Candidates for the European Parliament discuss how to avoid a second Rana Plaza
by Patrick Veillard, Oxfam Magasins du monde - Belgium)
In the framework of the Vote4FT campaign, a debate was organized by Oxfam-Magasins du monde (Belgium) on 4 March with Belgian French-speaking candidates for the European Parliament elections. Moderated by Sergi Corbalán from the Fair Trade Advocacy Office, this debate was a great success since it attracted more than 80 citizens, in the presence of four high-level speakers: Marie Arena (Parti Socialiste), Benoît Hellings (Ecolo), Claude Rolin (Centre démocrate humaniste), and Maxime Daye (Mouvement Réformateur).
Besides speaking about Fair Trade in general the candidates also discussed in more detail the improvement of human and labor rights in global supply chains, and tried to answer one pressing question: How to avoid tragedies such as the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh? To address this direct link between (European) trade and decent work, different initiatives were discussed: the establishment of a binding legal framework by the European Union (EU) to fight against the abuse of power from the strongest actors in the chains; an increased involvement of the European Parliament in EU trade negotiations, in order to make these more transparent and democratic; the setup by the European Commission of a true coordinated strategy to support fair trade at EU level, in order to pull the entire market toward fairer practices. The audience had the opportunity to directly question the speakers, and then later in the evening to exchange informally with them.
On top of providing a framework of discussions between EU policy makers and citizens, this debate was a good opportunity to get the candidates to sign the Vote4FT manifesto, and more generally, to attract their attention toward Fair Trade. Oxfam-Magasins du monde would be happy to exchange and share experiences around the organization of such events with other organizations involved in the Vote4FT campaign.