240 delegates from 20 countries across the world gathered in Bristol on the 4th and 5th of July for the 9th International Fair Trade Towns Conference.
Delegates from Europe, the Lebanon, Ghana, USA, Colombia and Japan had a chance to listen to the representatives of small producers as well as Fair Trade activists and campaigners.
The first day opened with a session entitled "The Fair Trade for Sustainability Story". Speeches were delivered by Fatima Ismael, environmental expert from Fairtrade certified Co-operative Soppexcca in Nicaragua who spoke on how climate change is reducing coffee yields and threatening the livelihoods of millions of farmers in developing countries, and Harriet Lamb, CEO at Fairtrade International, who explained how Fairtrade International is working with farmers to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change. Participants also heard the stories of Greg Valerio, the Fairtrade certified jewellery pioneer who presented the gold certification scheme, Louise Nichols of Marks &Spencer and a speech from Linda McAvan, Member of European Parliament on Fair Trade and Sustainable Developement Goals.
The "Networking tables" held on the first day turned out to be an interesting idea - as the. The participants had an opportunity to share their experiences and views on several selected topics linked with sustainable development, Fair Trade and the Fair Trade Towns campaign.
Throughout the two days of the conference, participants could take part in thematic workshops on: advocacy for Fair Trade, Fair Trade public procurement, campaigning in the digital age, Fair Trade schools and emerging Fair Trade markets.
In addition to the workshops, the second day of the conference provided an opportunity to show the international context of the Fair Trade Towns campaign to the participants. International Fair Trade Town Steering Committee members (Bruce Crowther, Adam Gardner, and Tadeusz Makulski) presented the Fair Trade Town campaign from the International perspective. At the time of the conference there were 1,703 towns in 26 countries with new initiatives developing in another 11 countries; Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, India, Switzerland, Hungary, Slovenia, Lithuania, Cameroon, Ecuador and Peru. The Campaign was founded and continues to develop towards a Fair Trade Towns grassroots movement.
During a plenary session, WFTO President Rudi Dalvai gave a brief presentation on the organization. He underlined the fact that WFTO sees the Fair Trade Towns campaign as an important part of the promotional and advocacy strategy for Fair Trade.
Another announcement at the Conference came from CLAC, the Fair Trade Producer Network in the Caribbean and Latin America, who jointly with WFTO- Latin America are launching a Fair Trade Towns and Villages campaign in Producer countries across South America. Read WFTO article about this.
The Conference ended with the Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson, and the mayor of Menjez and Abra, two Fair Trade Towns in Lebanon, signing The Bristol Resolution. The resolution calls on local and regional authorities to to take concrete steps that will lead to the realization of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is due to be released in September as a follow up to the Milleniun Development Goals.
The 3 mayors were followed enthusiastically by the conference participants who added their signatures to the resolution. The document was prepared by the Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) and the International Fair Trade Towns Steering Committee members. Sergi Corbalan, FTAO executive director, invited participants to share the resolution with the mayors of other Fair Trade Towns and encouraged them to express their pledges for Fair Trade. Download the resolution and share this with your Local Authorities.
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By Tadeusz Makulski, WFTO representative for Fair Trade Town Campaign