Fair Trade innovations for the refugee crisis

Marta Frigato & Valia Almpani

The need for innovative solutions to address the global refugee crisis is now crucial more than ever. The World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) and MADE51 are working closely with social enterprises to continue giving economic opportunities for refugees. The year 2022 is one of the darkest milestones in the last decade. This year the number of people around the world who are forced to flee their homes reached over 100 million.

"Every year of the last decade, the numbers have climbed," said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. "Either the international community comes together to take action to address this human tragedy, resolve conflicts and find lasting solutions, or this terrible trend will continue.” 

Conflicts, fear of persecution and human rights violations are primary causes why people are fleeing their homes, says the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Climate crisis, lockdowns and unfair economic system are worsening the dire situation of refugees in host communities, and those who are still seeking refuge. For the global community of Fair Trade Enterprises, everyone has the right to seek refuge and enjoy a secure and decent livelihood even in their host community. On World Refugee Day, we underscore the human rights of refugees, the need to protect them from the persecution and violations by giving them access to livelihood opportunities, training and security. Across the globe there are local social enterprises that are partnering with UNHCR as part of the MADE51 initiative to provide refugees with economic opportunities, financial support and security in the communities where they have sought temporary sanctuary. 

The security of refugees is at the core of the MADE51 model. UNHCR Country Offices implement their protection assurance principles and tools along the value chain, while the World Fair Trade Organization, as implementing partner of the initiative, ensures that social enterprises working with refugee artisans respect the Fair Trade principles, such as ensuring fair payments, good working conditions, opportunities for capacity building, and their production respect the environmental and the climate, to name a few. 

Equal rights and inclusivity are the cornerstones of Fair Trade business models. By going where other businesses won’t go, these enterprises are designed for impact to create economic opportunities so that refugees too can build their lives in dignity and freedom. By bridging refugees’ heritage craftsmanship with the global market, Fair Trade Enterprises aim at creating an inclusive economic system in which refugees’ skills are honoured and inspiring to others. Becoming self-reliant, uplifting their communities with their work, and sharing their expertise is what refugees do with these mission-led enterprises to create a powerful synergy fuelled by shared values.