Taking Steps Toward Global Change at UN Conference in Bonn

07 September 2011

More than 1,500 people – grassroots representatives from over 100 countries – gathered in Bonn, Germany, September 3-5 for the United Nations’ Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organization Annual Conference. The conference revolved around the theme of "Sustainable Societies, Responsive Citizens."

The participants, representing 600 different NGOs, shared best practices, displayed their efforts in an exhibition hall, and forged documents that will be integrated into next year's Rio+20, the UN Conference on Environment and Development.

Fairtrade International brought the perspective of farmers and workers in developing countries to the discussion table. Interim Head of Communications Jennifer Stapper coordinated media efforts at the conference and other Fairtrade staff volunteered.

Gelkha Buitrago, Policy Manager at Fairtrade International, organized a workshop on Fairtrade’s efforts on gender equality highlighting the efforts of a Congolese coffee cooperative in and the important role of women in that organization.

Student journalists attending the conference also produced stories on conference presentations, "A well kept secret, fair trade is going global," and "Sustainable below the belt," a profile of Pants to Poverty, a creative that sells undergarments ethically produced with Fairtrade cotton.

The entire conference highlighted how impact begins with interested individuals. Bruce Crowther, Founder of the Fair Trade Towns movement, presented a recipe for change in his presentation on the innovative movement that is changing the buying habits of entire communities.

“When we talk about sustainable development, we have to take people into consideration,” said  Crowther, also Founder of Garstan Oxfam Group. “Real change happens when ordinary people light that first spark and it spreads and burns throughout.”

Fairtrade played a large role at the conference as just one effort for bringing the attention of the world to the plight of farmers and workers and contributed to the final declaration that will be presented to the UN General Assembly.

“With any change we hope to make in the world, sustainable livelihoods need to be considered first,” said Jennifer Stapper. “Fairtrade helps ensure a sustainable livelihood. If farmers and workers can take care of their families, they can then focus on their local environment and continue pushing for greater sustainability.”

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