REPORTING ON THE EARLY DAYS OF FAIRTRADE

By George Alagiah, BBC news presenter and patron of Fairtrade Foundation

As
the BBC’s first developing world correspondent between 1989 and 1994 my
work was to bring some of the same issues that the Fairtrade Foundation
deals with in a practical way to the attention of the TVwatching public.

When
you do ten years of reporting on disaster you do end up asking yourself
when the phone goes again “Why? Why is it happening again and again?”
Instead of just reporting it, you begin to want solutions.

I came
to the conclusion during that time that so many of the wars and
disasters that I had reported on could have been prevented if only
people had what I call the financial freedom to say “no”. A regular
steady income is the best guarantee against social and political
upheaval.

There seemed a link between what I was doing in Africa and the work of the Fairtrade Foundation.

It is the desperate and the poor who are most susceptible to unscrupulous politicians.

The Fairtrade movement is about putting money in the backpocket.

It’s
not instead of aid, but I do think it has something that aid doesn’t
have, which is a direct exchange between a consumer here and a producer
there, and to my mind cuts out an awful lot of the bureaucracy and the
middle-men and women who can get in the way of aid.

The
perception of Fairtrade has changed enormously. When I was developing
world correspondent, it was such a challenge to mention on air things
like Fairtrade. Now, instead of a maverick subject, it has become much
more part of the mainstream.

But you have to keep working at it –
there are lots of issues that still need to be explained. Live 8 was an
easy thing to do, and I was pleased to be part of the BBC whole Africa
season. But because Live8 was built around celebrities and a fairly
joyous theme, it was fairly easy. The tough stuff is to follow it up
and that’s the challenge – to explain the issues behind it, such as
debt and trade.

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