Fairtrade Fortnight at Coleraine University

March 12, 2008

Published: UFOURia Spring 2008

A new social action group set up at the Coleraine campus made their presence known on the Bridge during Fairtrade fortnight (25th February – 9th March). ‘Speak’, as they are known, spent the first week offering information on the Fairtrade logo to those who were interested, as well as encouraging students and staff alike to sign a petition urging the university to follow Queen’s and gain Fairtrade status. During the second week they had a variety of products on offer and gave some samples away as well as selling tea, coffee and chocolate, all bearing the Fairtrade mark. Fairtrade ensures a fair price for the producer as well as guaranteeing ethical purchasing i.e. there has been no slave or child labour used in generating the product you buy. The method of providing assistance to third world workers through ‘Trade not Aid’ is essential in the sustainable development of farms in Africa and South America.
In order for the university to be officially recognised as a Fairtrade University, five criteria must be met. These are:

1. The Student Union and the university authorities both create a Fairtrade policy incorporating these five goals.
2. Fairtrade foods are made available for sale in all campus shops. Fairtrade foods are used in all cafés/restaurants/bars on campus. Where this is not possible, there is a commitment to begin to use Fairtrade foods in these establishments as soon as it becomes possible to do so.
3. Fairtrade foods (for example, coffee and tea) are served at all meetings hosted by the university and the SU, and are served in all university and SU management offices.
4. There is a commitment to campaign for increased Fairtrade consumption on campus.
5. Set up a Fairtrade Steering Group

Surely it is our basic responsibility to encourage the sale of Fairtrade products in the university, knowing that by doing so on a campus consisting of thousands of students and staff we can make a significant impact for justice for the poor of this world.

More details can be found at http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/get_involved_university.htm


It’s al about you

March 12, 2008

Published: UFOURia Spring 2008

Tesco opens beside University Halls in Portstewart. McDonalds coming to Jordanstown. Is there any escape from the aggressive invasion of big companies in student life in Northern Ireland? Robin Peake sets out on his crusade to stop lining the pockets of the rich, and urges you to join him

At 21 my political mind is a mess. I joined the UUC Socialist Party at the start of this academic year and became a leftie without the beard. After Christmas I paid a tenner to become a member of the Alliance Party, notoriously neutral in a political climate dominated by religion/ideologies. Throw into the mix that I’m an evangelical Christian and you start to wonder how much of the political spectrum one man wants to cover. By my own admission I don’t know if I’m a Commie, a Capitalist or a Centralist. Yet while on my whirlwind tour of ideologies I’ve made one stop, and I’m starting to make a stand on it too. Consumer Choice.

It’s very easy in this day and age to agree with the argument that our voices don’t matter to the state elite, or to big corporations. Why even bother to vote in elections? Is my ‘x’ really going to make any difference amongst thousands? However I would argue that we vote every day – with our wallets. Daily we spend money on food, drink, fuel and plenty of other wee things without thinking. And yet the consumer choices we make during our days as students are those that our most likely to stick with us throughout the rest of our lives. Why do you think newspapers such as The Times are prepared to sell for far less than retail price in Student’s Union shops? Why do you think Freshers week is full of banks clamouring to get you on board? Because in both cases, they know the power of the choices made by students. The students of today are the leaders of tomorrow who will influence the decisions and consumer choices of others. That is why I think now is the optimum time to think about what you are spending your money on.

Buy local
Have you ever fully thought of the benefits on offer by buying Northern Irish produce? Cookstown Ham, Ormo Bread, Ballyrashane Milk, Tayto Crisps, Smithicks Ale By spending your money on these items and countless others which have been produced in the six counties then you are keeping people in employment. If employment is high, then income is generated by more workers, which in turn is spent in the local economy; in goods, services and leisure. If a company is doing well through increased sales (e.g. Linwoods of Co. Armagh) then this in turn can create more opportunities for graduates – Marketing, Advertising roles; Management positions, Accountants, Web designers and IT technicians: all opportunities that arise from a company’s expansion.
Think too of where you buy your food and drink. Why not use the local corner shop instead of the branded supermarket? Because it’s more expensive? Fair point, but when you’re in your 30s with money to spare and can’t find anything other than a Tescos to shop in just remember who to blame.

Contribute to World Poverty – Or not?
There are those that will say that by buying ‘Fairtrade’ you are making the world a better place and alleviating global poverty. I propose a much darker alternative. By not buying Fair Trade where possible, you are increasing the power that large companies such as Nestlé have over highly skilled and underpaid workers. You are increasing the hours of the third world workers by your purchase, who needs to step up production to fulfil your wants. You are increasing the gap between rich and poor. My housemate tells me that he doesn’t buy Fairtrade coffee because “it’s a rip off.” I argue that other brands of coffee are ripping off their poverty-stricken employees, and that really that’s the choice it bottles down to – Who should pay the price? Consumers with a few extra quid or producers with no fair deal in sight? By using your loaf and buying Fairtrade wine, clothes (UU hoodies available), tea, rice you are guaranteeing that at the other end of the line more of your money is going towards the farmer and his family, and not only that, but there is also extra money available to build schools and basic hospitals. The farmer then, with a bit of extra income is able to buy animals off his neighbour who then too has received some of your money. The consequences of our money are far reaching, and we need to realise our responsibility in spending. Look out for the Fairtrade logo on products. Encourage your friends to think seriously through the benefits. Pester the UU authorities to strap on a pair and achieve ‘Fairtrade University’ status.

So next time you’re thinking of heading out for some groceries, look at where they come from, and think of who is benefiting from your purchase. And, if you end up buying something local, or something with the ‘Fairtrade’ logo then you’ll probably find that you and your conscience have benefited too.

‘Speak’ up for Social Justice

March 1, 2008

Published: UFOURIA, March 2008 issue

Many of us have some form of concern for global injustice such as poverty, slavery and trafficking. The truth of the matter is that we just don’t care enough to do something about it. Gone are the days when our young people were revolutionary and caused society to sit up and take notice of such international issues. Or are they? A group of passionate students at the University of Ulster in Coleraine have decided to set up a social action group called ‘Speak’. Born out of a Christian ethos and running alongside other Speak groups on the mainland, they aim to raise student awareness of global issues and encourage students in their consumer choices and those lifestyle habits which carry far-reaching consequences.

‘Speak’ intends on focussing on two impact groups which will in turn deal with one specific issue. One will address the issue of Fair Trade and the other Climate Change. The group concentrating on Fair Trade aims to encourage the UU catering services to use these products wherever possible and to assist the university in following Queens and becoming a ‘Fair Trade University.’ As part of “Fairtrade Fortnight” some students will be promoting and selling Fairtrade items such as tea, coffee and chocolate from a table in the main bridge area on campus. There will also be a petition for staff and students to sign urging the Students Union and the University authorities to incorporate the five goals needed to gain Fairtrade status. Rachel Logan, one of the organisers says “If we can get 500 signatures it will show that students really do care about their consumer choices and add a lot of weight to our argument”

Fairtrade Fortnight runs from 25th February to 9th March. If you would like to find out more about how to get your school, church or workplace involved then check out http://www.fairtrade.org.uk