Why Fairtrade can help CHOGM leaders build a true common wealth

Perise Mulifusi, Secretary of Savai'i Coconut Farmers Association, showing a coconut.
Increasing trade between Commonwealth nations can lead to shared prosperity – but only if five key issues are prioritised.

This is the message from Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand as leaders from 53 nations gather in London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

CHOGM leaders represent 2.4 billion people – a third of the global population – including some of the world’s fastest growing economies. 

Fairtrade has issued an open letter to these leaders, including Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, which calls on Commonwealth nations to prioritise five issues:

• Support women’s economic empowerment, including measures to promote women’s leadership, access to finance and asset ownership
• Commit to living incomes and living wages across the Commonwealth
• Combat modern slavery across the Commonwealth, including legislation where appropriate
• Develop trade policies guided by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
• Invest in producers and provide incentives for businesses who are actively seeking to achieve higher ethical and sustainable standards, including Fairtrade. 

"Trade between Commonwealth countries is expected to surpass $16 billion by 2020 – but increased trade and growth does not necessarily lead to shared prosperity,” says Molly Harriss Olson, Chief Executive Officer of Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand.

“Too many people in the Commonwealth are paid exploitatively-low wages, and modern slavery and child labour remain the reality in many supply chains, from food to fashion.

“The theme of CHOGM’s summit this year, ‘towards a common future’ underscores prosperity, fairness, sustainability and security. A new agenda – one built on fairness and shared value – can support the Commonwealth’s vision.”

Fairtrade is active in 29 Commonwealth countries and supports more than 1.6 million smallholder farmers and agricultural workers. Some of the world’s largest consumer markets for Fairtrade are also Commonwealth nations, including the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

“Fairtrade is making a real difference in the lives of some of the world’s most marginalised people, but much more remains to be done,” Ms Harriss Olson adds.

“By unlocking the power of trade, the Commonwealth can end poverty and human rights abuses, address structural inequalities, and realise the true meaning of a ‘common wealth’.”

Read Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand and Fairtrade Foundation's Five-point plan for prosperity, sustainability and fairness.