From the beginning, the Fair Trade movement aimed to raise awareness among consumers of the problems caused by conventional trade, and to introduce changes to its rules. The sale of products always went alongside with information on the production, producers and their conditions of living. It has become the role of World Fair Trade Shops to mobilise consumers to participate in campaigning activities for more global justice.
The first European World Shops conference took place in 1984. This conference set the beginning of close cooperation between volunteers working in World Shops from all over Europe. The Network of European World Shops (NEWS!) was formally established in 1994 and now represents approximately 3.000 World Shops in close to 20 European countries. NEWS! coordinates European campaigning activities and stimulates the exchange of information and experiences about development of sales and awareness raising work.
In 1996, NEWS! established the European World Shops Day as a Europe-wide day of campaigning on a particular issue, often with a goal at the European level. This initiative has been taken up by WFTO, which brought it to a worldwide level. The first World Fair Trade Day, which involves the worldwide Fair Trade movement, was celebrated on May 4, 2002. Now World Fair Trade Day takes place every year on the second Saturday in May.
Over the years, the Fair Trade movement has become more professional in its awareness-raising and advocacy work. It produces well-researched documents, attractive campaign materials and public events. It has also benefited from the establishment of European structures that help to harmonize and centralise its campaigning and advocacy work. An important tool was the establishment of a joint Advocacy Office in Brussels, which focuses on influencing (European) policy-makers. It is supported, managed and funded by the whole movement, represented in FLO, WFTO, NEWS and EFTA.
Fair Trade and Fair Trade Organizations have been recognised repeatedly by European Institutions as well as national and regional governments for its contribution to poverty reduction, sustainable development and consumer awareness-raising. The European Parliament passed several resolutions on Fair Trade (in 1994, 1998 and 2006) and many European ministers and prime ministers have publicly endorsed Fair Trade. Ever more public institutions are serving Fair Trade products and local authorities include fair and sustainable criteria in their public tenders. Thousands of towns, universities and churches have applied for Fair Trade status, committing to promote Fair Trade and to contribute to overcoming poverty and exclusion. Increasingly, representatives from developing countries promote Fair Trade because it enables small and marginalized producers in their countries to live and work in dignity. Fair Trade is increasingly on the agenda of policy makers throughout the world.