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Live webchat with Douglas Alexander, secretary of state for international development, Tues 2 March, 1.15-2pm

86 replies

GeraldineMumsnet · 25/02/2010 13:23

We're very pleased that Douglas Alexander is joining us for a webchat on 2 March at 1.15pm.As it's Fairtrade Fortnight, he would like to discuss the importance of Fairtrade and how UK shoppers can help farmers in developing countries with their purchases. On Mon 22 Feb, the Dept for International Development launched the first-ever Fairtrade raisins from Afghanistan and coffee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the value of Fairtrade goods sold globally is set to triple to £9 billion a year by 2013.If you've got any questions you'd like to put to Douglas about Fairtrade or any other topics, please join us. Please note the chat will last for 45 mins, not an hour. Thanks, MNHQ.

OP posts:
manfrom · 25/02/2010 13:37


  1. Fairtrade is all well and good, but surely the fairest way to help farmers in the developing world would be to abolish the Common Agricultural Policy subsidy system?

    Instead of faffing around with the next long-term CAP budget in 2014, why not just aboish all the CAP bureaucracy and provide an instant and massive boost to agriculture in the devoping world?

    The developing world deserves a level playing field, as I'm sure you'll agree.

  2. On a more serious note, do you get annoyed at being called "Wee Dougie"?
MmeLindt · 26/02/2010 13:05

I agree with Manfrom.

Why is acceptable that basic products like milk or butter cost the same or even less than 10 years ago. We need to accept that decent, good quality produce is worth spending more money on.

If we pay our farmers fair, market value for their products then it also makes imports from Fairtrade countries viable.

choosyfloosy · 27/02/2010 09:58

Hello Mr Alexan

der. What's your opinion on sugar farming? Should sugar beet farming be encouraged in developed countries like this one, given that it must have an impact on demand for sugar cane from developing countries?

Maiakins · 28/02/2010 20:46

Hi Mr Alexander,

The first thing I would like to say is that the Department for International Development has done a fantastic job over the last 10+ years. It is one of the things that Labour can say it has really achieved on and you can tell that Gordon Brown is really committed to international development.

I find it really confusing to know how to do the right thing when I'm choosing my shopping - should I go for something with few food miles that has been produced locally and is seasonal? Or should I support fairtrade, which may have been flown over from many miles away?

So, my question is: If you were faced with a choice of a food item that was fairtrade (but grown far away) or the same food item that was locally produced, which would it be?

I know it is not always as simple as this, but which would you choose?

duffy · 01/03/2010 11:17

Hi Mr Alexander,
I've heard that you've no money for the election campaign - is this true and how you going to cope against the Ashcroft millions?

Also are you surprised that bullygate hasn't seemed to worry anyone - saw in Sunday Times poll that the lead is down to 2 points!?

There hasn't been much discussion on Mumsnet about it either, why is that do you think? Do we just all know that Gordon is grumpy and bad tempered, so it's all in the price as it were?

Thanks for coming on (agree that Labour's record on international development is one of the things feel they can feel proudest about).

PreachyPeachyRantsALot · 01/03/2010 11:55

Hi, thanks for coming on.

I was on the local fairtrade Committee for our school and whilst teh children were very interested, it seems very few parents took it seriously and gewtting them to actually look for the logo and make fairtrade choices was nigh on impossible. Is fairtrade perhaps (as with recycling to an extent) soemthing that will take off as the children being educated now grow?

jenniferturkington · 01/03/2010 19:05

Hello Mr. Alexander,

I support the others here who congratulate you and your party for your record on international development.

I'm really interested in climate change and wonder if you would indulge me and depart from fair trade for a few moments.

I'm sure many of us were disappointed by the outcome in Copenhagen but I did think that the financial commitments made by rich countries to help poorer countries adapt to and mitigate climate change were among the few positives. However, I've heard that the UK is not committing any new financing to meet these targets but instead is just repackaging old money that is not new or over and above aid spending. Isn't this just demonstrating to rapidly developing countries that we are not serious about climate change and so neither should they be?

Goodluck with the election campaign.

onebatmother · 02/03/2010 09:31

Hello Douglas

Thanks very much for coming!

I wondered if you'd seen the Manifesto for Motherhood? It's been created by a big coalition of organisations ( Save The Children, Oxfam, the White Ribbon Alliance and Amnesty, plus lots more), who're working to highlight the fact that one woman dies of pregnancy-related complications every minute - that's more than half a million women each year. 2 million babies also die on their first day of life, and a further 2 million children a year are left motherless.

There's a link to the manifesto (PDF, sorry) on Amnesty's site here.

It would be great if you could talk a bit about what you think is really standing in the way of making childbirth safer globally, and what the UK should/will be doing to change things.

onebatmother · 02/03/2010 09:33

Ooh and I must just ask another, election-based question.

"A future fair for all."

What were you thinking?

Sounds like 1960s Hollywood doing King Arthur. Or else an atomic-age lifestyle exhibition.

BridesheadRegardless · 02/03/2010 09:51

Hello Mr. Alexander,

Do you view the labelling of food from Isreal/West Bank as a matter of fair trade? and if so, do you feel clearer labelling is necessary so that people can make an ethical choice?

Bramshott · 02/03/2010 09:51

After watching a film on BBC4 about the children of Zimbabwe last night, can you shed any light on what our government are doing / can hope to do in the mess that is Zimbabwe at the moment?

policywonk · 02/03/2010 10:00

Hello Douglas. I agree with all the comments about DFID; it's one of the best things Labour has done since 1997.

What changes do you think DFID would see under Andrew Mitchell, if the Conservatives win the election?

And - second question if permitted - what do you say to the Bill Easterly/Dambisa Moyo school of sceptical thinking about development aid?

onebatmother · 02/03/2010 10:01

Argh sorry forgot the link to the Manifesto for Motherhood: it's here

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 10:37


DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 10:57

another test

Cjac · 02/03/2010 11:09


I was at a recent forum discussing the role of aid in supporting international development. There was a brief discussion on the role of free trade as a long term mechanism for assisting in economic development, in the context of financial aid often being ineffective (the case study was looking at the south pacific)
However, what was not discussed was the issues surrounding trade. Free trade is not always Fair. Therefore I was wondering what your view is on if Fairtrade became the norm as supposed to the exception within international trade, that this would be firstly of greater benefit and would hence be less of a need for financial aid?


Carriemumsnet · 02/03/2010 11:17

I recently went to Malawi with Oxfam to highlight the problem of maternal mortality and was v impressed by the work DFID have done and the support they are still giving there (please continue!).

Mumsnetters are obviously committed to supporting women in the third world (and in particular working to reduce maternal and infant mortality) but I was dismayed to see a recent Metro poll where people thought we should be reducing overseas aid. How do we persuade the British public that giving the right sort of aid to the Third World is in our long term interest as well as being the right thing to do?

mrsbaldwin · 02/03/2010 12:26

Fairtrade raisins from Afghanistan! That's great! I hadn't heard about this until I read it on here.

I won't ask a 'proper' question as I've previously done some work for DFID so it wouldn't be right - but I would like to know where to get the raisins so I can buy a big bag ... ??

mrsbaldwin · 02/03/2010 12:28

(Although I must say I'm quite interested to hear the answer to Policywonk's question about Andrew Mitchell and changes ...)

robinhoody · 02/03/2010 12:37

Dear Douglas,

Have you heard of Permaculture and is it being promoted in Domestic and International Development policy?

Permaculture, as seen on BBC Farm for a Future, is a set of principles and practices that work in harmony with nature instead of fighting against it. Traditional and mono-crop farming are hugely inefficient requiring increasing amounts of chemicals and water to obtain the same results. Permaculture has no theoretical limit to yield!

Thank you.

oricella · 02/03/2010 12:38

Hi, thanks for coming on.. do you think Fair Trade principles applies to services, as well as to goods? For example, is it ethical for international water companies to try to make profits from accessing water supply markets in the South? Is privatisation really a good way to reach the MDGs?

robinhoody · 02/03/2010 12:47

Today's money has no intrinsic value, it's not backed by anything old-fashioned and real, like gold. Banks are able to create money out of thin air, using the fractional reserve technique. Do you think this has anything to do with the current economic stability, which is set to become a prolonged decline?

On the other hand, does the 'Western world' need a prolonged decline to wean us off our consumerist lifestyle, which is totally unsustainable and would ultimately lead to our demise?

policywonk · 02/03/2010 12:51

Oh, good point Oricella. I've edited articles about the effects of the privatisation of water and sanitation supplies in the South. The consequences can be terrible if the contracts are not carefully drafted and properly enforced.

ginghamgiraffe · 02/03/2010 13:13

Following on from onebat's comment, Millennium Development Goal 5, which aims to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters by 2015, is by far the furthest off track.

The evidence shows that those countries that have been most successful at improving maternal health in poor countries have done so by focussing on strengthening publicly provided health services, which are free at the point of use.

What is our government doing to make sure rich countries prioritize investment in scaling up the public delivery of health services?

JustineMumsnet · 02/03/2010 13:14

Douglas is here and ready to go in a mo...

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