The Law: A Powerful Ally to Make Trade Fair ROME, 20 February 2013 - Trade can be an important contributor to sustainable development, but innovative legal solutions are needed to ensure that the world’s poorest have fair access to its benefits, says Irene Khan, Director-General of the International Development Law Organization (IDLO). The statement comes as representatives from governments, international organizations, civil society groups and experts gather in Rome under IDLO’s auspices for a two-day roundtable on “Sustainable Economic Development, Fair Trade and the Law”.
Fair trade has grown into a significant market, worth some US$ 6 billion in 2010 and allowing local communities in developing countries and Small and Medium Enterprises worldwide to participate in the global economy while supporting social development and environmental protection. The positive trend in fair trade sales is confirmed even at times of global economic crisis, as witnessed by a recent report by Fairtrade International.
However, most communities - especially those in remote locations – face serious barriers in accessing fair trade markets. These barriers are often rooted in governance systems and include, for example, restrictive regulation of export licenses, lack of legal services to register cooperatives and small business, weak enforcement of social and environmental standards, and difficult access to credit.
“The law can be an obstacle, but it can also have a crucial role in creating an even more just, equitable and accessible trading system, one that supports and facilitates fair trade for the development benefits it can provide,” Khan says. “We believe that context-specific, multi-faceted legal provisions, borne out of consultative processes with producer communities, can be of great help in promoting access to fair trade markets.” An IDLO program helped two indigenous communities - Rumicorral and Ambrosio Lasso - in Ecuador’s mountainous Chimborazo region. The program exemplifies how awareness of constitutional rights and access to legal services and training can contribute to lift communities out of poverty through access to fair trade markets.
“These two communities had poverty ratings well above the national average and, because of their remote location, they were not able to sell their produce directly, being at the mercy of middlemen,” Khan explains.
Through a participatory process, community members identified their own needs, including training on how to form cooperatives and micro-credit associations, which will make them stronger vis-à-vis trade intermediaries, and help them access new markets.
“Indigenous communities are often excluded from development projects with trans-generational discrimination promoting economic disparity,” says Rodrigo Naranjo Guamán, a local indigenous lawyer who was part of the IDLO team.
“The first phase of the program has given these two communities the hope that they can finally be heard, have their needs taken into account and that they can play an active role in shaping a better future and enter the fair trade market, creating new economic opportunities for young people in the community.”
Notes to editors
The International Development Law Organization (IDLO) enables governments and empowers people to reform laws and strengthen institutions to promote peace, justice, sustainable development and economic opportunity. IDLO works along the spectrum from nation and peacebuilding to economic recovery in countries emerging from conflict or striving towards democracy. It supports emerging economies and middle-income countries to strengthen their legal capacity and rule of law framework for sustainable development and economic opportunity.
The program in Ecuador was carried out over the past two years by IDLO in collaboration with Ecuador, IFAD and others, with funding from the Italian Government.
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