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GLOBAL STANDARDS FOR “ETHICAL” COTTON: HIGHER TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY TO LOCAL SMALLHOLDERS IN RURAL ETHIOPIA? [Abstract ID: 1205-01]
Rural Ethiopia is experiencing a cotton revival due to the recovery of the cotton price and the government’s interest in increase exports. Much of the country’s production comes from smallholders, who have cultivated about 39,600 hectares of cotton fields. Global standards for “ethical” cotton/textiles certification organized and coordinated by private actors, aim to guarantee compliance with minimum production criteria in rural communities. These schemes exemplify efforts to encourage and control information flows to resolve environmental and social challenges within and beyond state boundaries. Yet, in some cases, the standards are unwanted by the supposed beneficiaries. To participate in the globalized economy, and increase their market share, local farmers have to readjust their productions system according to global certification standards. This paper examines how ideas and principles at the global level are accepted and implemented at the local level by tackling issues of transparency and accountability. It aims to answer the following research question: Are global certification schemes transparent to the wider public and accountable to local smallholders in rural Ethiopia? The paper has three parts: First, we contrast outcome and procedural transparency and relate these analytical categories to accountability and legitimacy goals. Second, applying a multiple case study method, we analyze four schemes certifying cotton/textiles, namely the Better Cotton Imitative (BCI), Cotton made in Africa (CmiA), the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations (FLO). Finally, we discuss the findings and differences among the schemes. The participation of smallholders in standard setting, and hence the procedural transparency, of all schemes is restricted by factors such as financial limitations, educational level, language barriers and spatial proximity. However, the FLO has established a bottom-up organizational structure in which local smallholders directly participate in global decision making through Smallholder Producers Organizations (SPO). In IFOAM, some, but not all, smallholders are represented through Intercontinental Network of Organic Farmers Organizations (INOFO), and BCI involves non-governmental organizations that work with smallholders and participate on their behalf. Only CmiA focuses solely on outcome transparency, i.e. transparency for the wider public but not accountable for smallholders in rural Ethiopia.