Before we can talk about integrating a Rights-Based Approach to Fair Trade, we need to be familiar with Human Rights. To begin:
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Note: The posters in this document can be found on: http://www.reallygoodfriend.com/index.php?category=18
The point of these exercises is to prove that rights are not some abstract idea in a distant UN document far from reality. Quite the contrary! These documents are tangible; these conventions form the foundation of the rights we enjoy on a day-to-day basis! The CRC has been translated into 58 languages and are available from UNICEF at their child-friendly page: http://www.unicef.org/magic/briefing/uncorc.html, so if you have trade partners whose first language is not English, download a copy and take the extra step to print it out on a poster size paper, laminate it, and mail it to them! What a terrific way to let them know you support and care for their children!
What about Cultural Rights and Fair Trade?
The Global Fair Trade movement respects and celebrates cultural diversity! As a matter of fact, it should be noted in the latest revision of the Fair Trade Principles (for a pdf copy go to: "Our Values, Our Shared Principles") the WFTO added to Principle 3: Trading Practices
Not surprisingly, the foundation of this statement can be found in another UN Convention protecting social and cultural rights. In addition to the UDHR, the United Nations has established nine core international human rights treaties, eight of which are directly related to Fair Trade:
- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD),1965
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), 1966
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), 1979
- Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment(CAT), 1984
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), 1989
- International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICRMW), 1990
What about Labour Rights?
When it comes to labour rights, there is the International Labour Organization (ILO) which is "the only tripartite U.N. agency with government, employer, and worker representatives. This tripartite structure makes the ILO a unique forum in which the governments and the social partners of the economy of its 183 Member States can freely and openly debate and elaborate labour standards and policies." (http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/who-we-are/lang--en/index.htm)
Created on the heels of World War I, it was founded on the belief that "universal and lasting peace can be accomplished only if it is based on social justice... The driving forces for ILO's creation arose from security, humanitarian, political and economic considerations."
The ILO has passed multiple Conventions and Recommendations which establish the international labour standards relevant to Fair Trade today. Conventions, are legally binding international treaties that may be ratified by member states. Recommendations serve as non-binding guidelines. In many cases, a convention lays down the basic principles to be implemented by ratifying countries, while a related recommendation supplements the convention by providing more detailed guidelines on how it could be applied.
As it stands, one of the ten Fair Trade Principles mentions the ILO, Principle 8: Ensuring Good Working Conditions:
"The organization provides a safe and healthy working environment for employees and / or members. It complies, at a minimum, with national and local laws and ILO conventions on health and safety."
However, ILO conventions can be applied to many of the Fair Trade Principles. By overlapping the UN Declarations with the ILO Conventions and Recommendations we have established the framework for a Rights-Based Approach to Fair Trade.
It is time to Integrate a Rights-Based Approach to Fair Trade!!!
Sadly, the most glaring absence of reference to a UN Human Rights document is in Principle 6: Commitment to Non-Discrimination, Gender Equity, and Freedom of Association. Nowhere in this principle is there a reference to the most obvious Human Rights document, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), 1979. Not only that, CEDAW is the only UN Convention to define Discrimination:
"‘Discrimination against women’ shall mean any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.” – United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Article 1
There is so much to say about this UN Convention and how the system works, I am saving it for the next blog post! My point here is that by integrating human rights into our shared principles, we will strengthen our ability to tackle poverty through trade. As I mentioned before, a Rights-Based Approach recognizes poverty as injustice and includes marginalization, discrimination, and exploitation as the central causes of poverty.
This brings us back to Dr. Mike Thair's point - that the powers that be, whether they are political, social, or corporate oppressors, will beat you down and put you in line if you don't comply with the status quo. If a picture speaks a thousand words, here is my articulated response:
|Mahatma Gandhi, 1869 - 1948|
|Dorothy Day, 1897 - 1980|
|Martin Luther King, Jr, 1929 - 1968|
|Dalai Lama, 1935 - present|
My point here is that six of the ten principles are directly related to human and labour rights. In order for Fair Trade to be sustainable into the future, do as Mother Jones succinctly stated: "Sit down and read. Educate yourself for the coming conflicts." To this end, I have created a framework to reference for Fair Trade activists, advocates, producers, researchers and supporters to integrate a Rights-Based Approach to Fair Trade:
For those who prefer reading black on white, here is the downloadable version of this post on pdf: