Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Fair Trade and Protest

When asked to name the top reasons why people protest, I'm not sure many people would include Fair Trade on the list. The Washington Post put together a list of the biggest protests and crackdowns since 2000, and it included protests against several government regimes, abortion laws, election results, the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, and tuition fees, among others, but none included Fair Trade issues. (Washington Post: 2011)

There infact have been several protests involving issues of Fair Trade, and they can take many different forms. In August of 2011, Hershey's Chocolate held a "Say S'mores" photo contest to celebrate National S'mores Day. As explained by Fair Trade Vancouver, "As part of the Raise the Bar campaign, several Fair Trade chocolate activists participated in the event by posting photos calling attention to Hershey's labour practices. According to the Raise the Bar campaign, Hershey's refuses to identify its cocoa suppliers and it sources much of its cocoa from West Africa, a region "plagued by force labor, human trafficking and abusive child labor." (Fair Trade Vancouver: 2011) 

An article written by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) describes a protest in July of 2011: "more than 150 U.S. citizens from faith-based, environmental and human rights organizations gathered in front of the White House to protest the pending Colombia Free Trade Agreement."(PCUSA:2011)  The protestors "spoke alongside environmental activists and trade unionists from the United States and Colombia about the devastating consequences the free trade agreement would have on labourers, farmers, Afro-Colombians and other Colombian citizens" (PCUSA:2011) and stated that they were there to "advocates for justice... we believe in fair trade, not just free trade." (PCUSA:2011)

Opponents of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement outside the White House

In June of 2003, BBC News in the UK wrote an article describing the events of a mass demonstration by UK campaigners "calling on the government to put pressure on the World Trade Organization to rewrite it's laws in favour of poor countries." (BBC News UK: 2003) The movement was created to raise awareness about third world producers, as some believe "the World Trade Organization works against the poor of this world" (BBC News UK: 2003)

In class discussions we learn't that protests may use visual imagery, signs, slogans, costumes or music in order to get their messages across. There are also what Malinowski calls "social charters", in which myths are use to justify the present in terms of the past.

Although these are only a few examples, we can see that Fair Trade can be a cause for several different types of protest. In Alex Nicholls and Charlotte Opals book on Fair Trade, Bruce Crowther (who is the Co-ordinator of Fair trade Town) speaks about consumer empowerment. He states "I see Fair Trade as doing two things: one it is helping people immediately and changing their lives: then, there is the bigger picture where it is a protest tool, a way of registering your vote. But now we are not boycotting something, we are supporting something positive." (2004: 4). I agree with Crowther, in that Fair Trade can be used in a variety of ways as a protest tool, for us as consumers to show that we believe in equal opportunities for all people, especially the producers of the goods we choose to buy, which is demonstrated in all of the above examples of protest. Fair Trade protests have the same goal as any other type of protest: to give a voice to people who are under represented and unfairly treated.

Alex Nicholls and Charlotte Opals book on Fair Trade


   2003 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/3027742.stm

Fair Trade Vancouver
   2011 http://www.fairtradevancouver.ca/blog/2011-08-11/raise-bar-submits-protest- photos-hersheys-

Nicholls, Alex & Opals, Charlotte
   2005 Fair Trade: Market-Driven Ethical Consumption. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Presbyterian Church USA
   2011 http://www.pcusa.org/news/2011/7/18/fair-trade-not-just-free-trade/

Washington Post
   2011 http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/protests-  

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