Oxfam's advocacy work to support the agenda of small-scale farmers and workers in the new International Coffee Agreement (ICA) came to successful conclusion last week as members of the International Coffee Organization (ICO) concluded a year and a half of negotiations.
The ICA serves as the operating charter of the ICO, the only forum that brings the majority of coffee producing and consuming countries together to address critical issues facing the coffee sector. When Oxfam launched its coffee campaign in 2002 with the Mugged: Poverty in Your Coffee Cup report, the ICO was identified as an important venue for Oxfam's message to Make Trade Fair.
The new ICA reflects Oxfam's advocacy work and puts many important issues on the ICO's agenda for the coming years. Most importantly, Oxfam's advocacy agenda came directly from a collaborative process with 12 other organizations—mostly small-scale farmer organizations—and was reflected in the paper Grounds for Change which launched Oxfam's efforts at the ICO in May, 2006.
The following points, included in the new version of the ICA, are victories for small-scale farmers and work across the world:
- Recognition of the relationship between a sustainable coffee market and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals;
- Objectives to develop a sustainable coffee sector in economic, social and environmental terms and enhance the capacity of local communities and small-scale farmers to benefit from coffee production;
- Acknowledgement of the importance of establishing and strengthening cooperation with NGOs;
- A new article on the ICA's project work, which has included efforts to improve farmers' productivity and sustainability;
- Creation of a new 'Consultative Forum on Coffee Sector Finance' which will bring together experts to discuss finance and risk management with a emphasis on the needs of small and medium scale producers and local communities; and
- Expansion of the ICO's role in disseminating information about the coffee supply chain with emphasis on facilitating access to information by small coffee producers to assist them in improving their financial performance.
While the new ICA adds important elements to the ICO's mandate, the Agreement itself expresses intention. The true value of the new Agreement will be as good as the implementation, which means that while Oxfam welcomes this development it will continue to push ICO member countries to follow through on the promises made to small farmers and farmworkers. In particular, Oxfam continues to call on ICO members to create forums for small-scale farmer organizations to have direct channels to voice the challenges they face as farmers struggle to earn a decent living from their coffee crop.
At a meeting in Belo Horizonte, Brazil last week, Oxfam's coffee sector allies from several countries—including coffee cooperatives and think tanks—cautiously welcomed the new elements of the ICA. With high level attendees from the Brazilian government coffee companies in attendance, they noted the importance of continuing to work in their countries to ensure a seat at the table alongside big business interests, as well as the need to ensure fair prices for family farmers and commitment to International Labor Organization's labor standards for farm workers. With the ICA completed, the hard work of implementing reforms must now begin.
In response to the developments at the ICO, Oxfam's partners and allies committed to push for representation in their national dialogue on coffee and their delegations to the ICO in order to build on the gains we have worked with them to achieve.
The text of the ICA is available now in English. It will be made available in Spanish, Portuguese, and French on the ICO website in the near future.