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Common Code for the Coffee Community yet to Respond to Small Scale Family Coffee Farmers and Farm Workers

Common Code for the Coffee Community yet to Respond to Small Scale Family Coffee Farmers and Farm Workers

Published 09-23-05

Submitted by Oxfam America

Salvador, Brazil - On Thursday, September 22, Oxfam International, a development and humanitarian relief organization, presented the Common Code for the Coffee Community's (4Cs) secretariat with an open letter outlining Oxfam's expectations for the continued development of the code through the next committee meeting scheduled for spring 2006. Seth Petchers, Coffee Campaign Lead for Oxfam International stated, "Oxfam will have to assess and evaluate the progress the code has taken by the next meeting and decide whether or not we will be able to continue to participate in its development"

The stated goal of the 4Cs is to establish a global code for the sustainable growing, processing and trading of mainstream coffee and to do so through a consensual process between stakeholders. Other groups who have been part of the debate around development of the 4Cs initiative include a range of coffee companies, national and international civil society groups, and coffee producer organizations. The 4Cs initiative also receives significant support from GTZ, a German government development agency.

As part of Oxfam International's ongoing work to help alleviate the poverty, hunger and social injustice facing small coffee farmers and farm workers worldwide, Oxfam chose to begin participating in the development of the 4Cs over two years ago. Since then, the system for implementing the code has yet to be established. The process put in place to solicit farmer and farm worker feedback has not given those groups a true voice in the process. Meanwhile small scale family farmers and farm workers continue to suffer as a result of the coffee crisis.

"We feel our expectations for this process can be accomplished reasonably within the next several months," said Petchers. "Oxfam needs to have a substantive commitment from the 4Cs so we can move forward confidently with the knowledge that small scale family farmers and farm workers will truly benefit from the initiative - these people are the ones bearing the burden of the coffee crisis."

A copy of the Oxfam letter delivered to the 4Cs secretariat follows. For more information or to set up an interview please contact Helen DaSilva at, +55 71 9606 3489 (Brazil, through September 28) or (617) 331-2984 (Boston, after September 30).


Salvador, Brazil
September 22, 2005

This week, the Rules of Participation document (RoP) was accepted by the 4Cs Steering Committee in Salvador, Brazil. The RoP lays out the spirit of the 4Cs and identifies the components of the program that participants agree will be put into place. However, the RoP leaves pending the development of specific guidelines that will define the way that the system operates. As the 4Cs enters into its next stage Oxfam wants to make its expectations of the development process clear.

  • A concrete mechanism must be developed and implemented to effectively monitor, evaluate, and enforce buyer commitment to increased purchases over time.

  • A system must be developed that defines the mechanism to ensure that, as mandated in the RoP, pricing covers all costs associated with monitoring and verification. This system must take into account differences between producing countries, including geography, production conditions, local labor laws and trade union presence, etc.

  • The method of monitoring and verification of 4Cs compliance, including systems to collect and analyze reported data, must be clearly defined, transparent, and put into place with provisions made for enforcement.

  • A mechanism must be devised and imple mented to ensure that buyers and roasters will cover an appropriate portion of the cost of managing the 4Cs process.

  • Guidelines and clear, specific objectives must be developed for capacity building projects associated with the 4Cs. Mechanisms must be established to guarantee that implementation of these projects takes place in a transparent manner, including a requirement to hold open meetings to consult with local stakeholders before projects move forward.

  • A series of multiple consultative workshops for producer organizations will be established in Central America, South America, Africa, and Asia to proactively solicit input on the 4Cs development process from small-scale family farmer and farm worker representatives. Oxfam would be pleased to offer advice to the 4Cs Management Unit on how to most effectively organize these workshops.
  • A structure will be developed to ensure that governance of the final 4Cs system will include adequate representation by small-holder organizations and farm worker unions. These stakeholders will be given a share of the responsibility for creating the strategy implemented by the 4Cs Management Unit.

    Establishment of the systems outlined above is a necessary next step in the development of the 4Cs without which implementation cannot move forward. Given the importance of this next phase, the urgency of the situation facing small-scale family farmers and farm workers, and the length of time it has taken to get to this stage, Oxfam expects that establishment of these systems will be complete and ready for stakeholder review no later than the next Steering Committee meeting (i.e., approximately six months). Further, Oxfam expects that the 4Cs will not go into the implementation phase until these criteria are met, nor will the project secretariat issue any public statements suggesting the implementation of the 4Cs.

    As Oxfam has stated previously, our continued participation in the 4Cs process is dependant on the course of development of the Code and does not guarantee our endorsement of the final product. Our continued participation in the process will be based on our evaluation of whether and how the expectations outlined above are met.

    Seth Petchers
    Coffee Campaign Lead, Oxfam International

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