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NOTHING TO HIDE? ETHIOPIAN RESPONSES TO THE NEW EXTERNAL DEMAND FOR SUSTAINABILITY CERTIFICATION [Abstract ID: 0901-05]
The demand for certified products, such as foodstuff and clothing, is increasing in Europe and North America. International businesses disclose information and certifiers guarantee compliance with specific standards, such as minimum wages and prohibition of toxic pesticides and fertilizers. The Ethiopian government supports such initiatives to fulfil the demands of the global market. In an effort to increase foreign exchange earnings, to stabilize the country’s currency, the government aims to intensify the production of goods, such as cotton, for export. While the broader public generally welcomes sustainability certification, studies are relatively limited when it comes to assessing the external power of these initiatives in countries such as Ethiopia. Global trade relations are usually analysed like a zero-sum game, which produces winners and losers. In this vein, standards have been seen as new “trade weapons” that western firms and consumer states use to maintain their dominance in global trade. Allen (1998) added to such concepts of power over (coercion or manipulation) with concepts of power to (empowerment and resistance) and power with (cooperation and learning). Using two international cotton/textile standards – the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) – as illustrative examples, we look at how certification initiatives exercise power, and how external certifiers are intertwined with local projects on the ground. Does sustainability certification stand for an innovative form of more ethical cooperation or does it perpetuate strategic partnerships that take advantage of people and resources in global trade?