RECAP: International Fair Trade Towns Conference

Courtney Lang September 15, 2015

This past July, 5 delegates from the US went to Bristol, UK to attend the 9th Annual International Fair Trade Towns Conference. They were part of 240 delegates representing 20 countries around the world. This year the goal was connecting Sustainability and Fair Trade. Here are some of their key takeaways.

What did you learn about the Sustainable Development Goals?

Conference attendees could sign a resolution supporting the Sustainable Development Goals.

Conference attendees could sign a resolution supporting the Sustainable Development Goals. Photo courtesy of Jon Craig.

In 2015 the United Nations is transitioning from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). According to speakers from the UK’s Fairtrade Foundation, the weakness of the MDGs was that they neither reached the poorest nor addressed Sustainability issues. The idea of replacing the MDGs with Sustainable Development Goals emerged out of the Rio+20 Conference in mid-2012. The SDGs are due to be agreed on at the UN in September as a framework for international development cooperation for the period 2016-2030.

The SDGs will be universal and every UN member state will be expected to have a practical application. Some of the goals that align with Fair Trade are focused on:

  • Ending hunger and achieving food security
  • Promoting full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • Ensuring sustainable consumption and production
  • Revitalizing the global partnership for sustainable development

 – Paul Renshaw – Mankato, MN

What did you learn about Networking?

This was my first time attending an international conference and was excited to hear the stories of other campaigns from around the world. There was lots of opportunities to network with campaigns and what I found was that I came away with useful tools to apply to my own work.

Networking provided us the opportunity to share knowledge and advice. Though we call came from different cultures and backgrounds, we found that we all had faced similar challenges at some time in our work. If one group had successfully overcome that obstacle, they shared their methods and techniques. Groups could then apply that knowledge to their own circumstances. Having this knowledge then increased our confidence in ourselves. Talking to others who have and are doing the same work develops a sense of camaraderie. Knowing that someone else had overcome the same challenge gives you the confidence that you can be successful as well. It also provided us a chance to share fresh ideas and new information to inspire and motivate us to keep working.

It’s so important to remember that you’re not doing this alone, and that collaborating with someone who has the same goal helps you share the burden of the work.

– Emily Zacharczyk – Media, PA

What did you learn about Fair Trade Towns in the Global South?


Mariana (holding microphone) speaking during a workshop session focusing on Fair Trade Towns in the Global South. Photo courtesy of Jon Craig.

As I prepare to move to Argentina after 14 years living in the United States and four years volunteering for the Fair Trade movement, it was exciting to hear of the official launching of the Fair Trade Towns Campaigns in Latin America.

Members of CLAC, The Latin American Coordinator of Small Fair Trade Producers, and members of Fairtrade International explained that the concept of Fair Trade towns and cities is fairly new and has a different meaning across a continent in which the producers actually live and work. They suggest to approach the campaigns with an open mind, making sure the producers are the protagonists, along with local authorities and citizens who should be involved in the process.

– Mariana Sears – Media, PA


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Courtney Lang, National Organizer | Fair Trade Campaigns

Courtney Lang brings over 5 years of community organizing to Fair Trade Towns USA, building both the Local Food and Fair Trade networks in Vermont. As Local Food Coordinator with City Market/Onion River Cooperative, Courtney worked with local producers, institutions and consumers to grow the local food system and organize a strategic model for community engagement through farm tours, workshops, and local food challenges. Like many in the Fair Trade industry, Courtney was inspired to take action in Fair Trade when she witnessed child-labor first hand in Costa Rica. As a founding member of Fair Trade Burlington, she has worked with economic development organizations, businesses, and consumers to build awareness of Fair Trade among Vermonters. She also worked with a Fair Trade USA licensee, Vermont Coffee Company, as Friend Ambassador where she united the story of Fair Trade to every purchase of coffee.