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24 / 09 / 2004
The dialogue “Contributing to the global agenda” tackle the issues of fair trade, democratic participation and corruption

As part of the Dialogue “Contributing to the Global Agenda”, one of the conference itineraries has tackled the issue of fair trade, which is a type of sales transaction that seeks to minimize the effects of globalization and free commerce on poor countries. Paola Ghillinani, director general of Max Havelaar Foundation, commented, at the Forum, about the challenges faced by this type of trade, which over the past year grew between 30% and 40%. “Consumers want more insight. They want to know how the items they purchase are manufactured and what effects this has on the area where they are produced.”

Ghilliani’s organization focuses on two main tasks: opening new markets that maintain equal trade conditions and ensure that the products labeled “fair trade” meet international standards. The rapid growth of fair trade is leading to new needs, such as how to improve control systems and how to integrate all parties involved in decision-making without harming the efficacy of the way the work is carried out. According to Ghilliani, the ultimate goal of fair trade is to place the economy at the service of human and not humans at the service of the economy, which is currently the case.

Nitin Desai, member of the Helsinki Process on Globalization and Democracy, spoke of the feeling of disconnection that globalization creates among citizens. This disconnection is manifested in countries in the North and the South, in civil society, which takes to the streets because it does not feel listened to by government and due to scantly democratic international relations that are carried out by the executive powers of government, instead of the power that truly interests the people--parliament. Desai mentioned that the Helskinki Process promotes integration of parliaments in international decision-making procedures. “We want those who make decisions to be accountable to the people. Parliaments could be very useful in this sense, because they would have to demand those who make decisions to live up to their responsibilities.”

Heidi Hautala, who is also a member of the Helsinki process, stressed the need for control by the citizens of international institutions that now run without any control whatsoever: “Parliament members should get organized on an international level and act as a link between civil society and international institutions.”

John Makumbe, representative of Transparency International, spoke about the work being done by this institution, which annually publishes a classification of the world’s most corrupt countries. “Corruption is a conspiracy against the people. It takes the resources that should be used for development away from the people,” he explained. He also spoke of the contradiction of the fact that rich countries of the North appear in the classification as the cleanest in terms of corruption, but are where the money of the corrupt of the poorest countries is hidden.

Makumbe highlighted the close relationship between corruption and the evil of government, poverty and attacks on human rights. “The best way to fight against corruption is democracy. Corruption covers up information. It is impossible to eradicate poverty without first addressing corruption,” he concluded.