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Universities seek to educate youth on fair trade, globalization

The Daily Star

BEIRUT: Raising awareness about globalization, universities in Lebanon have organized fair-trade week on several campuses around Beirut. The program, which began on Sunday, defines fair trade as a partnership based on dialogue, transparency and respect and seeks greater equity in international trade.

Eugene Sensenig-Dabbous, Middle East coordinator of the program and professor at Notre Dame University, said he believed Lebanese youth should understand globalization as a double-edged sword.

“We are not anti-globalization, but we must protect the small producers” who receive very little of the huge profits reaped by multinational firms, said Sensenig-Dabbous.

Fair trade means importing goods produced under fair conditions, for fair pay to the workers involved and where child abuse is banned, he said.

“Consumers are rarely aware of the workers’ conditions in some of these factories,” Sensenig-Dabbous said.

Saifi Village’s Souk al-Tayeb, where Lebanese producers sell their food items directly to consumers every Saturday, is also a main participant in the program.

The market allows producers to gain the entire benefit from a sale without the need for a middleman, usually a wholesaler.

The fair-trade concept is not exclusively for Lebanese traders, said an organizer of the souk, Kamal Mouzawak.


Throughout the week, activists will hold lectures in universities, where stands have already been set up for students to learn more about fair trade.

Lebanese policymakers are not activists in the program, although Sensenig-Dabbous said he hoped to attract their attention to the issue.

He also said he wanted to create a certification program for Middle East commodities produced under fair trade.

“The market for fairly traded commodities can increase the sales of Lebanese items to Europe,” Sensenig-Dabbous said.

The program directs its message of fair trade to developed economies and to international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Bank. They want to stop these organizations from enforcing free trade on poor countries, because the many small producers in these nations would be wiped out by huge multinationals, the movement says.

“The IMF, WTO, and the World Bank have placed conditions of free trade, among others, in exchange for loans and other aid,” added Sensenig-Dabbous.

The Trade Week of Action was first organized in Lebanon in April 2005.

Many countries around the world celebrate the week, with each focusing on its country’s trade issues. Lebanon is the only Arab nation that takes part.


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