A Warm Welcome to Wales for the International Fair Trade Towns Conference

June 6, 2019

A Warm Welcome to Wales for the International Fair Trade Towns Conference.

Committed campaigners across Wales worked together over a decade ago to realise the vision of Wales becoming a Fair Trade Nation. On the 6th June 2008, Wales was declared the world’s first Fair Trade Nation. Today marks eleven years of communities in Wales promoting fairer terms of trade for farmers and workers across the world.

But in the early days, not many seemed to be paying attention to the remarkable success of this grassroots campaign. A campaign that engaged business, schools, faith institutions, unions, local and national government and everyone in between with a shared vision of ensuring a fair price for farmers thousands of miles away. Wales and Scotland campaigned together, with Scotland’s status granted in 2012.

Northern Ireland has since been declared a Fair Trade Nation too. Today, other nations across Europe and the world are reaching for the same title. These titles are given based on a list of criteria, including governmental support for Fair Trade and a certain percentage of towns being active in promoting Fair Trade.

From humble beginnings, Fair Trade Towns is now a global movement, with over two thousand towns in over thirty four countries. There are over forty Fair Trade Towns in Wales, from Abergavenny to Bangor, Chepstow to Wrexham. Every year, representatives of this global movement gather in different countries for the International Fair Trade Towns Conference.

The annual event started in London in 2007. My first time in the conference was in Poznan, Poland in 2012. Representatives of the movement in Wales have joined conferences in Bristol, Brussels, Lebanon, Lyon, Oslo, Malmo, Saarbrucken, and most recently Madrid.

I’ve been lucky to attend many of these conferences over the years, and they’ve all been very special. They are weekends where representatives from over thirty nations that are active in promoting Fair Trade, gather with Fair Trade producers from Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Do I have a favourite conference?

Difficult to choose, but i think I’d have to say Baskinta. Lebanon is roughly the size of Wales, with 1.5m refugees from neighbouring Palestine and Syria making up the population of around 4m. The people are welcoming, the landscape breathtaking and their produce mouthwatering.

The hospitality is astounding and visiting Fair Trade farmers that are selling in local and international markets was inspiring. It’s sometimes hard to imagine that our shopping choices really can make a difference. But, together, the way we spend our money and the collective action of campaigners results in astounding positive impact in the lives of producers and their communities.

I have over the years, through the story of our Fair Trade Nation journey, introduced Wales to the world. It’s amazing to know that people in all parts of the world are aware of our quest to show solidarity to farmers and their communities, wherever they may be.

I look forward to October, when the International Fair Trade Towns Conference will be hosted in Cardiff. The first time that the conference will visit Wales, and with it, representatives of the global movement.

It will be an opportunity to extend a ‘croeso cynnes’ to the Fair Trade Towns Movement, to bring people together, showcase Wales as the world’s first Fair Trade Nation and inspire other nations to join us. To bring the world to Wales. We hope you will join us.