BAD2013smlogoHappy Blog Action Day! Today bloggers around the world unite to blog about human rights. (Cool, huh?) So today I’m exploring the connection between Fair Trade and human rights, and how you can support economic justice for all.

First, to set the stage…here’s a widely recognized definition of Fair Trade enumerated in the FINE Principles:

“Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South.”


Sounds great to me, but why can’t we just call it trade? Shouldn’t those variables be the jumping off point, not the end goal? I’ll answer my own question with a resounding yes, they should, but they’re not.

Sweatshop workersHere’s what’s really happening in trade today; Child and forced labor and child trafficking in cocoa fields where our chocolate comes from, and a global market economy plagued by sweatshops, human rights violations and environmental degradation.

Hence the need for equitable and fair partnership guidelines between producers, marketers of products and consumers. Hence the need for Fair Trade.

Fair Trade offers solutions to some of the worst forms of human rights abuses in trade today. Abuses that defy basic human rights as outlined in the United Nation’s  Universal Declaration of Human Rights, such as:

  • No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms
  • Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work
  • Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work
  • Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests
  • Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services
  • Everyone has the right to education

 So a vote for economic justice via Fair Trade is a vote for basic human rights.

Take-ActionTAKE ACTION! Here are some actions you can take to explore this topic more and take action:


BAD2013smlogoToday is Blog Action Day, the unifying global day of online action when bloggers around the world write about one topic. This year it’s “human rights.”

The United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights Preamble begins,  “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

Without human rights, there can be no peace. So this Blog Action Day, Global Exchange Director of Organizing Kirsten Moller explores why young people are so important to creating a peaceful world.

Children and adult activists at the Healing Walk in Alberta, Canada, July 2013 Photo Credit: Global Exchange

Children and adult activists at the Healing Walk in Alberta, Canada, July 2013 Photo Credit: Global Exchange

Why are Young People So Important to Creating a Peaceful World? 

Early this summer I spoke to a “20- something” who told me that she couldn’t understand how in the world we used to organize before computers… I laughed and showed her the printing and phone expenses in the budget that were double what they are now and even talked about rubber cement, clip art and the t-squares we used to use to lay out flyers. Everything seemed so much slower but there was so much promise that we could activate to bring peace and justice to this world.

Cliché has it may sound, each older generation inevitably points out, “Ok, look at how we messed up the world, now it’s your turn to make it better” and the younger generation rolls their eyes at how naïve and self righteous the previous generation is — whether it be the “Baby Boomers” or the “Peace and Love” generation of the Viet Nam era.

Global Exchange Reality Tour to Guatemala March 2011 Photo Credit: Global Exchange

Global Exchange Reality Tour to Guatemala, March 2011 Photo Credit: Global Exchange

But here now, I see the tremendous potential of new technology to connect young people from around the world in order to cement those people-to-people ties that are at the root of desire to protect human rights, preserve peace and learn about each other.

We’ve never had greater opportunity to learn about each other — to spend time exploring particularities of different cultures and to care about what is possible. Global Exchange is built on the premise that if we know each other — if we break bread together, share our stories, envision the world we want to live in together and work together across borders we can create peace and preserve human rights around the world.

What About Peace Grand Prize WinnerOur “What About Peace?”contest asks the question of 14 – 20 year olds and challenges them to answer using their creativity in writing poetry, prose, or painting a picture, taking a photo or making a drawing or graphic. We’ve been so inspired by the vision and beauty of the contest answers that pour in every year from all around the world. Poetry from Zambia, a photograph from the Ukraine, a short story from Pakistan and our first prize winner a Manga style drawing in colored pencil from upstate New York.

Young people are particularly important to guaranteeing peace and human rights because of the intensity and energy they bring to the vision of a world where peace is possible. Some look to find peace from within, some mourn the violence and intolerance in their communities and the world and pledge to take action, others are disaffected from the political process and want to build the new society now where they live.

Peace-is-Possible-photoBut it is heartening to see how many young people wear a peace sign t-shirt (or tattoo!) proudly front and center and who fervently work to create a new world with tolerance and respect, free from violence, racism and want.

With the What About Peace? contest we seek to develop and recognize that deep sense of compassion that is at the core of international human rights, being able to feel deeply about injustice against anyone, anywhere in the world – trusting in the power of people and especially young people to be actively involved in shaping the policies of governments  that claim to represent them.


We can all benefit from seeing their answers to that question.

Today is Blog Action Day, and Global Exchange is a proud Partner. Blog Action Day is an event that happens each year when bloggers from around the world blog about the same issue to raise awareness and hopefully generate a global discussion around that issue.

This Blog Action Day the issue is food, (today is also World Food Day) and to mark the occasion we share with you an interview about food justice with Anuradha Mittal, which is an excerpt from the book Rights of Nature: Making a Case for the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

Anuradha Mittal is an internationally renowned expert on trade, development, agriculture and human rights. Born in India, her work has always focused on elevating the voices of small farmers particularly in the global South. She lives in California, where she directs the Oakland Institute and with her partner, raises their daughter, Soleil. Interviewing Anuradha is Global Exchange Rights Based Campaigner Shannon Biggs.

Shannon Biggs and Anuradha Mittal

Shannon Biggs and Anuradha Mittal

Interview with Anuradha Mittal:
Food Justice: The Nature of Farming and Farming with Nature

GX: How do industrial agriculture practices such as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), pesticides, mono cropping trade regimes, etc. impact nature?

Anuradha: The idea of industrial agriculture is based on working against nature, rather than working with nature. Using poisons, uprooting ecosystems for mono cropping is a total violation of the natural order. Industrial agriculture also replaces the small farmer, a steward of land and biodiversity. The result is alienation from land, food sources, and disrespect for those who grow food while nurturing the earth. We forget how to treat nature, to be grateful for its abundance and to give back what we take.

It is a systemic violation of the rights of nature for the short-term profit of large corporations. Food is “cheaper” but we are externalizing the cost of polluting land, air, water our own bodies, and the bodies of those who work the fields. In a way, the worst assault is genetic engineering, the human manipulation of an organism’s genetic material in ways that do not occur naturally, something that is not possible in nature. The patenting of life forms is also a spiritual question – is life invented or created? We are not bigger than nature itself. But to what court can you take these violations?

GX: What is at stake for us if we don’t change our relationship to the earth and all species?

Anuradha: If we do not change our relationship with nature, including how we do agriculture, we are all over a cliff. Climate change is real, and the poorest people in the poorest countries are facing the fallout already. It is also a recipe for famine. It is a lose/lose when food becomes a commodity to be traded in international markets or converted to ethanol for our cars or when large corporations who can speculate on food prices replace farmers. Today, over 1 billion people—that is one sixth of humanity—are food insecure. We must learn the harsh lessons of a food system based on property and profits, or the outcome will be felt by earth.

GX: If everyone agreed that nature has inherent rights, would that be enough to stop
factory farming?

Anuradha: We have to understand that on one hand our personal actions are important: where we shop, supporting local farmers markets and CSAs. Our conscious behavior is the foundation, but that is not enough. No matter how much we change our thinking, the understanding that nature is not property to be exploited must come with mechanisms of real accountability for corporations. The larger political change where we can rip “personhood” from corporations, make corporations accountable to communities and ecosystems where they extract wealth— if this doesn’t happen, for every personal step forward we take it is still 10 steps back, because we haven’t changed the law which caters to big business.  Agribusiness will continue to use air, land water etc. in the same destructive ways.

GX: How would recognizing nature’s rights in law support sustainable, small-scale farming?

Anuradha: A rights-based approach places nature’s wellbeing at the center of agricultural systems, not short-term profits. Growing food sustainably cannot be done large-scale. You cannot grow thousands of acres of a single crop without killing biodiversity, using herbicides, or transforming proud farmers to sharecroppers. Inevitably, recognizing nature’s rights means supporting small-scale farming. It opens
the door for massive land reform, the ability for farmers to practice ancient methods of farming, such as seed saving instead of being forced to use Monsanto’s patented seeds. It means recognizing that agricultural innovation takes place by farmers in their fields, not scientists in lab coats. We’re talking about justice: food justice, environmental and climate justice.

Interested in reading other food-themed blog posts? Check out our Reality Tours blog post about food sovereignty today called “From Sacred Seeds and Abundant Reads to Food Sovereignty Movement Building.” For more food-themed blog posts go the Blog Action Day website for a list of blogs taking part in Blog Action Day today.

Oct. 16th 2011 is Blog Action Day, and Global Exchange is excited to be taking part.

Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day. The aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion around an important issue that impacts us all.

This year the issue is…FOOD! Blog Action Day 2011 coincides with World Food Day, so my guess is the choice was obvious.

Taking part in Blog Action Day is simple; blog about the chosen topic on the specified day, list your blog on Blog Action Day, and go from there.

Shannon Biggs and Anuradha Mittal

Global Exchange’s Blog Network will feature 2 food-themed blog posts on Blog Action Day:

1) On this People to People blog we will feature an interview with Anuradha Mittal on the topic of food justice and the nature of farming with nature. The interviewer will be Global Exchange Rights Based Campaigner Shannon Biggs.

Anuradha Mittal is an internationally renowned expert on trade, development, agriculture and
human rights.

2) On our Reality Tours blog, Malia Everette will be blogging about a reality tour that is all about food sovereignty. The post is entitled “From Sacred Seeds and Abundant Reads to Food Sovereignty Movement Building.” Stay tuned!

If you would like to write a blog post about FOOD and take part in Blog Action Day, visit the official website for details. To get involved register your blog on the Blog Action Day website. And if you’re looking for suggested topics, they provide a handy dandy list here.

For those on Twitter, you can follow the hashtag #BAD11 for Blog Action Day updates.

Remember to check back here on our People to People blog and Reality Tours blog this Sunday, October 16th,  to read two compelling posts about food in honor of Blog Action Day.

Blog Action Day is an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action. This year’s topic is water.

It is widely understood that the ecosystems we as humans rely on to survive are diminishing, depleting, and drying up.  Water— most essential to life– is being privatized and mismanaged at the cost of people’s heath and livelihoods, namely by multi-national corporations that are extracting water from communities without their consent.

Fortunately there is a movement towards a more just and sustainable stewardship of our resources.  People worldwide are beginning to challenge this structure.  In September 2010, the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature was established to propel a movement on the rights of nature in order to recognize the right, per se, of an aquifer to replenish itself or a river to flow.  Global Exchange and the Council of Canadians are compiling a book on the Rights of Nature with participation from all corners of the world, where inspiring human rights and environmental leaders are speaking up for the rights of nature.  Below is a piece from the book in which local activists in Mt. Shasta, CA are interviewed about their quest to assert the right of water in their community. Read and be empowered!

Mt. Shasta, CA — Recognizing the Rights of the Sacred

Global Exchange interviews Angelina Cook and Ami Marcus, of the Mt. Shasta Community Rights Project*

The picturesque mountain hamlet of Mt. Shasta is on the verge of making history in California and changing the debate about water in this draught-ridden state by passing the first law recognizing ecosystems and climate rights.   Ancient water flows under the iconic snow-capped volcano, considered a sacred site by the Winnemen Wintu tribe. Yet the region serves as one of the main water sources for the state’s needs and corporate water bottlers.  Now hydropower corporations are seeking to manipulate weather patterns, capture and own water before it hits the ground through the chemical ‘seeding’ of storm clouds. When residents discovered that constitutional protections allow corporate actors to override community concerns for themselves and the ecosystem, the issue became a matter of rights. With assistance from Global Exchange (GX) and CELDF, local residents formed the Community Rights Project to educate neighbors about the power of asserting community rights over corporations, and how recognizing the rights of nature provides a powerful new framework for protecting this beautiful place.

GX: What makes water withdrawal and cloud seeding harmful?

Two major multi-national corporations are already extracting undisclosed amounts of local water. When private interests manage water, the drive for profit overrides community interests. Cloud seeding is severely understudied and poorly understood, yet the state allows it WITHOUT regulation and WITHOUT environmental review. Nature is not a machine and we can’t treat it like an engine. We trust natural cycles for the amount and location of water we receive. Toxins like silver iodide are not manufactured to be dispersed into the air and environment. Cloud seeding can also result in catastrophic weather.

GX: Why not use existing “solutions” like regulatory law?

When it comes to upholding natural integrity, the regulatory system is dangerously inadequate. It exhausts the efforts of citizen stewards and denies us the right to say “no” to unwanted activities and development. At best it is designed to limit harms—and take a look at the results—every living system on the planet is in decline. If we expect different results we’re going to have to adopt a different strategy. When we asked ourselves how can we rise up to our responsibility as stewards of the Earth and prevent environmental destruction, we realized that we would have to unravel the regulatory juggernaut and embrace the rights of something much deeper and more fundamental than ourselves. Our current regulatory paradigm perceives nature as property to be used and exploited in any way that land owners and share holders deem profitable. This model was never designed to put nature first. Adopting new models for environmental governance is critical if we hope to restore and maintain a climate hospitable for humans on planet Earth.

GX: If this ordinance passes, you will be the first community anywhere to recognize rights for the climate.  Can you talk about that?

Recognizing the rights of nature is acknowledging the indisputable reliance of human systems upon ecosystems, interconnected both visibly and invisibly through climate. We want to protect the natural weather cycles that create the purity and abundance of Shasta waters, meaning we must prohibit the contamination and manipulation of our atmospheric waters. In doing this, we are initiating the grassroots regeneration of our climate at the local level.

GX:  Not everyone in Mt. Shasta embraces the rights of nature provisions in the ordinance Could you speak to that?

Local objections to this ordinance have been based in fear and misunderstanding. The Mount Shasta area is in the heart of California’s timber basket and our economy was raised on resource extraction and environmental exploitation. Though decades of economic desperation the region has and continues to signal the unsustainability of resource exploitation for private profit, a significant faction of our local mentality remains stuck in the quagmire of human dominance over natural systems. It is an education process for our community.

GX: In what ways do you see the ordinance being beneficial for the future of Mt. Shasta and California?

Mt. Shasta serves headwaters to the Sacramento River. What happens to water here trickles downstream and sets the tone for water resource management throughout the state. Recognizing nature’s rights to exist and flourish has the physical and political potential to establish a higher precedent for genuine environmental stewardship in California and Salmon Nation. Collectively, we have a waning window of opportunity to honor our natural heritage and restore our natural integrity. Reclaiming community rights as superior to corporate interests through the legislative process is a daunting, yet necessary step in our path towards biologically integrated conscious evolution.

*Interview with Shannon Biggs

Blog Action Day is October 15th, 2010. It’s an annual event uniting bloggers around the world who agree to post about the same issue on the same day. The goal is to raise awareness and start a global discussion around an important issue that impacts us all. This year, the theme is water.

Global Exchange is excited to be taking part in Blog Action Day this year. Here’s a little preview of what we’ll be blogging about, for those interested: we’ll be doing an interview style post to share the experiences and wisdom of local Mt. Shasta California residents who are involved in a local water rights campaign aimed at recognizing the rights of nature and community. To learn more about the Mt. Shasta campaign, read Big Politics in a Small Town: Why Mt. Shasta is standing up for YOUR rights.

If you have a blog, it’s not too late to join Blog Action Day. The Blog Action Day website makes it easy to join in, plus they have a very well thought out list of suggested blog topics for those looking for blog post ideas.

So check back with us here on the People to People blog to read about water rights issues on 10/15/2010. Happy almost Blog Action day!