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Contested Accountability: Civil Society And The International Fair Trade Association.

Heidi Ullrich

CSGR Working Paper 240/07

December 2007


This working paper examines the impact that engagement (or non-engagement) by civil society groups has had on enhancing the accountability of the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT) within the Fair Trade Movement. IFAT, the only global Fair Trade association that develops and regulates voluntary standards and certification mechanisms for organizations of Southern Fair Trade producers and Northern Fair Trade sellers, has the potential to play a unique global governance role within the Fair Trade Movement. Despite other global governance regulatory bodies increasingly contesting IFAT’s accountability, IFAT has taken concrete steps to address gaps in its accountability. After describing the challenges IFAT is facing as a private global governance institution, the paper identifies the key components of accountability in IFAT through outlining its governance and operational structure, including its monitoring system. It then explores the extent of civil society engagement with IFAT within the context of the Fair Trade Movement. The paper then outlines and evaluates IFAT’s ‘New Strategic Plan’, an initiative of its members that was adopted in 2007. The paper concludes with an assessment of the extent to which engagement by civil society groups have helped or hindered the accountability of IFAT and offers recommendations for strengthening its relations with civil society in order to close the current accountability gap in its global governance role.

Contact Details:

Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation (CSGR)

University of Warwick
CV4 7AL Coventry (UK)