World Refugee Day 2023 – Time To Address Climate & Social Justice

As individuals and communities around the world are uprooted from their homes due to the deteriorating state of the environment, it becomes increasingly clear that our current systems and policies are ill-equipped to deal with the profound implications of the climate and social crisis. 

As we mark World Refugee Day 2023, recognizing the urgent need to address climate change-related displacement is not only a moral imperative but also a crucial step towards remedying the systemic failures that have led us to this point. By understanding the causes (and consequences) of environmental migration and taking decisive action, we can strive to build a more sustainable and resilient future for all. 

Environmental displacement is an increasingly pressing global phenomenon, with more and more people being forced to leave their homes due to climate change and environmental degradation. According to the World Bank1, in the most pessimistic scenario of a system where global temperatures continue to rise and sustainable solutions are not efficiently implemented, the number of climate migrants could reach 216.1 billion by 2050. On top of that, UNHCR reports that 90% of refugees come from countries that are the least able to adapt to the effects of climate change while being the most disaster-prone. Additionally, these countries already host large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons.

It is often quite difficult to establish when climate change, alone or in conjunction with other variables, is the main force driving migration. If on the one hand displacement of people triggered by fast-onset disasters related to climate change is easier to identify, as it may be flooding or wildfires, it is much more difficult to collect data and quantify displacement brought on by more gradual slow-onset effects, for instance, sea level rise, salinization or drought. Moreover, environmental factors are typically closely linked to socioeconomic, political, demographic, cultural and personal factors that influence mobility. Climate change is a threat multiplier that aggravates existing insecurity trends. For instance, droughts, floods, and heatwaves can lead to crop failures, livestock losses, and reduced access to water resources, resulting in food scarcity and economic hardship. Moreover, environmental degradation can create tensions among different groups, escalating into political conflicts and even violence. These conflicts can disrupt governance systems, weaken institutions, and further destabilize already fragile political environments leading people to migrate in search of safety and security. These migration flows, driven by climate change, can further strain host communities and create new challenges for governance systems, potentially leading to additional political complexities. 

Migration may be an efficient adaptation solution for some people. But migration is not the choice everyone wants – or can – take. On the one hand, people forced to flee must leave behind their homes, valuables, but also see disruption of established social networks and jeopardize access to essential services, education, and healthcare. However, when migration is identified as a potentially beneficial solution to improve living conditions, some individuals struggle to engage in migration because they lack the resources to do. The impacts of climate change, such as droughts, floods, and desertification, disproportionately affect marginalized communities that are already impoverished.  Climate change exacerbates existing inequalities and reinforces the notion that those who contribute least to environmental degradation are often the ones most affected by its consequences. 

This is why it is of utmost importance to understand root causes in all their complexity and to address both the environmental and human factors when discussing climate change-related displacement or migration, whether it is voluntary or forced, inside national borders or outside, temporary or permanent. 

Environmental displacement is evidently a phenomenon embedded in a system that prioritizes profit over people and the planet. This system is fuelled by the exploitation of natural resources, the relentless pursuit of economic growth, and the perpetuation of social and economic inequalities. The current economic system is largely responsible for the increase in greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting climate change. Companies and governments often prioritize short-term economic gains over the long-term health of the planet, leading to unsustainable practices such as deforestation, overfishing, and the burning of fossil fuels. This not only harms the environment but also impacts communities that rely on natural resources for their livelihoods. Moreover, our economy is characterized by significant wealth inequality, with a small fraction of the world’s population owning a disproportionate share of wealth and resources. This inequality leaves many people vulnerable to the effects of climate change without the resources to face it, adapt to it and recover from it. 

To address these issues, we need to transform the economic system into one that prioritises sustainability, social justice, and equity. We must shift away from the current model of consumption-based economic growth towards a more sustainable and equitable approach that values the well-being and resilience of people and the planet over profit. By demonstrating that alternative models are viable and effective, projects and initiatives that build on these principles pave the way for a future where social, economic, and climate justice are integrated into the very fabric of society. MADE51, an initiative from UNHCR and implemented by WFTO, creates direct livelihood opportunities and sustainable income for refugees with artisanal skills by partnering with Local Social Enterprises (LSEs) in host countries, ensuring Fair Trade standards are respected – including environmental concerns, fair wages, good working conditions –  and by supporting market-access for refugee-made products. 

WFTO and our community of Fair Trade Enterprises, activists and supporters are changing the economy from within. We do so not only by investing in renewable energy, regenerative agriculture, sustainable fashion and craftmanship, among others. But also, by advocating for policy change to promote environmental protection, reduce inequality, and support the development of resilient communities. By aligning profit with purpose, responsible businesses can foster a more sustainable and inclusive world, providing opportunities for refugees and promoting the protection of our planet for generations to come. 

By Alessandra Casareggio

Clement, Viviane, Kanta Kumari Rigaud, Alex de Sherbinin, Bryan Jones, Susana Adamo, Jacob Schewe, Nian Sadiq, and Elham Shabahat. 2021. Groundswell Part 2: Acting on Internal Climate Migration. Washington, DC: The World Bank

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17th international


17-20 SEPT 2024 – CAPE TOWN 

We are thrilled to invite you to our upcoming International Fair Trade Summit, set to take place in the vibrant city of Cape Town, from the 17th to the 20th of September 2024.

The International Fair Trade Summit aims to bring together leaders, practitioners, and advocates from all corners of the globe to collaborate and promote Fair Trade practices. This edition promises to be a unique opportunity for participants to engage in enlightening discussions, exchange ideas, and forge partnerships that will shape the future of Fair Trade.

WFTO Membership & Associate Types

  • Fair Trade Organisations (FTO)

    All trading members of WFTO. This includes all organisations that have more than half of their income and/or more than €100,000 in income from trade.

  • Fair Trade Support Organisations (FTSO)

    An organisation whose primary mission is to support Fair Trade and/or provide services to organisations that are or want to become Fair Trade Organisations.

  • Fair Trade Networks (FTN)

    An organisation which is an association of organisations committed to Fair Trade.

  • Individual Associates (IA)

    Individual Associates are supporters of the Fair Trade movement with limited rights. The WFTO Guarantee System does not apply to them.

  • Associate Organisations (AO)

    Associate Organisations align with WFTO’s values but after their application. They do not undergo monitoring and also have limited rights.

WFTO Guarantee System Monitoring Statuses

  • Candidates

    Candidates have been conditionally approved for membership but have not completed their first monitoring cycle under the WFTO Guarantee System. They have limited rights within WFTO. They may not use the WFTO Member Mark and Product Label or claim that they are monitored by WFTO.

  • Guaranteed Members

    Guaranteed members have met the WFTO Membership requirements and are monitored under the WFTO Guarantee System.

  • Member

    Organisations that have no or little income from trade go through a reduced version of the WFTO Guarantee System that does not include criteria related to trade. These organisations may use the WFTO Member Mark but cannot use the Product Label for any products they may be trading to support their mission. This status only applies to Fair Trade Networks (FTN) and Support Organisations (FTSO).

  • Renewal in Progress

    Members who are in the process of renewing their guaranteed status and are overdue on some requirements retain full rights while they work to meet the demands of the Guarantee System on an administrative or compliance level.

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WFTO welcomes applications from established Fair Trade Organisations as well as organisations that support Fair Trade. Individuals in their capacity as researchers, writers, consultants and specialists in their field who can contribute solid skills, knowledge and expertise to WFTO and members are also welcome.

Add Your Heading Text Initial requirements for organisations:

  • Compliance with the WFTO 10 Principles of Fair Trade. Please have a look at the WFTO Fair Trade Standard for more specific information on compliance with these principles.

  • All applicant organisations must already be duly registered (as a legal entity) and active for at least one year.

Who can apply?

  • Fair Trade Organisations (FTO)

    All companies, partnerships, co-partnerships and other legal bodies – as determined by the legal provisions of the country of the member concerned – that are directly engaged in Fair Trade. They may be producers or northern or southern based trading FTOs for whom Fair Trade is the main activity. To qualify for FTO membership, income from sales (turnover) must account for 50% or more of the total income. Applications for FTO membership cannot be accepted from organisations with no prior sales history.

  • Fair Trade Networks (FTN)

    Legal entities whose primary function is to serve as national or international associations of Fair Trade producers and/or Fair Trade Organisations.

  • Fair Trade Support Organisations (FTSO)

    Fair Trade Organisations where trading is not the main activity (proportion of trade is less than 50% of total income). These organisations are engaged in Fair Trade indirectly, through activities that promote and support Fair Trade. These activities can include business counselling, finance, advocacy or networking.

  • Associate Organisations

    This is a special category for national or international organisations that are interested in supporting and promoting Fair Trade, including donor organisations. Organisations that do not meet the one-year legal existence requirement also fit in this group.

  • Individual Associates

    Individual researchers, writers, consultants and specialists in their field that can support WFTO. WFTO expects its individual associates to be active Fair Trade supporters whose experience and expertise in their own particular field can be of practical benefit to WFTO's members. To apply, please submit a curriculum vitae.

    While FTO, FTN and FTSO are entitled to full WFTO membership, organizational and individual associates have only limited rights.

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The WFTO Product Label is more than just a Fair Trade symbol. It signifies not only that the practices across the supply chain are checked against the WFTO Fair Trade Standard, but it also represents support to the battle against poverty and inequality. Products carrying the WFTO Label are made and traded by Guaranteed Fair Trade Organisations dedicated to the sustainable Fair Trade economy. Every purchase of products with the WFTO Label supports small producers and their communities.

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