Strengthening Global Alliances: Welcoming the CAN

Raúl del Águila, president of CLAC; Binod Mohan, Chairman of the Board of NAP; and Abaine Yorokamu, Chairman of the Board of the AFN

Merlin Preza, Vice President of CLAC

Members of the AFN work toward agreement.

Aruna Anand, Chief Executive Officer of NAP

16 September 2010

In the Fairtrade system, strong producer organizations are key to delivering a better deal to the more than 1.2 million Fairtrade certified farmers and workers around the globe.

On Wednesday, 15 September, history was made as the three Fairtrade Producer Networks representing Africa, Asia and Latin America signed the first-ever Memorandum of Understanding to formally establish the CAN (CLAC-AFN-NAP), an intercontinental body to encourage collaboration among the networks.

At turns contentious, collaborative and passionate, the CAN event was representative of the diverse opinions and cultures that make up the Fairtrade system. Under the steady murmur of the interpreter, leaders from around the world forged greater understanding of each other’s respective organizations and goals for future.

“It is very important to share and to discuss problems and how we can create a more just and equitable system and how we can advance together,” said  Merlin Preza, Vice President of CLAC and General Manager of PRODECOOP, a coffee cooperative in Nicaragua.

“As a first step, we have to come together as networks to determine what is important to us and how we can improve the role of everyone in the chain of production. And for the other part our job was to share our worries and try to work together.”

The meeting was initiated by the Coordinator of Fairtrade Small Producers in Latin America and the Caribbean (CLAC), the African Fairtrade Network (AFN) and the Network of Asian Producers (NAP) and included over 44 representatives of the producer networks.

Management and staff from FLO and FLO-CERT also participated in the meetings to gather feedback that will be implemented in areas like governance, global product management, new standards framework and producer services. Throughout the day, tense discussions were broken by bouts of laughter.

“It’s important to hear the issues and concerns and different opinions, and this is what happens in a family,” said Tuulia Syvänen, Chief Operating Officer of FLO at the close of the meeting. “But in these working groups we identify concrete ways to move forward and continue strengthening Fairtrade.”

With just two months as Chief Executive Officer at NAP, Aruna Anand, came to the meeting with a clear vision eager to contribute.

“We as CAN are diverse in many ways, but we all have one voice – that is to take the Fairtrade movement ahead. This was an excellent forum for exchanging best practices, concerns and to build on common issues.”

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