Local Solutions for a Global Economy


February 2009 Newsletter

February 2009 Newsletter

Guardian Profile: Salt Workers Economic Empowerment Program

Guardian Profile: Salt Workers Economic Empowerment Program

The Guardian profiled the Salt Workers Economic Empowerment Program, a partnership between GFI and SEWA. Read the full article below or at The Guardian.

Farming on the edge: the Indian salt producers coping with 48C heat


By Katharine Earley

On the sunbaked salt flats of Gujarat, India, the vast, shimmering expanse of salt shines starkly in farmers’ eyes as they toil in the intense heat. India is the world’s third largest salt producer. More than 80,000 smallholder producer families harvest the salt in the Surendranagar district, its most prolific salt-producing region, in the dry months from October to May.

The farmers, many of them women and teenage girls, pump dense, briny water up to the desert plains through handbuilt wells and rake it constantly to form salt crystals as the water evaporates in the blistering sun. This year, the temperature in Gujarat reached a record-breaking 48.4C, making working conditions even harsher on this ancient, desiccated seabed.

Scientists predict that climate change is also likely to increase rainfall in the region: “If the rain falls in intense, irregular downpours, with extended dry periods in between, this could introduce a level of unpredictability to the traditional salt farming season, potentially disrupting production,” says Dr Friederike Otto, senior researcher at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute.

Unseasonably heavy rains are already denting production, according to Reema Nanavaty, director of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a trade union for smallholder female producers in India, with farmers losing up to a quarter, or 200 tonnes, of total production each season. Irregular monsoons can also cause delays to the season, and increased incidences of windy storms muddies the salt pans, compromising product quality and price.

By the time the farmers have paid for diesel to fuel their pumps, and services such as transport and fresh water to supply their makeshift villages on the edge of the salt flats, it can cost them up to $1.55 to produce each tonne of salt.

This means there’s often little left of the money they receive from middlemen per tonne of salt - approximately $1.78. Middlemen sell on the salt for a market price of around $4.15 per tonne, despite little additional processing beyond some refining.

But life for salt farmers is gradually changing. The Salt Workers Economic Empowerment Program (SWEEP), a joint initiative between the non-profit Global Fairness Initiative (GFI) and SEWA, is working to help female salt farmers in Gujarat gain the commercial and technical knowledge to farm salt more sustainably and profitably as the risk of erratic, extreme weather looms.

Founded in 2012, the programme currently supports 2,500 farmers. It provides technical training to improve farming techniques and salt quality, covering aspects such as drilling boreholes, improving salt pan layout and managing pumps more efficiently.

SWEEP also helps farmers collaborate to engage directly with more reliable buyers, such as the Indian government, to secure a better price for their salt. In this way, the women can achieve an average 64% increase in price (to $2.78 per tonne), according to Caleb Shreve, GFI’s executive director.

However, to truly improve the farmers’ livelihoods, Shreve says, it is vital to cut input costs. With this in mind, SWEEP has been helping farmers replace their diesel pumps with solar-powered ones over the past two years to lower the cost of production. Although solar pumps have a high upfront cost of $3,750, the women save an average of 45% on running costs annually compared to diesel pumps by reducing maintenance and fuel costs, according to Shreve.

Some 500 farmers have invested in the new pumps to date, taking a 90% loan from SEWA. The association provides the loans with interest rates of 14% and it is expected most farmers will repay the loan over four years, largely through diesel savings. India’s microfinance interest loan rates, in comparison, can exceed 26%.

With their improved income, Surendranagar’s salt farmers often invest in more salt pans, as well as further equipment and transport to run their farms independently, without needing to rely as much on third parties. Many also invest in education for their children, as well as better housing, food and clothing.

“The beauty of this scheme is that it helps one of India’s poorest traditional communities have a better quality of life in the face of climate change, while simultaneously cutting carbon emissions,” says sustainability expert Martin Wright.

Rosey Hurst, director of ethical trade consultancy Impactt, agrees that SWEEP is highly innovative, but cautions against writing off middlemen.

“Solutions that combine technology and market access are terrific, but our experience shows that middlemen in India can add a degree of flexibility to informal supply chains. Despite their sometimes exploitative nature, they can access new markets and insulate producers from market instability. It’s important not to close off this avenue, particularly given that helping smallholders build their capabilities to access new markets is challenging.”

Supporting labor unions for Labor Day

Washington, DC – This Labor Day, we invite you to consider remarks by a friend of the Global Fairness Initiative (GFI) on the importance of labor unions:

Today is Labor Day—and there’s a good reason it’s a national holiday. By organizing together and fighting collectively, workers have been able to better their lives and the lives of their families. So rather than think about Labor Day as the last gasp of summer or bemoan the loss of union clout, let’s redouble our efforts to recreate an enduring middle class.

Wages for workers have barely budged in three decades, something our members know all too well. Income and wealth inequality rivals levels last seen in the Gilded Age. The American dream has slipped away from those who are working hard to make it.

And rather than confronting these realities, many, particularly on the right, engaged in trickle-down magical thinking. And, when that didn’t work, they turned to union bashing and restricting labor rights that rendered workers powerless to address inequities. The result: stagnating wages and stifled hopes for men and women who worked hard and played by the rules.

But we continue to fight—for higher wages, fair contracts, professional development, safety measures, and resources for our members and their students, their patients and the others they serve.

So this Labor Day, tell your members of Congress that when unions are strong, America is strong, and urge them to support policies that make it easier, not harder, to join a union.

America’s educators, healthcare professionals and public service workers know this firsthand. After the Great Recession, some on the right seized the political moment to vilify teachers and assault the labor movement that gives them a voice. A study by the University of Utah showed that, in the four states that successfully weakened teachers’ right to bargain together, public school teachers’ wages fell by nearly one-tenth. That’s a statistic we as educators and public employees simply cannot afford.

Conversely, robust unions help everyone, not just members, and a growing body of research demonstrates that. There’s a multiplier effect. Unions lift up communities, strengthen the economy and deepen our democracy.

Last week, the Economic Policy Institute released a study showing that when union membership falls, wages fall for everyone. If unions were as strong today as in 1979, nonunion men with a high school diploma would earn an average of $3,016 more a year. And the Center for American Progress has found that kids who live in communities where unions are strong have a better chance to get ahead.

For those in unions, the advantage is even clearer. Collective bargaining leads to higher wages, economic growth, equality under the law, better public services and a strong public education system—all essential to leveling the playing field for working families. Workers in unions earn, on average, 27 percent more than their nonunion counterparts. The National Women’s Law Center has found unions close the pay gap for women, and the Center for Economic Policy Research has found black workers see outsized gains from union representation. It’s a powerful reminder of the link between organized labor and economic success.

Write your members of Congress today and urge them to stand with American workers and their unions.

You see the union advantage in our advocacy as well. When the recession devastated the construction sector and put millions of Americans out of work, the American labor movement came together with the goal of raising $10 billion to repair the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Five years later, our members’ pension funds reallocated $16 billion for infrastructure investments, including rehabilitating New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, turning it into a travel hub befitting a great modern city and creating good American jobs in the process.

In the classroom, unions are critical partners in giving kids the chance to succeed. A 2016 study finds where teachers’ unions are strong, districts have a better track record of building the quality of our teaching force—keeping stronger teachers and dismissing those who are not making the grade. Unions fight for the tools, time and trust that educators need to tailor instruction to the needs of our children, to help them reach for and achieve their dreams.

Here at the AFT, we take that work seriously—for example, curating Share My Lesson, a free digital collection of lesson plans and resources for educators used by nearly a million people. In fact, Share My Lesson has more than 750 lessons about Labor Day!

In hospitals and patient care settings across the country, our members and their unions have been leading the fight against workplace violence.

Despite years of right-wing attacks on unions, which have curbed union strength dramatically, a 2015 survey found a majority of Americans would join a union if they had the choice. They want what a union offers: a voice in their workplace, the opportunity to negotiate wages and benefits, and the ability to retire with dignity and security.

Indeed, despite all the attacks waged against us, the AFT—which celebrated our 100th anniversary at our national convention this summer—has grown over the past several years, with well over 1.6 million K-12 and higher education educators and staff, state and local employees, and nurses and other healthcare professionals as members. And now we are seeing more vulnerable workers, such as adjunct faculty, graduate students, teachers at charter schools and early childhood educators seeking to join our ranks. In the private sector, tens of thousands of low-income workers have joined the Fight for 15 and the union movement because they know a union will help them get long-denied wage increases.

We have taken on the fight for adjuncts and early childhood educators from Pennsylvania to California—many of whom have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet. These are the people who teach our youngest children, and they’re the ones who educate our college students; they deserve to live above the poverty line while doing this critical work.

Graduate students at Cornell University are celebrating the recent National Labor Relations Board decision that reinstates the right of graduate workers at private universities to organize. They are building momentum and talking to hundreds of fellow grad students about the power of collective bargaining, and are excited about the prospect of winning union recognition and joining more than 25,000 AFT graduate employees at public institutions who already enjoy the benefits of a contract.

The AFT has been going strong for 100 years, and we want to ensure at least 100 more years of fighting for our members and the communities they serve. Show your support for a strong labor movement by sending a letter to your elected officials today.

The aftermath of the Great Depression and World War II led our country to understand we were all in it together. We established the GI Bill and other educational access and equity programs; management and labor respected each other, with unions being the voice of labor; and the middle class thrived.

Now, as income inequality is again at its height, let’s remember on this Labor Day what a strong labor movement has done—and can do again—to help workers, our communities, the economy and our democracy grow and thrive. This Labor Day, let’s make sure our elected officials remember as well.

Have a safe and happy Labor Day.

In unity, 
Randi Weingarten
 AFT President

James Boland, Mario David And Shahnaz Kapadia-Rahat Join The Global Fairness Initiative Board of Directors


Distinguished union President, former member of the European Parliament, and social entrepreneur join international team of leaders on the GFI Board.

Washington, DC – The Global Fairness Initiative (GFI) has announced that James Boland, Dr. Mário David and Shahnaz Kapadia-Rahat will join the GFI Board of Directors. The three new members bring union expertise,legislative experience in the European Union, and social activism to GFI’s diverse Board of Directors representing government, civil society, labor, and private industry from throughout the globe.

"It is our pleasure and great fortune to welcome three exceptional leaders to our Board of Directors,” said Dr. Danilo Türk, former President of Slovenia and GFI Board Chair. “These three new colleagues represent an important cross section of our shared social and economic development - from Dr. David’s government and multilateral experience, to Mr. Boland’s labor leadership, and finally the powerful the grassroots voice of Ms. Kapadia-Rahat. We are delighted and enriched to have them join this distinguished Board.”

Mr. Boland has spent his career working to promote and secure workers’ rights as President of the Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers. Dr. David, a former Member of the European Parliament, has championed social and economic access for working people in the continent and his come of Portugal where he served the Portuguese Social Democratic Party. Ms. Kapadia-Rahat, a social entrepreneur and innovator, founded Empowerment Through Creative Integration in Pakistan and served as the former Senior Group Head of the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund. She has worked for more than 28 years leading projects and people to promote effective and sustainable socio-economic development.

“GFI strives to break the barriers of access and opportunity of the working poor, and we are simply thrilled to welcome three leaders who have committed their lives to these principals.” said Global Fairness Initiative founder Karen Tramontano. “This Board is a diverse, thoughtful and powerful voice for the rights and opportunity of working people, and Jim, Mario and Shahnaz will serve to strengthen that voice and broaden its resonance, and we are thrilled to have them as part of the Global Fairness Initiative.”

The Global Fairness Initiative is an international NGO that works to create a more equitable, sustainable approach to economic development, and to make our global economy work for those who need it most − the world’s working poor. For over a decade GFI has steadily built a track record of success through innovative programs to reduce poverty, enfranchise informal communities, and advance human rights and livelihoods in all parts of the world.


Read the full press release and biographies here.

Washington Monthly Interview of the Month: GFI Board Chair Danilo Türk

Dr. Danilo Türk, former President of Slovenia and current Chair of the GFI Board of Directors, was recently profiled by Washington Monthly as their May 2016 Monthly Interview. The interview is included in full below and can also be viewed at Washington Monthly.

May 10, 2016

The Monthly Interview: Danilo Turk

A conversation with the former president of the Republic of Slovenia and candidate for U.N. Secretary-General

By Washington Monthly

For all of its 70 years, the United Nations has chosen its leader, the Secretary-General, in proverbial smoke-filled backrooms. The 15-member Security Council considers and votes on a candidate in secret, with the five permanent members—Russia, France, China, Great Britain, and the United States—having veto power. It then presents the candidate to the General Assembly for a vote of ratification. But member states have grown restive under this closed and autocratic system. So in choosing the successor to current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, whose term is over at the end of this year, the Security Council has agreed, under pressure, to open up the process, at least a bit.

Unlike in recent years, candidates who have been presented by member states will actually campaign publicly for the job. They will address the General Assembly and participate in forums co-sponsored by the Guardian newspaper, the think tank New America, and other organizations. For the first time, candidates will take questions from the press and have their curricula vitae posted online.

Nine applicants—four of them women—are currently under consideration, but more may apply between now and July, when the Security Council begins to consider its options. Yes, the Security Council will still have the final say. But at least in theory, the public vetting of the candidates will inform its choice.

One of those candidates is Dr. Danilo Türk, former President of the Republic of Slovenia. Türk was the first Slovenian Permanent Representative to the United Nations and has served in that institution in various capacities for three decades. He is currently the board chair of the Washington D.C.-based Global Fairness Initiative, a not-for-profit NGO whose mission is to create sustainable and equitable development for the world’s working poor. Türk recently spoke to Washington Monthly editor Matt Connolly and publisher Diane Straus. Here is an edited version of their conversation.

WM: Welcome to Washington, Mr. President. Please tell us a little about your campaign for UN Secretary-General and why you are running?

DT: I chose to run for three reasons: one is my experience, the second is my commitment to the UN, and the third is my vision for the organization’s future. I have been working with or in the United Nations for over thirty years. My first international conferences were about equality of women, in Mexico City in 1975. I pushed to develop indicators to measure the progress we made in the implementation of the right to an adequate standard of health, the right to work—which didn’t exist then.

When Slovenia became independent, I became Slovenian ambassador to the United Nations. There, on the Security Council, I worked with Madeleine Albright on various crises like Libya, like Iraq, Kosovo. I chaired the sanctions committee on Libya, after the Lockerbie bombing.

In 2000, I was invited by [former Secretary-General] Kofi Annan to serve as his assistant for political affairs, which I did for five years. After that stint, I went back to Slovenia, and was elected president. When that ended, I decided to do interesting things like running for the UN Secretary-General’s office.

I think that the UN is a very meaningful organization. But there will of course be a big debate on how to proceed further.

WM: How would you like it to proceed further?

DT: The UN is an organization of governments, and that obviously cannot change. It does, however, need to develop new mechanisms of cooperation because the world has become more complicated. Many projects require very close cooperation, for example peacekeeping in Africa has to be done with the African Union—whose soldiers come from many countries. And the UN has to develop better communication with civil society, the business community and academia.

One of my priorities is sustainable development. I would focus on how the UN can develop a more assertive advisory function, in this regard, while partnering with the International Monetary Fund, with the World Bank, [and] with the World Trade Organization.

One thing the UN clearly needs, that it currently doesn’t have, is a crisis management capacity for dealing with huge epidemics like Ebola. The World Health Organization functions mainly as a technical advisory organization. And we need either a separate organization, or a technical, emergency arm of WHO which would be prepared to mobilize quickly [and be] capable of [everything from] logistics to medical assistance to development of new drugs. The Ebola crisis vividly demonstrated this.

But we can have the opposite problem: in earlier epidemics, like the SARS outbreak for example, too much was done too quickly. It’s also not good, because that epidemic didn’t develop to the extent that was feared. And the WHO was criticized for having contributed to the panic. It is a balancing act. I would like to see something like an emergency operational arm, which is perhaps part of WHO but has its operational independence, or perhaps it’s a separate organization. A model for this would be the World Food Programme (WFP) which is an emergency organization, and a very effective one. They come into situations like severe droughts or wars and provide the necessary help. They often partner with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s missions.

WM: What brings you to Washington?

DT: I am in Washington D.C. to participate in a conference organized by the U.S. Water Partnership, which studies strategies for dealing with water issues—particularly global shortages which have can endanger civic peace.

We have a global water crisis —water availability, water accessibility, water quality. They are all becoming big problems. Some of the most dramatic effects of this are already being felt. Take the crisis in Syria: it started several years ago with a drought and a huge migration of people from rural areas to the coastline, which added to social tensions, resulted in turmoil, which of course the government tried to stop by force. It was unquestionably a factor in the civil war.

Wars don’t always start for political reasons. Some happen as a result of, economic, social pressures, and this is an example of that. Others, like the war in Darfur, are explicitly about water. During that conflict, wells were deliberately poisoned—water became a weapon of war. It is very disturbing, and we must have an international response. This is why a group of states have put together a panel on water and peace. We are examining strategies we can recommend to the United Nations, to governments, and to policymakers generally.

We cannot pretend that we have a comprehensive strategy for every such situation. We have several priorities, the principal one being the strengthening of trans-border cooperation on water issues. There are 40 or so such arrangements in the world currently, and they are quite successful. Cooperation over the Senegal River, for instance, began over three decades ago amidst political tensions between four neighboring countries in West Africa-Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania and Guinea, all of which border the Senegal River. But Senegalese President Senghor recognized that it would make sense to put together a cooperative agreement, in which all these nations would share the river for electricity and irrigation. This agreement has gradually become an important stabilizing factor both politically and socially.

Today, 148 countries are involved in trans-boundary water courses, but there are 260 or so water basins which lie across borders and where no agreements exist.

For example, now, when war ends in Syria, which it hopefully will at some point, there will be an important question of how to manage the waters of the Euphrates and the Tigris, the two rivers which cross Turkey, Syria and Iraq. In the absence of an existing agreement—and the political chaos - ISIS has stepped in and actually taken advantage of that and has expanded through those river areas, taken control of dams, here again using water as a weapon of war. But you cannot impose a single template on every situation. Each nation has unique needs.

WM: What’s the best way to balance…making recommendations and trying to help with fostering local empowerment so it doesn’t seem like you’re a foreign actor coming in and telling a country or people what to do with their water?

DT: First of all, I think is sharing our own experiences. In January of this year, I went to Dakar, Senegal, where I had been invited to chair a panel on water agreements. I was very aware that we couldn’t come in as a superior authority; we were facilitators who improve communications between the parties seeking to make an agreement. As such, I was very aware of the key role local water experts play in this sort of discussion. Not least because they are key to any discussions in other parts of Africa, indeed the world. And it is important to communicate our shared experiences.

I was invited to speak primarily because of Slovenia’s role as a signatory of the Sava River Basin Agreement. The Sava River, which borders all the nations of the former Yugoslavia, is a tributary of the Danube—which itself has a 160-year-old tradition of water cooperation! After the end of the Bosnian War—in which Slovenia was not a combatant—all the former enemies came together on river management before they could agree on much else. It shows the potential for peace and regional stabilization through the creation of a single river management system.

We had an amusing experience during the negotiations: in the former Yugoslavia, there was one language spoken —Serbo-Croatian—the same in all countries but with regional differences, naturally. With the collapse of Yugoslavia the question became which name to use for the language we would speak. So we decided to call it the “Sava language.” The name of the river became the name of the language.

Political sensitivities after wars are incredible. We are very aware that it is enormously important for local people on the ground to feel ownership of these agreements. I mean each region has its own specific needs, and these can be met only through involvement of people in that region. But then again it is good to have a global perspective which helps us see what works and what doesn’t.

WM: Let’s talk about the Global Fairness Initiative. Are there any projects going on there that we should know about?

DT: The Global Fairness Initiative is about innovative, market-based solutions to ensure fairness and transparency in development. Market economies are the economies of our time but they are not, in and of themselves, always fair. If economic development is not fair, irrespective of how much wealth it produces, it creates instability, so fairness should be an ingredient in every development policy.

One of our projects in the making is a conference in June on youth unemployment and policies to address this problem, which is huge in every part of the world, including advanced countries. We hope to gradually work out an agenda, and possibly also document solutions that might come out of this conference.

In the European Union, the industrialization and moving of jobs to China has produced problems. We have very high rates of youth unemployment in most of Europe, but countries which have better balance, better policies, don’t have that issue.

Germany is a perfect example. They have always insisted on keeping their manufacturing production in Germany, keeping their system of apprenticeship and local production as key to economic development. They haven’t changed that despite market opportunities in China. They have found ways of moving part of their production to China together with some of the retired senior managers. There are automobile factories in China which employ many senior managers and retired engineers from Germany.

Other success stories are Switzerland, and most of Scandinavia. But the policy mix has not been the right one everywhere. Eight years ago the European Union as a whole adopted the Lisbon Strategy, which relied on the idea that all our economies would be knowledge-based. And it sounded very good you know. Heavy industry would be moved elsewhere. And now we realize that didn’t help everybody. For countries like Spain, Portugal, it’s very difficult to figure out what would reduce youth unemployment, which is very high.

In Slovenia, we are learning the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises because they have proven to be very resilient. Of course Slovenia is small, it has 2 million people, so in our case this is a part of the solution. And also we are very much expert-oriented, we are closely linked to the German manufacturers. Now we produce our own automobile parts, which now go all over the world.

We haven’t deindustrialized our economy to the extent which would create a big drama, but we have our problems. We have a mismatch between the educational system and labor market, we produce students who cannot easily get jobs. There’s a lot of precarious part time work, without benefits. It is a huge burden for young people.

Full employment and issues of labor have been neglected in the Millennium Development Goals, which the UN first passed in September 2000. International focus is on reduction of poverty and basic needs, including maternal health, safe drinking water, and things like this. And this is absolutely a priority. But if one thinks about the development vision for the next long-term period, say up until 2030, you have to include labor. It won’t work otherwise. So what we’re doing may be small-scale, but it is really quite central.