To mark World Food Day (October 16) and the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (October 17), Molly Harriss Olson, CEO of Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand explores the role of Fairtrade in achieving food security and ending hunger.
We are capable of remarkable things when we put our minds to it.
We sent people to the moon 46 years ago; and since that time: we have pictures back from Mars, Jupiter and Saturn; we’ve landed on an asteroid; flown past comets; and studied space from six different space stations. But for many putting an end to man made poverty and hunger right here on our own planet is still seen as a distant dream.
Ending hunger, or achieving food security for all of humanity is not impossible. Globally, one in nine people in the world today are undernourished. Despite our rapidly growing population, this figure is 216 million people less than in 1990-1992[i]. Unsurprisingly, the majority of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries. While impressive gains have been made in overcoming this problem, we are still living in a world where hunger kills more people each year than malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis combined.
We know we can solve this.
With targets from the Millennium Development Goals to drive us; global hunger declined by almost half between 1990 and 2015.[ii] More than just statistics, these figures represent real people, often infants and children who were quite literally given a new lease on life thanks to the commitment of stakeholders around the world who tirelessly worked to meet the targets outlined through the Millennium Development Goals.
We have enough.
Food security is a basic human right. Our challenge is living in a world where on one side we have massive overconsumption (13% of adults were considered to be obese in 2014[iii]) and on the other side we are fighting to end abject poverty. Perhaps this is our real life hunger games. But for Fairtrade getting this right is far from a game.
To succeed in achieving food security and eradicating hunger we must put an end to a global trading system which places profits above human rights. Fairtrade farmers and workers are already riding the escalator up to a brighter future and to a more powerful seat at the trading table – but there is still much work to do to elevate the remainder of the world’s farmers to this position.
We can use trade to empower rather than enslave.
Think that slavery is rare in our modern world? Think again. Today our own Asia Pacific region is home to two thirds of people globally trapped in modern-day slavery[i]. From children and adults who are trapped in jobs they were deceived into – to victims of trafficking – modern-day slavery has many faces. This is not fair or sustainable commerce on any level.
Backed by strict Standards covering topics such as forced and child labour, the Fairtrade system is working hard to stamp out coercion and exploitation and put an end to modern slavery. Fairtrade enables marginalised producers and workers to participate in the global economy in ways that makes them masters of their own destiny. It is a system that ensures farmers and workers receive both a fair price and a sustainable livelihood. We do this with a ‘Minimum Price’ for livelihood insurance, a ‘Premium’ for social development, and by ensuring strict social, economic and environmental ‘Standards’ are met the whole way along the supply chain.
The 1.6 million farmers and workers in the Fairtrade System are not just empowered by it - they own it. In 2015 the global retail sales for Fairtrade goods sold world-wide was over AUD$10.3 billion. Thanks to Fairtrade we now know sustainable commerce when we see it.
We can end hunger in our lifetime.
When it comes to fighting hunger, the Millennium Development Goals helped propel us from the starting blocks, but now it’s up to the new Sustainable Development Goals to take us to the finish line. These vital global goals, unanimously adopted by all 193 members of the United Nations in September 2015, commit to achieving a range of important but ambitious targets which are categorised under 17 different goals. While Fairtrade’s cross-cutting work intersects with each goal in some way, the Sustainable Development Goals and Fairtrade: the case for partnership report highlights seven specific goals which we believe could be advanced through a fairer system of global trade.
Ending hunger and creating food security are important and complex goals, ones which can not be accomplished alone, or even by a few, so partnerships will be a vital factor. Fairtrade’s success over the past 29 years has taught us the necessity of partnerships where all stakeholders are committed to playing fair and upholding the Fairtrade Standards at all steps along the supply chain. From farmers, workers and traders in countries of origin to corporate partners and retailers across Australia and New Zealand, it takes a strong values driven team to help stamp out hunger and exploitation and provide food security.
We will end hunger, and the global trading games that go with it; when all global trade is fair trade.