From the 12th to the 14th of June, WFTO-Europe held its Annual General Assembly and Biennial Conference in Mennorode, a conference centre located in Elspeet, a small town in the Netherlands, and renowned for its commitment to sustainable development.
The whole conference took place in a very positive atmosphere, with a total of 26 attendees including 20 member organisations. WFTO-Europe welcomed two special guests: Sergi Corbalán from the Fair Trade Advocacy Office and Chitra Bahadur KC from WFTO Asia as well as two representatives from WFTO Global: Chief Executive Natália Leal and President Rudi Dalvai, whose interesting participations extremely deepened the conference’s topics. WFTO Global staff was also present the first day to meet the members and support the WFTO-Europe staff.
It was an important moment for WFTO-Europe and its members to coordinate their activities and take key decisions regarding the future of Fair Trade in general and more specifically of WFTO-Europe and Global. Various topics have been discussed and debated during those three intensive days. The Conference started with the official welcoming speech from WFTO-Europe to go then through a session led by Natália Leal and Rudi Dalvai on the WFTO Global topics and ended up with a remarkable presentation of Gert Eigenbrood, Director of Mennorode on the environmental policy of the centre.
The following day, WFTO-Europe Board Members and the guests led different sessions on several topics. The day started with an interesting discussion on Advocacy led by Sergi Corbalán and Chitra Bahadur KC, followed by sessions on Domestic Fair Trade, Retailers’ Standard, the Guarantee System, the role of national platforms and an update on the Fair Trade Towns campaign. All these fruitful discussions were then followed by a relaxing and soothing walk in the surrounding forest with a guide. On the third day a last morning session was focused on “Fair Prices and Fair Wages”, aimed at sharing experiences amongst European members with the contribution of Marlike Kocken from EFTA and Elsbeth Fabels and Frans Pasma from the Dutch Association of Worldshops (DAWS).
General outcome of the Conference is the image of a stronger network, able to convey clear messages to be brought to Global for further discussions and to give everyone food for thought for next year AGM and Global Conference in Milan. This meeting was just a starting point; next steps include an intensive work to assure all these discussions keep going on. The great atmosphere of the meeting showed that WFTO-Europe and its members are on the right path. Further progress needs to be made but WFTO-Europe is confident that all together they can make it possible.
Main discussions and conclusions:
Natália and Rudi, with the contribution of Tamara Cobussen, the Guarantee System Manager, presented several issues, which were then deeply discussed with the Members:
- The implementation of the Guarantee System: the different steps for Fair Trade Organisations (SAR, peer visits, audit), promotion of the label, the importance of referring to the system as a “monitoring” and not “certification” system, in order not to create confusion.
- Strategic plan: 5 new goals have been presented (credibility and identity, learning, voice, market access and capacity). The members went through all of them, raising comments and suggesting new wordings.
- PRICE project.
- The role of country networks (criteria).
- Celebration of the 25th anniversary of WFTO: several ideas were presented and discussed: coffee table book, timeline, events, memory game, exhibition, social media campaign.
- World Fair Trade Week 2014 (24-31 May 2014): a logo has been already launched. During the Milan Expo, whose theme is “feeding the planet”, several events will be organised.
Advocacy: FTAO and Southern prospective
Sophie Tack moderated this session where Chitra (Southern producer) and Sergi (FTAO) were asked to present the different aspects of advocacy in the North and in the South, their respective tools and priorities for the upcoming years in order to see how advocacy activities can be better coordinated across the regions. FTAO stressed the need of working in the future in 2 main areas: promotion of Fair Trade, through the European strategy for Fair Trade and trade justice, through the power in supply chain campaign. The success of the Vote4FT campaign was highlighted as an example of good joint actions and campaigns. After a quick overview of the campaign, it was explained how a better coordination between North and South is crucial for further projects. Despite the differences between the two approaches in terms of advocacy, some conclusions were reached:
- The relevance of WFTO-Global to be back to FTAO.
- The need to have a country basis approach for advocacy strategies.
- The importance of joining forces to work on specific issues, such as: Guarantee System, Fair Trade Towns campaign, World Fair Trade Day.
- The introduction of an advocacy session in all Regional Conferences, to strengthen the discussion on this topic across the world.
With regard to the financial structure of FTAO, Sergi also highlighted the participation of Rudi, from WFTO Global, in the last FTAO Board meeting the 5th of June as well as the will of Global to take seriously into account its return to FTAO. In the meantime, considering the withdrawal of EFTA from FTAO and the willingness of some European members to give a bigger contribution to FTAO, was decided that:
- WFTO-Europe will send a letter to all European members in 2 weeks’ time in order to ask for a voluntary contribution to support FTAO in the next 3 years.
- WFTO-Europe also asked Global to circulate the letter to all members, asking also to the bigger members in Southern countries to support FTAO.
Domestic Fair Trade
This session was conducted by Giorgio Dal Fiume and, though WFTO-Europe doesn’t have yet a specific position on it, this was the opportunity to discuss an issue that has been acquiring in few years a great importance within the Fair Trade movement. The main ideas, which have been raised up, are that the changing balance between North and South should be taken into consideration as well as the possible competition between Fair Trade and local production. Main conclusions were:
- The so called “Domestic Fair Trade” is an important and strategic issue that needs to be discussed at all WFTO levels in order to achieve a common opinion and strategy.
- Participants shared the opinion that “Southern” and “Northern” Fair Trade products could be complementary and not in opposition. They also agreed that it is important to find a common “NAME” or DEFINITION of “Northern Fair Trade products” as well as to maintain the different “identity” of Southern Fair Trade products into the Fair Trade market.
Fair Trade Towns Campaign
Tadeusz Makulski from the Polish Fair Trade Association gave an update on the Fair Trade Towns (FTT) Campaign. This campaign is currently on the rise as more than 200 towns joined the movement in one year time to reach 1500 towns in May 2014. FTT campaign develops in Asia where the 8th Fair Trade Towns Conference took place, in Kumamoto, Japan, March 2014. The next objectives of the FTT international movement are to inspire, learn and collect best practices, develop and protect the concept of Fair Trade Towns and to build an international movement of Fair Trade Towns campaign. Next year the FTT Steering Committee will meet in Milan in May 2015 and the International FTT conference will take place in Bristol, UK, the 4th and 5th of July to celebrate its 15th anniversary. This campaign is extremely important for WFTO-Europe members for several reasons:
- Promote Far Trade with different stakeholders (local authorities, local communities, media)
- Raise awareness on the Fair Trade movement and its products.
- Public procurement.
- Advocacy (ex. strong contribution to the Fair Trade Beyond 2015 campaign).
- FTT development in the South with possible participation of existing trading partners.
Role of National platforms
For years now, Fair Trade Country Networks (FTCN) have a significant role in many countries in Fair Trade promotion and coordination. It has been said that in order to achieve the final goal of Fair Trade, a stronger and closer collaboration is needed between WFTO and FTCN which are now 24 within the WFTO registered members. Following the discussion led the day before by Global, Tadeusz Makulski tried to analyse the European context, where the general criteria presented by Global seem not to include all the platforms and networks presented in Europe. Main conclusions:
- Need to be careful in the definition of criteria for country networks, in order not to exclude some important actors at European level.
- Some of FTCN are already cooperating with WFTO but generally the goals and expectations of WFTO towards them should be discussed on a country level.
- FTCN are already involved in advocacy activities on Fair Trade.
Gabriella D’Amico from Associazione Botteghe del Mondo led a discussion on the application of WFTO Retailers’ Standard. Although just few members answered the survey circulated beforehand, she shared her first impressions on the results obtained so far, stressing in particular the big difference between national platforms and networks and the importance of sharing experiences in order to harmonize the different countries. Following the Retailers’ Standard approved in Rio last year, Natàlia also stressed the launch of 2 pilots (AGICES and WELTLADEN DACHVERBAN e.v.), which have just signed the contract with WFTO, and been authorised to put the logo of WFTO on the world shops. Main conclusions:
- In order to have a deeper analysis, Gabriella will re-send the survey to the Members, asking to those who hadn’t filled it yet to do it by the end of June.
- Very positive feedbacks from the members and particularly from Marlike Kocken (EFTA) and Sergi Corbalán (FTAO) on how to strengthen the role of the worldshops’ association and retailers.
- WFTO Global will summarise the experiences of the two pilots and share them with the Members.
Based on the discussion led by Global on the first day, Malcolm Curtis from Shared Interest presented the impact of the new Guarantee System within WFTO-Europe and discussed WFTO-Europe concerns with regard to the lack of control of non WFTO members in the Fair Trade Guarantee System as well as the promotion of the Guarantee System. With regard to the “first buyer”, Rudi presented an informal version of the revised contract for first buyers non WFTO members. He stressed that now more principles have to be respected by these actors and presented the Fair Trade Accountability Watch (FTAW) as an important tool to monitor their activities. Main conclusions:
- Additional comments, concerns on these issues have to be sent to Natàlia by the end of June. In terms of timeframe, the contract will be approved soon by the GS Committee and sent then to the Global Board.
Malcolm also asked to the members, what Fair Trade Organisations can do to promote the new WFTO label. The Members discussed this issue in groups and came out with several interesting ideas which are good food for thought for future actions. (use Fair Trade week in Milan; use the new EU sustainable development goals; advertise in newspapers and magazines; have good section of WFTO website dedicated to GS; hold workshops during Fair Trade events; promote our own brand which is Fair Trade; make all your producers WFTO members; use the label as a marketing tool; organise information evening about the label; information in G.I.T; use social media; opportunity for producers to sell outside Fair Trade; use the label on products; promote the label during events. E.g World Fair Trade Day; advocacy office ± events to explain WFTO system; Fair Trade Towns can spread information about WFTO system; honesty; educate the volunteers in the shops on the WFTO system; WFTO office to produce media package that the members can use; Fair Trade Day theme 2015- supply chain-tool to educate about WFTO system; leaflets about WFTO label; WFTO label manual, to be available in multiple languages; use the 25th jubilee to introduce the mark; pictures or short videos from producers to conduct a social media campaign ; press events; brief the media; press release on WFTO system.)
Fair Prices and Fair Wages
The last morning session on the third day was focussed on “Fair Price and Fair Wages”, aimed at sharing experiences amongst European members on this topic. Main speakers were Marlike Kocken (EFTA), Chitra and Elsbeth Fabels and Frans Pasma from DAWS. Sophie Tack (Oxfam Magasins-du-monde) moderated the session. Since last year AGM in Rio it has been pointed out that fair prices and fair wages are crucial to fight poverty and therefore key standard for Fair trade. This issue raised important questions such as how to estimate living wage rate and what methodology to use? These questions have been addressed during the session, which presented the different tools that have been developed so far: a living wage calculation form and a living wage cost calculation form. Main conclusions:
- There is a need of sharing information, and giving a clear definition of “fair prices fair wages” and common tools. Following a step by step approach, a general database on living wages should be put in place too.
- Producers should be included in the debate as well as DAWS in the reflections of the WFTO Global Working Group on Fair Prices Fair Wages.
- It would be useful to link this topic to others, such as the Clean Clothes campaign.
- It is extremely important to take into account the country level and to implement it locally.