Our general assembly and board

The international Fairtrade system is governed by the General Assembly and the Board of Directors.

25080 General Assembly Voting 870
Representatives voting at Fairtrade's general assembly, where producers have 50 percent of the vote.
Image © Javier Luna

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:

  • four board members nominated by the three producer networks

  • four board members nominated by the national Fairtrade organizations

  • three independent board members

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

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 positions.

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 Geneva.

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 consulting.

Bill Barrett (NFO representative)

Bill Barrett

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

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 Gil

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

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

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.

Wambui Chege (Independent)

With over 25 years’ experience, Wambui Chege is a seasoned advisory services professional with experience in international and private sector development in Sub-Saharan Africa, the US and Asia. An experienced Board Director, Wambui is currently the Independent Chair of Making Finance Work for Africa, an independent initiative hosted by the African Development Bank, focused on the development of African financial sectors.

Wambui has been involved in the Fairtrade network since 2016 when she joined Fairtrade Africa as an independent Board member. She served as chair of the governance committee and the technical advisory committee, responsible for implementing far-reaching reforms across Africa.

Now an independent consultant focused on agribusiness and financial inclusion, Wambui was previously director of agribusiness at KPMG East Africa, 2014-2019. Prior to that, she was head of sustainable agribusiness advisory, Sub-Saharan Africa, at the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank. She has also worked as a commodities and financial markets correspondent with Reuters in Africa.

Wambui has a Master’s in international Affairs from the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University in the City of New York and a Bachelor of Commerce from Kenyatta University, Kenya. She is the founder of Kara Sidai Botanicals, a beauty company, based in Kenya and serves on the pan-African Board of the Africa Venture Philanthropy Association.