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29 October 2014
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York as a Fairtrade city
York
York is a fairtrade city

York is officially a Fairtrade city. Well that's great, but what exactly does it mean and does it really matter?

Caroline Hattam went to find out more.

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The flourishing scheme to invite the United Kingdom’s towns to turn and work more closely with Fairtrade was begun by the Fairtrade Foundation in the year 2000 and as first anticipated, proved to be an immense success.

For six years now cities, islands, boroughs and villages alike have been gradually signing up to receive the title of Fairtrade town, and currently there are 205 members who have joined from all over the U.K, including Edinburgh, Swansea and many parts of London.

Recognizing the impact that fair trade was making in the world, York joined the ever growing list of Fairtrade cities throughout the United Kingdom in March 2004, to declare their significant part in making the world a better and less unjust place.

But what does it actually mean to belong to this scheme and what specifically has York done to achieve the title of Fairtrade City?

In 2004 York accepted the challenge to dedicate itself to the work of Fairtrade and followed the example of the first ever Fairtrade town (Garstang). A voluntary group named the York Fair Trade Forum was set up to make the transformation.

However, the criteria to formulate this change took a while to bring into practice, as it demanded that the following conditions were met. In the time subsequent to the start of the group’s campaign, the city achieved these five requirements and received its status:

York council passed a resolution stating their commitment and support for the work of Fairtrade, and promised that they would continue to serve Fairtrade coffee and tea at meetings as well as within the council offices and canteens.

Relative to York’s population of 181,000 people, a target was set to ensure that Fairtrade produce was (and always would be) easy to find and purchase from anywhere within the city.

A number of local places within the community (e.g. schools, churches etc) or workplaces agreed that they would use/sell Fairtrade products.

The council proved that there was a lot of popular support for the campaign.

A local and enthusiastic Fairtrade group was organized to make certain that the city remained true to everything it promised to ensure.

Of course, the initial idea is brilliant, and will no doubt make an impact in the work of Fairtrade, but is it really enough?

Unfortunately, until recently, the fact that my home town was part of this movement was entirely new to me and I am sure that many other York citizens are unaware of the status which we have held for over a year.

I have, however, purchased many fairly traded products from shops which have mainly been established and supported because of the second of the requirements listed above.

More publicity and nation-wide recognition would naturally be a huge benefit to the scheme and I feel that this is what is slightly hindering its success.

This could be easily resolved by adding an additional point to the criteria needed, to state that the city will promote and publicize Fairtrade through leaflets, posters, meetings or perhaps even a phone line specifically meant for queries revolving around the work of Fairtrade and the way that York is involved.

Nonetheless, this year’s fair trade fortnight was an ideal opportunity for York to celebrate its first year as a Fairtrade town and to let York’s general public know more about the city's status through activities and coffee mornings, leaflets and newsletters. It provided a much needed boost in publicity.

This status is something for York to be really proud of and although it seems very improbable at the moment, I hope that in years to come, the whole of the United Kingdom will be part of the scheme.

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