Fair trade – it’s one of those catchall phrases. We often hear about fair trade clothing or fair trade coffee, and while we know that it is the better option to buy, do we know what it actually means? And how does it fit into the bigger poverty picture?
Fair trade is something that aid organisations such as ActionAid are campaigning for and fighting to achieve, because it is vital in ensuring food security, just governance and the safety and rights of women and children. At the top level, fair trade is about working to make sure trade relationships help, rather than further disadvantage the interests and livelihoods of the poor.
Currently, the World Trade Organisation is dominated by wealthy countries, which means that poorer nations are underrepresented and get the short end of the stick when it comes to trade agreements. The fair trade movement aims to change trade laws to ensure better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms of trade for famers and workers in the developing world.
How do trade agreements between a rich and poor country fuel poverty?
Often, the poorer countries are forced into free trade when they go up against first world countries and the global market. Free trade agreements remove the poorer county’s right to use tariffs and quotas to protect its own industries and farms from cheap imports. This problem is compounded when the extra produce produced by first world farmers – who are heavily subsidised by the government – is sold to developing countries at a lower cost. This devalues their products, and perpetuates the trade injustices – free trade is not fair trade!
Fair trade, poverty and food insecurity
Current trade laws do not allow poorer nations to benefit from the potential trade has to lift them out of poverty. Rather than harnessing the power of trade for good, they essentially deprive third world famers from making a fair and proper living.
This, in turn, perpetuates the poverty cycle and food insecurity in third world nations. Trade injustices exasperate world hunger issues, because poorer nations cannot protect their agriculture and people from the unfair subsidies.
What is being done?
For organisations such as ActionAid Australia, fair trade is part of the poverty puzzle and they work to put the issue of hunger on the political agenda. Their global campaigns aim to enforce laws that ensure all people in the world can enjoy their right to food, improve women’s rights to land, make corporations and governments responsible and hold them to their commitment to halve world hunger by 2015.
But trade injustices and poverty are not isolated issues, and ActionAid has a number of initiatives that collectively work towards solving issues of poverty. You can get involved with a number of ActionAid campaigns and programs. Sponsor a child programs, for example, help support and enrich the lives of children who are disadvantaged. Funds go towards supporting the entire community that the child lives in and providing proper education, food and health services. It’s an important way that you can help combat the detrimental effects that trade injustices and food insecurity have on children’s lives and futures. By getting involved, you help raise awareness and support the fight to ensure fair trade and food security and help in the wider fight against poverty.
This post was a guest post from ActionAid Australia