In 2005, the second International Banana Conference was convened by a consortium of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) including our Southern partners, COLSIBA, WINFA and UROCAL (1) to bring together stakeholders from the entire banana production and distribution chain, to reflect on the difficulties and challenges which faced the industry. This conference ended with a decision to establish a permanent multi-stakeholder forum to undertake the task of reversing – and indeed raising – declining social and environmental standards across the industry. Civil society led subsequent efforts to secure the commitment of key players to participate in the proposed forum resulting in the creation of a Preparatory Committee.
In December 2009 in the headquarters of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, the World Banana Forum (WBF) was launched, with the mission set by all 150 plus participants of ‘Working Together for Sustainable Banana Production and Trade’. All the major banana companies, together with global retailers, growers and trade unions of plantation workers from four continents, joined trade associations, scientists, producer and consumer governments as well as UN agencies to launch an ambitious programme of work. Government members of the FAO gathered at the Conference of the Inter-Governmental Group on Bananas and Tropical Fruit ratified the creation of the World Banana Forum and committed themselves to contribute to its success.
The mission of the Forum is to inspire collaboration between all players in the global industry – from plantation to supermarket shelf – that enables a transition towards sustainability and achieves consensus on best practices regarding workplace issues, gender equity, environmental impact, sustainable production and economic issues.
The participation of the most powerful corporate actors in the industry in the WBF has been driven by the most vulnerable – our partners in producing countries, notably COLSIBA, UROCAL and the Caribbean Farmers Association (WINFA). As part of the ‘Make Fruit Fair’ campaign we are asking consumers to encourage those fruit companies and supermarkets that are not actively involved in the Forum to become committed participants. We believe that the Forum provides a unique opportunity to create a sustainable banana trade that includes the respect of worker’s rights, payment of a living wage and improved environmental practices, including reducing dependency on pesticides. Corporate commitment to this process is essential to its success.
Among the achievements of the Forum are:
For more information please visit: www.fao.org/economic/worldbananaforum/wbf-aboutus/. COLSIBA is the Latin American Cooordination of Banana & Agro Industrial Products Unions; WINFA is the Caribbean Farmers Association and UROCAL is the Regional Union of Peasant Organizations of Litoral (Ecuador) representing over 600 small scale producers of banana, cocoa and citrus fruits.