On 25 March, in the Co-operative Bank office in London, the Co-operatives for Development programme hosted a lively and stimulating forum: Fair Trade and Co-operatives: A Match Made in Heaven?. The event brought together over sixty professionals who are active in both the Fair Trade and co-operative movements to debate and discuss how the two can work together to bring something unique to Fair
Trade and overcome some of the challenges they each face.
Delegates had lots of ideas about how consumer-owned co-operatives can involve their members in the issues associated with fair and ethical trade and how Fair Trade buyers can better support the producer co-operatives they work with.
A panel of speakers from a range of Fair Trade and co-operative organisations, including representatives from producer co-operatives in Uganda and Kenya, gave the audience an insightful account of the on-the-ground challenges faced by co-operatives and how they can be supported to tackle them.
In the afternoon, delegates broke into groups to think of practical ways they could implement some of the ideas generated in the morning. At the end of the day, the audience was addressed by Gareth Thomas MP, Minister of State for International Development, who announced an extension of the CoopAfrica programme, with £3 million funding from 2011, and an additional £2 million dependent on the ILO securing £2 million matchfunding from other donors.
This was the first such forum to be held in the UK, aiming to build a relationship and understanding between the two movements at a time of both co-operative revival and ever-increasing growth in Fair Trade sales. It was an exciting and timely discussion, which it is hoped will stimulate some exciting future collaboration between the organisations which attended.
A publication summarising the ideas generated during the event will be available by summer 2010.
In addition, the conference saw the launch of the booklet Fair and Square: Ethical Shopping Matters, with several of the contributing writers in attendance.