A Moment to Reflect on 2013…

The world watched on as Nelson Mandela’s body was transported to its final resting place in his childhood village of Qunu, South Africa this weekend. In the days following his death, we all mourned and remembered and have no doubt resolved to carry on his spirit and determination to continue to fight for social justice.

In the midst of reflecting on Mandela’s life and legacy, we also looked back at the last 12 months of our highlights and victories of 2013, but could not also help but think of other human rights heroes whom we lost this year. Without them, our movement victories would not be possible.

Becky Tarbotton ¡Presente!

Nearly a year ago, the activist community mourned the unexpected loss of Rebecca Tarbotton.

As the Rainforest Action Network’s Executive Director, Becky led the organization with determination and grace, embraced the desire and sought out the opportunity to holistically link environmental and social justice movements. She was a strong woman and leader, fighting, championing and creating a better world for all.

Take action to honor Becky by signing this petition to stop fracking.

Raúl del Águila ¡Presente!

In February, we bid farewell to Fair Trade pioneer, Raúl del Águila. Raúl was the Managing Director of COCLA, a Fairtrade certified cooperative in Peru made up of 23 primary cooperatives. With his own cooperative, they went from selling 2% of their coffee on Fair Trade terms to 40% and used the Fair Trade Premium to open services for victims of domestic violence.

We thank Raúl del Águila for all the work that he has done for producers and the whole Fair Trade system throughout the years. We will continue to take your legacy to build a stronger Fair Trade movement. Our hearts go out to your family, friends, and fellow cooperative members.

Take action to honor Raul by calling on World’s Finest Chocolate to go Fair Trade.

Saul Landau ¡Presente!

Saul Landau was a legendary documentary filmmaker, author, and activist with a prolific body of which work includes more than 40 documentaries and 14 books spanning from an intimate documentary portrait of Fidel Castro, to the indigenous uprising in Chiapas, to the effects of nuclear radiation exposure. Landau’s work was educational, thought provoking, and an inspiration to all of us at Global Exchange.

In particular, Saul Landau was deeply connected to Cuba, and expressed with great clarity the failings of U.S. foreign policy towards the island nation. We honor Saul Landau’s work in both the movement to normalize relations with Cuba and his untiring work to promote justice and equality in all parts of the world.

Take action to honor Saul by supporting the end to the travel ban to Cuba.

Robin U Roberto Romano ¡Presente!

Robin was leading child rights advocate and director of the investigative documentary, Dark Side of Chocolate, which looked into the realities of child labor and trafficking in the West African cocoa industry. International Labor Rights Forum’s Judy Gearhart had this to say about the passing of Robin:

”Robin Romano’s passing is a tremendous loss to all those who advocate against child labor. Robin’s passion and commitment to exposing injustice and the exploitation of children was an inspiration to me personally, and I’m sure to many others…Robin’s spirit, drive and compassion will continue to inspire our commitment to exploited children in West Africa, the US and so many other places around the world.

Take action to honor Robin by ordering a Fair Trade Peace on Earth action kit for the holidays.

Eleanor Biggs ¡Presente!

Closer to home, and part of our hearts, we lost a supporter, activist, jokester, and mother to all at Global Exchange, Eleanor Biggs, this summer.

Technically, Community Rights Program Director Shannon Biggs’ mother, she regularly made the trip from Sacramento to our offices to stuff envelopes, serve drinks (or just volunteer) at the Open House, tear up the dance floor at the Human Rights Awards, and rallied in the streets dressed in pink. Her commitment to educating her bridge ladies about Fair Trade vs. Free Trade was true people-to-people ties at work. We raise our glass and miss you very much, Eleanor.

Take action to honor Eleanor by telling your Congressperson to vote NO on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Let the spirits of these amazing activists live on through each one of us as we take on another year of resisting injustice, envisioning alternatives, and taking action.

Raul_300 dpiIt is with heavy heart that we are reporting that Raúl del Águila, pioneer in Fair Trade, sustainability, and human rights passed away from a heart attack yesterday February 13th while traveling in Germany.

Raúl del Águila was the Managing Director of COCLA, a Fairtrade certified cooperative in Peru made up of 23 primary cooperatives, the President of Pachamama Coffee Cooperative in California, served two terms as President of CLAC, the Fairtrade Producer Network representing producers in Latin America and has also served on the Board of Fairtrade International. Most recently, he was appointed to the Board of the newly established Fairtrade International USA.

He dedicated his life to developing alternatives to conventional trade and sustainable development for producers and communities. In 2010, Global Exchange honored his work by awarding him with a Human Rights Award. During his time on the Board of Fairtrade International, he helped finalize a draft constitution which made producers 50% owners of Fairtrade, with an equal say in major decisions affecting the system. With his own cooperative, COCLA, they went from selling 2% of their coffee on Fair Trade terms to 40% and used the Fair Trade Premium to open services for victims of domestic violence.

Using his Global Exchange Human Rights Award money, Raúl supported a number of Fair Trade handicraft projects for farmers and their families. He helped open up a Fair Trade store in Lima, Peru, launched a food co-op selling local products in Quillabamba and opened a coffee shop in Arequipa. He also focused efforts on developing local markets for indigenous Fair Trade products, which for many producers is the only market available to them to sell their products.

delAguilaHe saw Fair Trade not as a tool, but a change agent to promote responsible farming, business, purchasing, and just being. His hope for the future was for Fair Trade to work more with youth and to instill values of positive change for future generations.

The core of the legacy he leaves us is this one: We must continue to push for equity and transparency in international trade, we must continue to support sustainable development, we must continue to  secure rights for marginalized workers and producers, and we must continue to to raise awareness!  To this legacy he dedicated his life and to this mission we will continue to dedicate our lives.

We thank Raúl del Águila for all the work that he has done for producers and the whole Fair Trade system throughout the years. We will continue to take your legacy to build a stronger Fair Trade movement. Our hearts go out to your family, friends, and fellow cooperative members.

Global Exchange staff showing off their evening looks

Global Exchange started the Human Rights Awards in 2001 to recognize and elevate the contributions of individuals and organizations who work tirelessly to advance the cause of peace, justice and the inalienable rights we call “human rights”—here in the United States and around the world.

This years’ honorees, Van Jones, Raúl del Águila from Peru, and our People’s Choice Honoree Mu Sochua exemplify and embody this spirit, and we’re proud to have honored them at the 2010 Human Rights Awards gala on Thursday, May 27th at Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco, CA.

It was an inspiring evening shared by incredible human rights advocates.

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield speaking about Fair Trade while attendees enjoy Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream

We enjoyed the company of Ben and Jerry – who talked about their commitment to go 100% Fair Trade by 2013, while feasting on delicious Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for dessert.

All proceeds from the event go to support the important work of Global Exchange.  We are grateful to all of our sponsors and participants for their support.

If you weren’t able to make it this year, we hope you will join us in 2011.  Dates and details to come.

Check out some highlights from this years’ gala event! (click photo to enlarge)

Green Leaders Van Jones (2010 Human Rights Award Domestic Honoree) and Kevin Danaher (Global Exchange, Green Festivals) chat it up

Code Pink Alert!

Medea Benjamin, Pierre Labossiere and Van Jones smile for the camera

2010 Human Rights Award International Honoree Raúl del Águila accompanied by his wife

Guests dining it up!

Shannon Biggs (Global Exchange) with Jeff Furman (Ben & Jerry’s)

Nhu Miller with Devi Leiper, daughter of People’s Choice Award winner Mu Sochua

Global Stewards Saori and Mike Kappus with Medea Benjamin

Ben Cohen with Global Steward Jodie Evans of CODEPINK: Women for Peace

Global Exchangers and guest mingle

Fair Trade models sporting their “Ask Me About My Outfit” sashes

Gala attendees sharing a smile

Global Exchange’s Andrea Hightower with Domestic Honoree Van “I don’t take a bad picture” Jones

Global Exchange is pleased to announce the winner of our 2010 Human Rights Awards People’s Choice, Mu Sochua, as chosen by YOU, supporters of Global Exchange and human rights around the world.

Mu Sochua joins our other award recipients, Raúl del Águila, International Honoree, and Van Jones, Domestic Honoree.

Mu Sochua has been a tireless advocate for human rights and the rights of women in Cambodia. In fact, her dedication to her work has meant that she is currently facing trial and prosecution for simply asserting her right to free speech.

Please join us, and the global community of human rights supporters, in extending our sincere thanks to Mu Sochua for her courage and dedication to those in need in her native land.

Accepting the People’s Choice Award on Mu’s behalf at our gala celebration in San Francisco tonight will be Sochua’s daughter Devi Leiper, a resident of San Francisco.

If would like to learn more about Mu Sochua, Raúl del Águila, and Van Jones, please visit www.humanrightsaward.org.

Thank you all for nominating and voting for your human rights heroes during the 2010 Global Exchange Human Rights Awards!