strengthened between people/organizations. The Council as yet did not achieve any of its 4 stated goals. Members identified a little common ground, but mostly discussed key issues and how the movement might resolve them. A working group was formed to propose by June next steps for dialogue and action. The Council intends to publish for the public details of its discussions and progress by June, and ways additional stakeholders can engage or join in coming months.

Regarding the 4 stated goals:

  • Define Fair Trade and the movement, what they are and what they are not - members didn’t clarify common ground, but did gain more understanding of topics like domestic Fair Trade, large-scale agriculture/plantations, and what the movement could collaborate on.
  • Organize the North American Fair Trade movement under a coordinated infrastructure with a common vision - very little progress, so there remains a critical opportunity to organize ongoing communication across the movement.
  • Reach agreement on a plan for cooperation and accountability within the movement – this was the goal with the most progress, as members agreed on an agenda (currently 30 items) for more work, and advanced thinking a lot on many issues. It seems like commitment is there to carry some of this work to meaningful results in coming months.
  • Develop a clear external message for the movement- members decided this was lower priority, so postponed work until the Council (and perhaps others) progresses on other goals first.

More details, and future updates at N. America Fair Trade Stakeholder Council


  1. Jackie DeCarlo

    First a hearty thanks to you and the other organizers for bringing the stakeholders together. I was honored to be with such a diverse, experienced and committed group. Like you, I am grateful to the working group for continuing our momentum and reporting out more fully by June.
    In terms of tangible outcomes, I am hopeful because never before have so many engaged voices from important segments of the fair trade community, including farmworkers in the United States and farmer leaders from Latin America, gathered together. Also, the proceedings—from advance preparation to whole group decision making—were based on consensus. This combination of participation and sharing power created a platform for advancement.
    Looking forward!

  2. sandy wynne

    First I want to ditto all of Jackie’s comments. Well said. Jeff -Thank you for this quick summary which will be helpful in communicating to others what we are doing. Our challenges are great but so is our energy and commitment to the future of Fair Trade.

  3. Reposted by FTRN from Fair World Project news page:

    Strengthening Fair Trade in North America – Reigniting the Movement

    Author: Fair World Project/Domestic Fair Trade Association
    May 7, 2012

    Fair World Project & Domestic Fair Trade Association Report Back on The North America Fair Trade Stakeholder Council Summit

    Note: This summary represents the perspective of the Domestic Fair Trade Association and Fair World Project.

    The North America Fair Trade Stakeholder Council Summit brought together almost fifty diverse stakeholders to explore how to strengthen the fair trade movement in North America. Attendees represented small farmers in Latin America, farmers in the US and Canada, farmworkers in the US, US- and Canada-based food, craft, and retail businesses committed to the principles of fair trade, and NGOs involved in the fair trade movement. On the third and final day, the group was joined by representatives of Agricultural Justice Project, Institute for Marketecology, Fairtrade Canada, and Fair Trade USA to address how certification, standards, and labels can and should play a role in the fair trade movement.

    After three days of work, a firm foundation was laid for a stronger, more coordinated movement and a commitment was made to continue this important work together.

    Positive outcomes of this meeting included:

    Reclaiming the understanding that certification is a tool of fair trade and that tool must serve this movement.
    Initiating a process for holding standard-setters, certifiers, and labelers accountable to a high bar set by the stakeholders of the movement.
    Establishing relationships of trust and a commitment to collaborate among stakeholders who had never before worked together.
    Committing to work collaboratively to transform the policy and corporate structures that marginalize producers and workers worldwide.

    Four working groups formed in the months leading up to the summit to address four key areas:

    Vision and the future of fair trade
    Accountability within the movement
    The architecture of the movement
    Messaging and education around

    It quickly became apparent that there were key issues that needed attention that crossed the boundaries of those working groups, notably large-scale agriculture and domestic fair trade. For both issues, some clarity was achieved, though work remains to be done.

    Large-large and corporate agriculture: We reaffirmed that worker voices throughout the supply chain need to be heard in addition to small farmers/artisans and that space in the movement must be created for them. How large-scale agriculture fits into certification programs needs to be worked out, with options including:
    Certification/labeling is not an adequate tool for large-scale agriculture and other mechanisms need to be developed to ensure fair and safe working conditions.
    Certification/labeling is an adequate tool and can be run in parallel to traditional fair trade programs, but products from large-scale agriculture need to be labeled distinctly in the marketplace.
    Certification/labeling is an adequate tool, but additional requirements such as worker access to land for subsistence crops, relationships with local workers’ groups, and working for land reform must be implemented.
    Domestic fair trade: Attendees agreed that the domestic and international fair trade movements should collaborate more closely to identify where commonalities are, understand differing points of view, and ultimately to help each other push our movements forward. Key next steps include:
    Bridge domestic fair trade movements worldwide
    Collaborating on a term that may be used to distinguish domestic fair trade in the marketplace
    Coordinating on accountability issues in a way that sets a high bar and supports those we collectively seek to help.

    Though monumental progress was made at this initial meeting, there is still work to be done to further define and strengthen this movement and bring about transformation in agriculture and trade. Next steps include:

    A new group of volunteers has stepped up to be an ad hoc organizing committee proposing outcomes, goals, and a work plan for the next six months to a year. A proposal is expected by July 1st.
    A paper produced by the Accountability group outlining key issues will receive priority attention in the plan for the next six months as a basis for setting minimum expectations for any organization involved in standard-setting and labeling for the fair trade movement.
    Fair World Project has volunteered to create a series of follow up questions for those standard-setters and labelers who joined the Summit to ensure accountability and transparency going forward.

    Fair trade in North America is at a critical crossroads. The North America Fair Trade Stakeholder Council Summit represents a crucial step in reigniting a diverse movement of farmers, workers, Alternative Trade Organizations, and advocates to build a just economy based upon the values of fair trade. Fair World Project and the Domestic Fair Trade Association are committed supporting and strengthening this movement going forward.

    For more information on next steps, please contact:

    Dana Geffner, Fair World Project dana@fairworldproject.org

    Kerstin Lindgren, Domestic Fair Trade Association kerstin@thedfta.org

    Ryan Zinn, Fair World Project ryan@fairworldproject.org

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