On 25 September 2015, countries around the world including the UK signed up to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a global agreement that aims to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.
At the same time we launched our Show Your Hand campaign, asking then Prime Minister David Cameron to ensure that his whole government was aligned in their efforts to achieve them, particularly when it comes to trade policy.
The SDGs put trade at the heart of their toolkit for eradicating poverty worldwide by 2030. As Prime Minister, David Cameron publicly supported this, talking up trade as the way to tackle global poverty. The problem was that not all government departments were aligned behind him.
While the Department for International Development (DFID) has a strong track record of putting poor farmers and workers first, other departments have not been so supportive. For example, Owen Paterson, while minister at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, lobbied for changes to the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy which are pushing 200,000 vulnerable sugar cane farmers in developing countries into poverty.
So in autumn 2015, over 10,000 Fairtrade supporters lobbied David Cameron, asking him to ensure his government are aligned behind him by adopting our five recommendations for trade policy that works for the world’s poorest.
In December 2015 we received a public response to the campaign from Desmond Swayne MP, Minister of State for International Development. It was a positive re-statement of DFID’s strong track-record of supporting trade as tool for tackling poverty and an agreement that UK trade should play it’s part in helping to achieve the SDGs. However it made no acknowledgement of the fact that all government departments would need to align to do this nor proposed any plans for how this could be achieved.
Thanks in part to Fairtrade campaigners taking the time to visit their local MPs to raise the issue in person, MPs raised the importance of having an aligned, cross-government with Justine Greening, then Secretary of State for International Development, at the influential International Development Select Committee meeting held on Monday 11 January 2016. She agreed that a cross-government approach was important but did not give much detail. In their report, the committee pressed the government to be much clearer about its plans for in delivering the SDGs across government, including the impact of the UK’s trade policies.
Post-EU referendum, with a new cabinet and prime minister, these issues remain vital. The UK will be negotiating new trade deals over the next few years and could revise many policies which affect fair trade with developing countries. Our campaign is now focused on ensuring that the UK’s future trade deals and any changes to trade policy help not harm farmers and workers.
We’re asking for a reaffirmation from Prime Minster Theresa May and the government that our post-Brexit trade policy will tackle global poverty by delivering a fair deal to farmers and workers in developing countries. Find out more here.