Our general assembly and board
The international Fairtrade system is governed by the General Assembly and the Board of Directors.
Members of the international Fairtrade system meet once a year at the General Assembly. This assemblycombines 50 percent producer representation with 50 percent national Fairtrade organization representation, and decides on membership issues, approves the annual accounts, and ratifies new Board members.
There are also annual assemblies for each national Fairtrade organization and the producer networks.
The Board of the international Fairtrade system is elected by the General Assembly and includes:
Fairtrade International board
Lynette Thorstensen (Independent), Board Chair
Lynette Thorstensen was elected Board Chair in December 2020. A New Zealander living and working in France, she has devoted the whole of her career to social and environmental justice. Lynette has held senior executive positions in international sustainable development for more than 30 years. Her previous roles include as Chief Executive of Greenpeace Australia, as Executive Director, Social Development and Environment with the New South Wales Premiers’ Department in Sydney, Australia, as Managing Director of Communications with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development -WBCSD in Geneva, Switzerland and as Consultant Director of Communications with the Global Green Growth Forum -3GF- housed within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Lynette has also worked as a consultant advising on multi-sectoral,
multi-disciplinary partnerships with the overall goal of moving forward
the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Lynette was the
founding Chair of Australians for Native Title, a Board member of
Greenpeace Australia Pacific, and a founding Board Director of the
Sydney Community Foundation.
Ian Bretman (NFO representative), Vice-Chair
Ian Bretman has played a central role in the development of the
Fairtrade system for 20 years. From 1997 to 2008 Ian was Deputy CEO at
the UK’s Fairtrade Foundation, leading work on mainstreaming Fairtrade
products in the British market. From 2008 to 2012 he worked as Executive
Vice-Chair of Fairtrade International, responsible for strategic
planning, stakeholder relations and governance, in which capacity he led
work on making the Regional Producer Networks co-owners of the
Fairtrade system alongside the market-based members.Ian’s connections
with the wider Fair Trade movement date back to 1985 when he joined
Oxfam GB’s trading division, working with handcraft producers as well as
small farmers. Overall, Ian’s professional career extends over 40 years
and includes work with travel, oil, engineering and publishing
businesses as well as senior management roles in the voluntary sector.
In recent years Ian has combined consultancy work (including several
Fairtrade-related assignments) with a small portfolio of non-executive
Frank Harnischfeger (Independent), Treasurer
Frank Harnischfeger joined the board in October 2020.
He is currently the Chief Operating and Chief Financial Officer of the
Forest Stewardship Council, the world’s most trusted forest
certification. He oversees the organization’s operations in 90
countries, the global Policy Development, Markets & Communications,
Technology & Innovation as well as the management functions Finance,
Human Resources, Legal & Information Technology. Frank is also a
member of the Board of the ISEAL Alliance and the Independent Oversight
Advisory Committee (IOAC) of the International Labor Organization in
Prior to his current roles Frank
was a Director at the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC where
he was accountable for the operations, technology and infrastructure of
the institution with its more than 100 locations globally. In this
context he joined the United Nations’ High Level Committee on Management
(HLCM) for nearly a decade. Before that he held a variety of senior
positions in the private sector in supply chain, finance, technology and
Bill Barrett (NFO representative)
An advocate for Fair Trade for more than three decades, in 1997 Bill formed a Fairtrade coffee roasting worker cooperative in Canada, which became a founding licensee of Fairtrade Canada. He has been in governance leadership positions in a variety of coops, NGOs, businesses and a labour union.
Bill has worked directly with producer coops around the world on different projects. He is also a photographer and an independent documentary film maker. He has been on the board of Fairtrade Canada since 2016.
Kouame N’dri Benjamin-Francklin (Producer Representative)
Kouame N’dri Benjamin-Francklin has been a cocoa producer in Côte d'Ivoire for 20 years. He has a business background and has worked in several companies before becoming a cocoa producer. He is the president of the agricultural cooperative ECAM based in Yamoussoukro. He was the president of the Union of Agricultural Cooperatives of the Lakes Region (UCALACS) in Côte d’Ivoire and was a member of the Côte d’Ivoire coffee and cocoa sector reform committee. He was the secretary general of the National Association of Cocoa Coffee Producers of Côte d’Ivoire, a member of the board of directors of the Interprofessional Fund for Research and Agricultural Council (FIRCA) of Côte d'Ivoire and responsible for the economic and financial commission of the said organization. He was a member of the technical secretariat of the steering committee for the establishment of the college of coffee and cocoa producers in Côte d’Ivoire. In addition, he was secretary general of the board of directors of the Federation of Organizations of Cocoa Coffee Producers of Côte d’Ivoire (FOP.CC). He is the elected delegate of the Fairtrade Africa producers for Côte d’Ivoire and of the West Africa Network (WAN), a member of the board of directors of Fairtrade Africa, and of the Fairtrade Africa Markets Steering Committee.
Uwe Hölzer (Independent)
Uwe Hölzer has a 25 year track record at executive level in the Food- Retail Industries. After graduating from University of Cologne (Diploma in Business and Marketing Management) in 1991 he started his business career in Germany, first with REWE Group and then in 1992 as CEO ALDI Discount Ltd. in Eastern Germany. In 1999 he joined Metro Group as the CEO of Schaper Ltd. and 2 years later he signed as responsible for Real Ltd., the Retail branch of the Group.
His first international assignment brought him and his family to Vietnam in 2006, in charge for Metro Cash & Carry. Here he first confronted the poor living conditions of the farmers and fishermen, and together with his team and NGOs began working on improving their situations. It was a very valuable and educational time for Uwe and extremely helpful for his later assignments as CEO Metro China and Iran. He left Metro Group in 2016, is the founder of a retail tech-start-up and supports sustainable young food companies as an advisor and investor.
Miguel Ángel Munguía Gil (Producer representative)
Miguel Ángel Munguía is CEO of EDUCE SC, a beekeeping cooperative in Yucatán, Mexico. He studied Economics and has a master's degree in rural development. For almost 30 years he has worked in favor of small beekeepers contributing to organizational processes aiming to more direct sales of honey (reducing middlemen). Today, EDUCE has more than a thousand associated producers in the three States of the Yucatan Peninsula, and is both Fairtrade and Organic certified.
Miguel Ángel has been an important promoter of small producers. In 1996 he founded, in partnership with other colleagues, the Latin American Network of Small Beekeepers (PAUAL in Spanish) linked to fair trade. He feels that the spaces created within PAUAL for exchange and training greatly strengthened all the cooperatives. In 2004, together PAUAL and CLA, a coffee network, decided to create CLAC (the Latin America and Caribbean Fair Trade Network of Small Producers and Workers). Miguel Ángel has been a member of the board of CLAC for two periods. He has been a member of the Board of Max Havelaar France as well. He is the founder, together with other activists, of the MAOGM Movement to defend biodiversity, agroecology and the Mayan territory against the threat of Monsanto introducing transgenic soy and pesticides to the Yucatan Peninsula.
Merling Preza Ramos (Producer representative)
Merling Preza Ramos is a Nicaraguan smallholder coffee producer and CEO of PRODECOOP, R.L. Since 1989, she has collaborated with Nicaraguan producing cooperatives in institutional strengthening, funding, training, technical assistance, and commercialization. Since 1993, Merling has accompanied coffee producing cooperatives in their commercialization and positioning in the international market, by targeting the specialties market and defining internal and external strategies. The different representation positions she has held have mainly focused on establishing and defending organized smallholder producers’ interests and adding value to organizations and institutions, especially in Fair Trade.
Merling has served as former Board Chair of CAFENICA, Vice-president of CONACOOP/Nicaragua, Board Member of FENIAGRO, President of the Nicaraguan Fair Trade Coordinator, former Board Chair of CLAC and current Vice-president of CLAC, former President of RED CAFÉ Coordinator/CLAC, former Board Chair of Cooperativa Sin Fronteras, Board Member of CSF, former Guardian President of TWIN/England, former Fairtrade Foundation Board Member/England, former Board Member of OCIA INTERNACIONAL/USA, and Fair Trade America Board Member. She has Bachelor in Business Administration, with an International Marketing specialization.
Gnanasekaran Rajaratnam (Producer representative)
Gnanasekaran Rajaratnam has several decades of experiences in the sugar and tea industry, including working for 28 years at the Organic Tea and Social Development Project supporting Plantation and Small Farmers Organizations, currently as Senior Executive.
He has also held several honorary positions in many organizations.
Those include including being the Chairman of the Fairtrade Producers of
Sri Lanka, National Network of Fairtrade FPASL, being an adviser to the
Lankananada Educational Trust of Sri Lanka, and being a member of the
Bio Dynamic Farming Association of India.
Christian Varga (NFO representative)
Christian Varga is founder of and executive advisor at ImpactLinx.com, a consultancy company specialised in developing risk-resilient strategies, in designing and implementing organizational change processes as well as agile monitoring solutions. Christian is an international cooperation and organizational development professional with 15 years of experience in strengthening and leading organizations and international networks. Before starting his own company, Christian held various senior management roles in the development cooperation and humanitarian aid sector, at HQ level as well as at the operational field level. In 2005-2006 he worked in Pakistan leading the humanitarian response of a major NGO to the devastating earthquake in the North of the country.
Before his time in the development and humanitarian sector Christian worked as a journalist and editor for the Swiss News Agency and a regional newspaper. Since 2016 he has served on the board of directors of the Max Havelaar Foundation, Switzerland’s Fairtrade organization. Christian holds a master’s degree in social anthropology and political sciences from the University of Berne, is an alumnus of the Saïd Business School Oxford and studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.