An international conference, ‘Combating Poverty in a Market-driven World’, was organised in Mumbai. The two day conference saw speakers from different geographical and work space discussing passionately about the theme of the market and poverty alleviation.
“Are we driven or are we drivers” asked Prof J. Mohan Rao, Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts, USA, in a talk titled ‘Is a market-driven world antithetical to poverty alleviation?’ He said this while emphasizing that world trade was not a level playing field as developing countries did not enjoy equal privileges. He called for “a new kind of globalisation that aimed to free labour, shackle capital, free knowledge and create a true world democracy.”
There were thought provoking sessions on Fair Trade, Use of Corporate and Government Funds to Alleviate Poverty, Working towards a Just market Systems. So while there was Carola Reintjes, CEO, World Fair Trade Organisation providing an overview of the Fair Trade Movement, and commenting that the economic prices were putting producer communities under pressure, and while Fair Trade may not be perfect but it provided the most strategic and sustainable means for combating poverty. To which Ram Bhat, an Options and Solutions Consultant, put forth a question if we were earnestly putting the principles into practice.
Another passionate speaker was Nicholas Hildyard, an activist with The Corner House, UK, who spoke about how private equity funds are used for infrastructure development. Hildyard denounced the market, saying, Ï don’t believe in a system that gives a cat in New York more bargaining power than a slum woman in Mumbai, and I am not interested in making such a system more just. “Private equity and hedge funds are licking their lips at infrastructure projects in developing countries, but who gets this infrastructure?” he said, adding: “We need to address power relations; corporate and market power needs to be challenged. We need to not just empower the power but dis-empower the rich.”
The conference had speakers like Mr. Suresh Tendulkar, Paul Myres, President, World Fair Trade Organisation; Carola Reintjes, CEO WFTO, Philippe Guichandut, European Microfinance Network, Executive Director, Annie Joh, Campaigns Dept, SETEM, Spain; Alan Machin, Head of National Fundraising WaterAid, UK; Prof. Malcolm Harper, M-CRIL Chairman, and Professor Emeritus at the Cranfield University, UK.
To sum up Carola Reintjes, CEO, World Fair Trade Organisation, said, “We see this conference as a unique opportunity where so many stakeholders came together and are very happy to note the diversity of the stakeholders. The conference had an eclectic mix of people – from the corporate sector, academia, NGOs, Funding Organisations. Such conferences provide an opportunity for a strategic debate on the way forward, how to enhance cooperation between these stakeholders. If we are able to put discussions held into action, it can be a good for our members, who are mostly from the small producer communities”
This international conference was being organised by Creative Handicrafts, a 25-year-old women’s cooperative in the slums of Mumbai, along with Tata Institute of Social Sciences, an institute that promotes social welfare through academic excellence, Fair Trade Forum India, a national network of organisations and individuals complying with fair trade standards, and Mumbai Smiles, a non-profit organisation working with slum communities in Mumbai on February 7-8,2011.