I was recently interviewed by a Masters student from UK about the impact of the fair trade movement on economic and social rights advancement in the Cambodian context. This is because Oz Fair Trade has been supporting fair trade producers from Cambodia for over three years. My attention was particularly drawn to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which is part of the International Bill of Human Rights. I must admit that I don’t regularly read up on such things. Perhaps I have when I was setting up Oz Fair Trade, with all the passion bursting out of me. But once Oz Fair Trade was up and running, my focus shifted to the daily operational side of things. The interview, therefore, was a nice opportunity to step back and think about why I started on this path in the first place.
I guess my passion for fair trade has always been somewhat undeniably a product of ‘middle-class guilt’, and I merely wish that by promoting fair trade some poor families that don’t have basic ‘rights’ that we take for granted will be a little bit better off. I believe we should often reflect on the things that we take for granted, and be self-critical of the impact that our ‘innocent’ actions have on other people e.g. the lifestyle that we enjoy in the developed countries are often built upon more or less on exploiting people of the less developed countries, whether we like it or not.
Over the years, I have seen an increasing number of fair trade retailers and customers, and the positive impact their actions have had on the behaviours of the big companies. Ultimately, it’s the big guys who can make a difference. I am encouraged by the persistence of a number of fair trade businesses in Australia such as Etiko and Oxfam, and a growing number of online marketplaces dedicated to ethical shopping such as Good Spender. I was very excited when the Good On You app came out and it continues to be a strong force in promoting ethical shopping in Australia.
I would encourage you to read the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The rights listed there may seem basic and obvious to you and me, but they are denied to a large number of people. I believe we must be grateful for what we have, and try to help others who are less fortunate. I believe it brings happiness. This view is obviously shared by the customers who have supported Oz Fair Trade and many other fair trade organisations over the years. I feel that this view of happiness is particularly important in today’s world of rising protectionism and terrorism. What do you think? Please leave your comments below.