In Memoriam: Bert Beekman (1952-2020)

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In Memoriam: Bert Beekman (1952-2020)

Bert Beekman, 'the smiling pioneer of Fair Trade', passed away on 23 March 2020, 17 years after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Pauline Tiffen, editor in chief of the Journal of Fair Trade, wrote this short note to Bert in January 2020:


To Bert,

Bert is unique. Unforgettable for the way he coaxed, captured and charmed such an enormous number of people to take all the extra steps and leaps of faith needed to create the conditions between small scale farmers and consumers for a new way of trading in coffee, cocoa and other products. For a long time in the late 1980s and early 90s his was the voice on this challenge. No conversation was unimportant. No voice ignored. No support unthanked.

Seriousness blended exquisitely with humour and love in Bert's way of working. Detail mixed easily with vision for Bert.
He knew that the essence of the institutions such as Max Havelaar and its sisters/brothers around the world, that he worked so hard to create, was to be found in clear rules and criteria, but that these, without values and vision would be worthless, and easily subverted.

He worked hard on this and those who shared hope and concerns, argued back, debated and challenged—something he loved—but ultimately we supported and trusted him.

Bert delivered an intoxicating mix of inspiration and pragmatism to all: not just those keen to listen, but most especially to those who didn't want to, but became compelled! Charisma is an overused word but Bert is the epitome of the best of all charismatic leaders I have met in my life. All who have worked with him, been led by him feel this, and those who have known his care and love and have held on to this as something precious and rare. It's an honour to be a comrade and friend and La Luta Continua as we all know.

Pauline Tiffen
Editor in Chief, Journal of Fair Trade
January 2020


Read more about Bert Beekman here

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