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1,500 Fair Trade Towns and counting

The Fair Trade Towns movement is more vibrant and growing than ever: on World Fair Trade Day, Sunday 11 May, the German town Rheinbach was declared as the world’s 1,500th Fair Trade Town. The following week on Friday 16 May Germany celebrated again with the declaration of Herford as the nation’s 250th Fair Trade Town.

Since Garstang in the United Kingdom was declared as the world’s first Fair Trade Town in April 2000, the movement has made rapid progress. The campaign caught the imagination of local people, faith groups, schools and universities, businesses, the interest of politicians and made headlines across the world. Twenty-four countries make up the growing Fair Trade family with further nations such as Switzerland, Hungary, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong getting ready to join. The key element of the campaign is to connect people for one common goal: acting locally to support Fair Trade and trade justice globally!

Merely some weeks earlier, on 29 and 30 March, the 8th International Fair Trade Towns Conference was the first one held outside Europe, taking place in Kumamoto, Japan. The majority of these towns (95%) are located in Europe with only one Fair Trade Town being declared in Asia so far. Nevertheless the conference was attended by 300 guests, with 57 of them from outside Japan, thereby exceeding expectations. The strength of the Fair Trade Towns movement is its diversity, which provides exchanging of ideas and learning one from each other.

The theme of Kumamoto Conference was ‘Building Fair and Local Socio-Economies in the South and the North’, but a further goal was set for the hosting country: ‘Contributing to Revitalization of Local Community’.

Interesting were the witnesses of some Fair Trade Towns, like South Korea, with its campaign led by the Mayor, Mr. Won-Soon Park, of making Seoul the biggest one in the world. The idea is to involve all aspects of the community, from schools to Buddhist temples, churches to universities and retailers to businesses.

The next Conference will be held on the 15th anniversary since the start of Fair Trade Towns back in its home country, tacking place in Bristol on 4 and 5 July 2015. That will also be the 10th anniversary for Bristol as a Fair Trade Town, and at the same time the city will be entitled European Green Capital. The Conference will be therefore focused on Fair Trade and Sustainability, investigating the possible links between Fair Trade and environmental groups.

Read the full report of the 8th International Fair Trade Towns Conference here.

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