Fairtrade Celebrates World Day of Social Justice

World Day of Social Justice

Fairtrade Australia New Zealand CEO Molly Harriss Olson talks about the significance of the World Day of Social Justice and the role of sustainability in providing a fairer future for all.

"With exclusion and inequality on the rise, we must step up efforts to ensure that all people, without discrimination, are able to access opportunities to improve their lives and those of others."

-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

These wise words come from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and showcase just how vital and relevant the fight for global social justice is in 2016. February 20th marks the 10th United Nations World Day of Social Justice. This day, celebrated globally, supports efforts by all nations to promote the fight against poverty, the promotion of full and decent employment, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all. This year’s theme ‘A Just Transition- environmentally sustainable economies and societies’ speaks to us deeply at Fairtrade as economic and environmental sustainability is at the heart of our work with 1.65 million farmers and workers across 74 countries.

Last September Fairtrade celebrated as 193 Member States of the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s)- in doing so, providing a road-map for a socially just future for all people around the world. Central to these goals is the underlying principle that a truly sustainable future can only be created when there is a peaceful and prosperous coexistence both within and among nations. Sustainability and social justice go hand in hand, offering a chance for all individuals, regardless of location, to live life to their full potential now and into the future. By enabling trading schemes which place producers and big business on a fairer playing field; supporting innovative community programs which break down barriers and combat climate change; and advocating for improved human rights at all stages of the supply chain; Fairtrade is playing an active role in the fight for social justice for all.

 I can recall hearing a statistic in the late 90’s which blew me away:

“Americans and Europeans spend $17 billion a year on pet food- $4 billion more than the estimated annual additional total needed to provide basic health and nutrition for everyone in the world.”

The United Nations Development Program tells us that today it would cost $60 billion to provide food, clean water, clothes, education, health care and sanitation for 4.4 billion people. To put this in perspective, this is the amount that Australians spend on fast food each year!

Given the success of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) which:

lifted more than a billion people out of extreme poverty

doubled the number of children attending primary school

doubled the average proportion of women in parliament

I’m confident that together we can achieve the SDGs and end poverty by 2030.

The SDG’s are firm that it shouldn’t matter where you are born, every human should have their needs met and have the opportunity to not just survive but to thrive.

Unlike the MDG’s, where developed countries were “helping” developing countries to solve “their” problems the SDG’s clearly acknowledge that each nation – rich and poor alike - has its own challenges to tackle. Whether it be air pollution, domestic violence, maternal health, over consumption and obesity or any of the myriad of issues which plague societies across the globe- no country is immune from the need to prioritise and meet socially just targets and goals. The SDG’s provide a level playing field for each nation to address, at a local level, their own challenges and to use both their insights and resources to help other nations striving to address their concerns.

The Sustainable Development Goals represent the world we want to see in the future. In our eyes, this is a world with fairer global trading systems, a world where all farmers and workers have sustainable livlihoods which empowers them and their families to live a dignified life. By working together to solve problems like trade inequality we can end poverty in all its forms everywhere and build a sustainable and socially just future which leaves nobody behind.


Molly Harriss Olson, CEO of Fairtrade ANZ