Opening address at Fairtrade Norway 20th anniversary

State Secretary Marianne Hagen held the opening address at the Fairtrade Norway's 20th anniversary.

It is an honour and a pleasure for me to be here today. Fairtrade Norway deserves our heartfelt congratulations and admiration for the commitment it has shown to promoting fair trade over the past 20 years. The issue of fair trade is no less relevant today, on the 20th anniversary of Fairtrade Norway, than it was two decades ago.

Twenty years ago, we looked ahead to the new millennium with hope and we welcomed the opportunities offered by a more globalised world. We were, however, also aware of the risks we would face if we failed to improve people's lives and respond to their hopes for the future.

At the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos this year, many people expressed concern that we have not yet got the balance right when it comes to globalisation. Expressions like 'backlash against globalisation and 'trade fatigue' are rooted in the ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots.

The private sector is the main driver of global development. Its financial and innovative muscles provide of much-needed jobs. That is why private sector development is one of five main priorities in the Government's development policy.

Fairtrade has been – and still is – a powerful voice for promoting opportunities through responsible risk management. You have developed a strong label, and we have learnt to look for it when we choose which products to buy.

The strength of the Fairtrade label lies in the fact that it gives consumers an assurance that no one has been harmed or exploited during the harvesting, production or transport of the products concerned. The label also guarantees that the manufacturer or importer has shown social responsibility and due diligence. Your efforts have helped to create jobs and ensure living wages in a market where competition is fierce, and regrettably not always fair.

Your work is also in line with the Government's priorities. We expect Norwegian companies operating abroad to demonstrate responsible business conduct. The Norwegian Government has made clear that it expects Norwegian companies to be familiar with and apply the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

The due diligence work carried out by Fairtrade can help companies make the right decisions and apply good standards, but ultimately, responsibility lies with the companies themselves. A relationship of mutual trust is as important between importers and certifiers as it is between certifiers and producers.

I am therefore delighted to see so many people here today, and to see representatives of companies that have pioneered the Fairtrade brand and cause for many years alongside new actors that are now coming on board.

Your support for Fairtrade helps you to develop better businesses, and hopefully to generate more business. I am also pleased to see representatives from producers here today.

As a certifier, Fairtrade draws on its considerable local expertise and knowledge, and is very highly regarded. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs promotes the same values of decent work, respect for human rights, care for the environment and anti-corruption at the international level. Those of you who represent producers and traders promote these values on the ground.

Business can, and should, make a difference. And it is important to all of us that it does.

Today, you have chosen to highlight SDG 8 on decent work and economic growth. These are core issues on your agenda. And like all the other SDGs, these goals need to be on everyone's agenda.

Business is a vital ingredient in the mix of national, regional and global efforts that are needed if we are to reach the SDGs. Responsible business conduct is crucial. We must work to achieve the SDGs in a sustainable and responsible way.

We all need to focus on the areas where we can make a difference. By working towards individual goals we also advance the 2030 Agenda as a whole, with its core principle 'Leave no-one behind'.

I would like to wish Fairtrade Norway every success as it embarks on its next 20 years of work. By the time Fairtrade Norway celebrates its 40th anniversary, we will have passed the 2030 deadline, and we will hopefully be in a better position to ensure that no region, community or person is left behind. Business and trade have a key role to play in achieving this.

Your discussions and the experiences and views you share here today will, I am sure, bring us a little closer to the world we want.