Fairtrade Fortnight kicks off

Fairtrade Fortnight kicked off today with the good news that sales of Fairtrade products in the UK topped £1bn for the first time in 2010.

Around 20% of roast and ground coffee, and 20% of bananas sold in the UK are now Fairtrade, and on a daily basis Britons now consume 9.3m cups of tea and 3.1m bananas stamped with the ethical mark.

Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Development speaking at the start of Fairtrade Fortnight said:

“To tackle poverty you need to increase trade as well as give aid. That is why the Government must take forward the international efforts we led to secure fairer trade rules and continue our investment in supporting fair trade.

“It is wrong that the Government has delayed the implementation of the Bribery Act which would help make trade fairer by tackling the corruption and bribery that devastates lives in the developing world. They must immediately set out a clear timetable for implementing the Bribery Act to make trade fairer.

“It is not just the role of governments to support fair trade; we can all make a difference. That is why Fairtrade fortnight is so important. We can help people make their own way out of poverty”

Later in the Fortnight we’ll be looking at what Labour did in government to support the growth of Fairtrade in the UK, but in the meantime LCID challenges you to celebrate Fairtrade Fortnight by adding at least 1 new Fairtrade product to your basket next time you’re out at the shops.

Labour’s Manifesto on International Development

Extract from Labour’s manifesto

The global poverty emergency: our moral duty, our common interest

Labour’s international leadership on development has helped transform the lives of millions across the world. Yet too many people still live in extreme poverty, die from treatable diseases, or are denied the chance to go to school.

We will lead an international campaign to get the Millennium Development Goals back on track. We remain committed to spending 0.7 per cent of national income on aid from 2013, and we will enshrine this commitment in law early in the next Parliament. Our aid will target the poorest and most excluded – spent transparently and evaluated independently. We will fight corruption, investing more to track, freeze, and recover assets stolen from developing countries. Further action will be taken to strengthen developing countries’ tax systems, reduce tax evasion, improve reporting, and crack down on tax havens. To increase accountability, we will allocate at least five per cent of all funding developing country budgets for the purpose of strengthening the role of Parliaments and civil society.

Our leadership on debt cancellation has freed 28 countries from the shackles of debt. We will continue to drive this agenda, building on legislation to clampdown on vulture funds.

Access to health, education, food, water and sanitation are basic human rights. We will spend £8.5 billion over eight years to help more children go to school; maintain our pledge to spend £6 billion on health between 2008 and 2015 and £1 billion through the Global Fund to support the fight against HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria; fight for universal access to prevention, treatment and care for HIV/AIDS by 2010; and deliver at least 30 million additional anti-malarial bed-nets over the next three years.

We will provide £1 billion for water and sanitation by 2013, driving this issue up the international agenda, and over £1 billion on food security and agriculture. We will push for the establishment of a Global Council on Child Hunger. We will help save the lives of six million mothers and babies by 2015 and, because international focus on the needs of women and girls is vital, we will double core funding to the new UN Women’s agency. While the Tories would favour private schemes, we will work closely with NGOs and developing countries to eliminate user fees and promote healthcare and education free at the point of access. We will encourage other countries to ratify the ILO conventions on labour standards, as we have done.

Trade can lift millions out of poverty. We will work with the private sector, trade unions and co-operatives to promote sustainable development, quadruple our funding for fair and ethical trade, and press for a fair World Trade Organisation deal, with no enforced liberalisation for poor countries, and increased duty-free and quota-free access.

What has Labour done for Fairtrade?

Today is the first day of the Fairtrade Fortnight, which runs from 22 February to 7 March. Around the world, millions of lives have been touched, changed and improved by Fairtrade: providing decent earnings to producers in developing countries. This year, the theme of the Fairtrade Fortnight is “The Big Swap”. Think about the products you use, could you swap to a Fairtrade equivalent? The aim is to get 1,000,001 swaps by the end of the fortnight.

But what, exactly, has the Labour Government done for Fairtrade?

Since 1997, the Labour Government has supported Fairtrade with DfID funding and from this year, even during the recession, funding will be quadrupled to £12m over the period 2010-13 as part of a joint effort with donors and Fairtrade Labeling Organisations International. This will help bring 1 million more producers into the movement, which in turn means higher wages and better lives for 7 million people across the globe.

Additionally, through “Fairtrade Premiums”, twice as much money will be invested directly into local organisations. These can provide improved irrigation, or medical clinics, which will make a profound differnce the lives of people in developing countries.

The Fairtrade movement is vital because no country has managed to tackle poverty in the last 30 years without also increasing trade. Trade can be the great leveller of the world and help millions out of poverty, raise living standards and increase global prosperity: if it is done right. Fairtrade ensures that producers get the returns they deserve for their products. What we need is fairer, more equitable international trade rules. The Labour Government has been pushing for this for the last 13 years and is providing at least £1b every year for the next 3 years in aid for trade and growth, as well as seeking to enshrine a promise to provide 0.7% of national income in aid every year.

Labour believes in the values of the core of Fairtrade: that everyone across the globe should receive a fair price for their goods and a fair wage for their work. This belief in equity and fairness is shared by countless millions of people: over the last decade, every year we have doubled the amount of Fairtrade produce we buy. Already, 7.5 million people benefit from Fairtrade, which is crucial to development. With continued support from the public and the Labour Government, this can only increase.

Please visit the Fairtrade Fortnight website choose what you will swap for Fairtrade.

By Tim Nicholls

DFID supporting unions to make a difference in the world, not corrupt backhanders

Reading Carl Mortished’s article in the Times on Monday you’d think that they had discovered a corrupt and secret way for the Labour Party to pass money to the unions.  But then on closer inspection you realize that all the information is in fact clearly and transparently available on the TUC and DFID websites.

The Times article rightly acknowledges certain truths about the running of DFID, but its inferences are wrong. Its summary of the TUC and DFID websites, as well as the International Policy Network report, are largely accurate but do not tell the full story.

DFID most certainly does work closely with, and indeed does financially support, trade unions.  That support naturally includes the Trade Union Congress (TUC), which brings together nearly all Trade Unions in the UK and represents millions of workers. They do so for a number of reasons, none of them underhand and none of them related to any suggested links with the Labour party (with most of the TUC’s affiliates having no relationship with the Labour Party).

Trade unions form a highly important aspect of efforts on behalf of DFID, through education projects, to transform people’s approach to international development here in the UK. This goal has been clearly stated on the DFID website and funds have been channelled to achieve this by DFID, not only through trade unions but in many other ways as well: with £14 million being spent on this in total in 2008/9. Through their activities and its numerous members the TUC can play a central role in this, given the fact its members constitute a large part of the UK workforce.

On top of this the TUC and other UK trade unions have important and highly valuable links to trade unions around the world. These networks provide means to transform workers rights, combat corruption and inequality and to fight back against exploitation. For instance UNISON (a TUC affiliate) has supported trade unions in El Salvador and Malawi that have sought to stop water privatisation in those countries. UNISON is also highly active in supporting Southern African trade unions’ responses to HIV and Aids, this work being supported by DFID as well as UNISON’s own funds. As the Times suggests this relationship is two-way (as it is with many NGOs), with the trade unions themselves also seeking to shape policy and lobby Government on behalf of their member.  A good example being UNISON’s financial support of the running costs of the All Parties group on HIV/AIDS.

All of these actions are supported by DFID through the various elements of their Partnership Programme Agreement. As the International Policy Network paper readily concedes, numerous extremely useful projects have resulted from this interaction between DFID and the trade unions. While the paper, Closer Union, raises doubts about the transparency of this interaction and whether all the money is used effectively, one must not forget that DFID’s accounts are audited by the Independent Advisory Committee on Development.

In short, rights we consider as a matter of course here in the UK are often non-existent in the workplace around the world. From the right to work in a safe place, to the right to join together to form unions, and the right to decent pay and working hours, workers often need support in fighting for these basic rights.  Indeed trade unionists are still repressed and even killed in numerous countries like Columbia. In order to raise awareness of international development within our own domestic workforce, to work closely with networks of trade unions around the world to build the type of workers rights we enjoy here and to support important projects around the globe such as the fight against HIV and Aids, a close and mutually beneficial relationship between DFID and UK trade unions, particularly the TUC, is crucial. The sole reason DFID works with Trade Unions and the TUC is to help make life better for ordinary workers across the world.

By Daniel Sleat and James Anthony, LCID trade union officers.

Daniel is a Labour Party activist currently working for Andrew Judge, Labour PPC for Wimbledon.

James is a member of the UNISON National Executive Council representing the West Midlands and represents the affiliated Trade Unions on the Young Labour National Committee.

Have a break, have a [Fairtrade] Kit Kat

Great news today as Kit Kat, Britain’s biggest selling chocolate biscuit, will go Fairtrade from January.

About 1 billion Kit Kats are sold every year in the UK and the switch is set to guarantee a better deal for more than 6,000 Ivorian cocoa farmers.Kit Kat goes Fairtrade

Gareth Thomas MP, our Trade & Development Minister said:

“I am glad to see Kit Kat become Fairtrade certified, giving more British shoppers the chance to improve the lives of some of the world’s poorest people. This will give thousands of Ivorian cocoa farmers better opportunities to trade their way out of poverty.”

Fairtrade continues to grow despite the recession. The Fairtrade Mark appears on 4,500 products, and last year more than £700m was spent on Fairtrade goods in the UK, an increase of more than £200m on 2007. And thanks to a Labour Government, Fairtrade will continue to grow.

In October, Secretary of State Douglas Alexander announced £12m of new funding for Fairtrade, to help twice as many farmers in the developing world work their way out of poverty. The funding will bring another 1 million producers into the scheme and so enable 7 million more people in poor countries to benefit from a better deal offered by Fairtrade.

Returning to the Kit Kat, this is a victory for Fairtrade supporters everywhere. For years Nestle were vehemently opposed to Fairtrade. But as with their attempt to sue the Ethiopian government a few years ago, they have bowed to public pressure. First with their coffee product, now with Kit Kat – that may be just two product lines, but now we have our feet firmly wedged in their door. There is a long way to go, but no way back.

To get involved in Fairtrade campaigning go to www.fairtrade.org.uk

by David Taylor, Labour Campaign for International Development