Ten years of making trade fair

Join us in fighting poverty through fair trade

Christian World Service's Pauline McKay writes about how far Fairtrade has come in the last 10 years.

Making sure people get a fair deal is at the heart of the work Christian World Service (CWS) has been doing for the last 70 years.  When New Zealanders first gave to our Christmas Appeal to help rebuild war-torn Greece, they were giving to make sure those families had food, clothing, shelter, an education, medical care and justice.  Early on, we knew that meeting people’s immediate needs was not always enough.  Without addressing the causes of poverty, they would find themselves in the same situation again the next day.

Instead of taking the easy route, CWS began to ask why.  We listened carefully to what our partner groups were saying and it soon became very clear that much of the problem belonged to global economic practices that focused on money over people.  As an organisation set up by New Zealand churches, our focus was clearly on benefiting people and the environment.  Our partners began talking to us about unfair tariffs and trade quotas on goods produced in developing countries, large scale deforestation by overseas timber interests or land diverted to growing cash crops instead of food for hungry people, we kept touching on trade – as well as the World Bank, the IMF, debt and Structural Adjustment Programmes.

While many of our partners working in developing countries, continued to explore the way global economics undermined and too often destroyed the livelihoods of rural people, we tried to figure out how to tell the story to New Zealanders and more importantly how to make international trade rules fair.

Supporting fair trade is just part of what we do.  First it was Trade Aid, followed by the Fair Trade Association and then ten years ago the setting up of the Fairtrade Australia New Zealand.  With Oxfam and Trade Aid, we applied for start-up funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to establish the label in Australia and New Zealand.  We gave our support as part of a strategy to pressure large scale businesses to take up the fair trade challenge.

At the same time we increased our efforts to promote fair trade in churches, among our supporters and around the country.  Churches picked up the fair trade message.  National and regional church meetings passed resolutions encouraging their members to buy fair trade.  During Fair Trade Fortnight, churches from Riverton in Southland to Dargaville in the North, celebrated with A Fair Cuppa after their Sunday services.  Many have gone on to make fair trade tea and coffee an every Sunday affair.  Some churches make fair trade a focus for a whole service often using material prepared by CWS.  There are ideas for children’s talks and café style church as well.

CWS supporters and church people have taken the fair trade message further.  They strongly supported the campaign to get All Good Bananas into supermarkets long before they could be imported.  We took the message to Parachute, the Christian music festival, on many occasions – free samples were always popular.  Staff and supporters have organised displays, talks and events.

We can honestly say that we have played a significant role in getting the message out to the 78% of New Zealanders who recognise the label.

In ten years, Fairtrade has grown significantly.  With sales in 2013, coming to NZD$280 million across both Australia & New Zealand, there is more recognition of the need to play fair in global markets.  It’s why we are also concerned about the clothing industry and the need to make sure that the people who clothe us and grow our food get a fair return for their efforts.  We’ve come a long way but nothing is straight forward.  The way transnational corporations can avoid paying tax, influence government policy in their favour, exploit people and the planet needs greater scrutiny if we are to keep fair trade moving forward.  Buying Fairtrade is a great way to be part of that story.