Navigating the Land Between Religions: New Perspectives on the Fair Trade and Food Sovereignty Movement Strategies to Challenge International Trade Governance
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The fair trade and food sovereignty movements adopt very different strategies for challenging the existing international agricultural trade regime. Food sovereignty contests and resists the existing system, employing contentious politics and an “outside strategy” motivated by the view that the regime cannot be reformed. Meanwhile, fair trade largely focuses on existing opportunities within the system, taking up a collaborative, “inside strategy” in an effort to progress towards an equitable and just trade system. These movements have notable differences in their views on how to change how trade is governed. This research seeks to explain and understand why these two different movements take up different strategies in pursuit of a common goal. To understand and explain these two strategies, I analyze their strategies and activities, and the factors that explain these, through an interdisciplinary analytical framework that bridges the theory and practice of governance and change. My findings and analysis demonstrate that when we analyze these movements through such a lens, we see more clearly the complexities of governing international trade and challenging neoliberal hegemony, and how the seemingly divergent strategies of these movements are complementary to achieving economic justice. The fair trade movement’s inside, collaborative strategy has leveraged available opportunities to shape policy, raise awareness on injustices in trade and global supply chains, and to change the norms and discourses on international trade. These activities are complemented by political advocacy that is rarely acknowledged in the academic analysis of the movement. Those in the movement who work with fair trade markets do not treat markets as a sufficient mechanism to address injustices in the international trade system. Rather, they see markets as a short-term option for poor producers, and as a mechanism to contribute to facilitating new opportunities to make long-term changes in the system. However, the movement responds to existing conditions, and does not seek to push for new opportunities where none exist. Food sovereignty, meanwhile, has forged space for peasant voices and democratic legitimacy in global governance of food and agriculture through its contentious politics, and has been part of the movement that has raised significant awareness and distrust around free trade agreements. But the movement appears to be guided by more principles than a strategy that has identified the processes for achieving its goals for fairer trade. It also does not fully appreciate how its strategy affects export commodity farmers. While it seeks to dismantle, rather than reform, the WTO, it does not have a concrete vision for an alternative without the WTO. With a vision that no opportunities can emerge from its contentious politics, its strategy does not align with what we know about this type of strategy’s contributions to change. I conclude that both movements’ strategies are necessary to changing the international agricultural trade regime, and neither alone is sufficient. I question and? problematize a tendency to analyze movements that treat their strategies and activities in isolation of broader contributions to common problems. This is matters for academic analysis of these and other movements moving forward. Rather than evaluating movements in isolation, might we consider instead what contributions they bring, and be careful to consider these contributions as part of a broader collection of movements and activities?
Cite this work
Kimberly Burnett (2017). Navigating the Land Between Religions: New Perspectives on the Fair Trade and Food Sovereignty Movement Strategies to Challenge International Trade Governance. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/12456