By Vince Caruana
In recent years a number of NGOs in Malta have held meetings with local policy-makers to urge their support in the fight against global poverty. Although one risks running into over-generalisation and simplification, it is sound to assume that ordinary citizens are willing to work to end global poverty.
It is very common to learn about young people and others who are volunteering their time and participating in development cooperation activities in their own free time and using their own resources. They are often silent witnesses of the power of collective efforts to improve the lives of fellow humans around the world. While every country can only work in relation to its size, NGOs are asking policy-makers to work together with them and support them on issues such as providing access to basic education for all children, everywhere, and access to primary health.
Public policy can and does make a difference in the lives of men, women and children in the world's poorest communities. One concrete initiative that can make such a difference, which is locally coordinated by Koperattiva Kummerc Gust, is fair trade. The support of policy makers for fair trade is of prime importance. Poul Nielson, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, who incidentally was in Malta last week, had this to say during a conference on fair trade held on March 23:
"I am pleased to address this conference, because I take a direct interest in fair trade. Last year indeed, I intervened to encourage wider availability of fair trade products in the Commission. Some of you will know that since the middle of last year, fair trade coffee and several other fair products have been available in the Commission's cafeterias... the fair trade movement, with its NGO origins, has demonstrated that forms of trade which contribute to development goals can also catch the imagination of the public and become an important phenomenon. ... Fair trade can make a genuine contribution to sustainable development and poverty reduction."
Such statements are valuable to raise awareness about the developmental potential of fair trade, as well as encouraging other potential stakeholders and policy-makers to follow suit. In fact one future challenge for local policy-makers will surely be to examine their procurement policies, and to ensure a space for the inclusion of social and ethical considerations in public purchasing.