Global Congress 2023: How do we build a resilient future for consumers?
This year Consumers International will hold its Global Congress – the only global gathering of leaders from the consumer movement, business, government, civil society and others.
The world has changed since we last met in Portugal for our Summit 2019. The cost-of-living crisis has had devastating impact, with our Members reporting that consumers have been skipping meals, adjusting their budgets, struggling with rising household debt, and worrying about their access to healthcare. As well as unsettling global supply chains, the COVID-19 pandemic saw a ‘historic and dramatic shift in consumer behaviour’ with the highest rate of people shopping online than ever. Rapid digitalisation means consumers are finding themselves in a new digital world, with some at risk of being left behind. It is for these reasons that we chose ‘Building resilience for consumers’ as the theme for our Global Congress 2023.
But what will it really mean to build resilience for consumers? And what commitments are consumer groups looking for to ensure Congress is a springboard for meaningful action?
In a series of interviews with our Members, leaders from the global consumer advocacy movement told us why we are at a critical moment for consumers, and what building resilience will look like. They spoke of the need to equip consumers for the future, as well as the important role consumer organisations play in helping consumers weather the storm.
Youkyung Huh, Consumers Korea
"A resilient future for consumers will require a new digital order which recognises human and consumer rights and puts fairness first."
"The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated an already dramatic turn towards ‘digital’. This transformation has presented challenges and changes in all sectors of the economy, including in education and health care. The cost-of-living crisis, high energy costs, and instabilities in food prices, have also added pressure.
A resilient future for consumers will require a new digital order which recognises human and consumer rights and puts fairness first. At Congress, we hope leaders can unite under a vision for a future digital world which is firmly grounded within the social, economic and cultural values that existed in the pre-digital world."
Ramona Pop, vzbv (Germany)
"Consumer organisations are essential to helping consumers through times of crisis."
"The past year has been difficult for consumers, not only in Germany and the European Union but around the world. Consumers face many challenges in everyday life: health concerns due to the pandemic, high inflation and rising prices food and energy, and ongoing concerns about the consequences of global warming. Consumers need to be resilient, and it is the task of consumer organisations to support them during these times.
Consumer organisations are essential to helping consumers through times of crisis. In Germany, we have seen an increase in numbers of consumer who sought advice due to the current energy crisis in Germany. Together with its member organisations, vzbv has increased its number of energy advice sessions to help consumers become more resilient to price shocks that have hit Europe since 2021. Some companies used the volatile market to exploit consumers further and maximise their revenues. In response, vzbv sent warnings and initiated legal action against gas and electricity suppliers who were found to have unlawfully raised their prices despite a price guarantee.
It is crucial that vzbv , and consumer organisations across the world, are there to support consumers in enforcing their rights in these difficult times.
That’s why the value of the Global Congress in meeting these challenges cannot be underestimated. Joint efforts are always better than fighting alone. Coming together also gives us a chance to learn from each other and exchange our experiences: Who challenged large companies? What legal action has been successful? Who has proposed a legislation that strengthened consumer rights? Who argued against it? This information is important to align our efforts. Achieving global change that benefits consumers everywhere is an urgent and important task and the Global Congress is an excellent forum to start."
Saroja Sundaram, Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG, India)
"We need to enshrine a sense of shared responsibility between consumers, governments, businesses."
"Resilience means supporting consumers with the skills, mindset and strategies to face uncertainty.
This means helping people to make informed decisions about their finances – especially important as digital finance and e-commerce have come to dominate the global market. It also means encouraging sustainable lifestyles through positive consumption patterns and behaviour change.
It will require all actors in the marketplace to take responsibility for protecting the interests of consumers. To do that, we need to enshrine a sense of shared responsibility between consumers, governments, businesses. Everyone has a role to play in building a safer, more sustainable future, and we can’t place that burden on one person, government or sector alone.
Take the example of plastics. We need to invest in research and development for alternatives to plastic that are not harmful to humans or the planet, and businesses need to take action by moving away from the production and use of plastics."
Seema Nareeta Shandil, Consumer Council of Fiji
"Resilience empowers consumers to make informed choices, manage risks, and demand accountability from businesses and governments."
"In 2023 and beyond, the world continues to face unprecedented challenges and uncertainties, ranging from economic fluctuations to environmental crises. For consumers, resilience is crucial as it enables them to navigate these challenges with the ability to adapt, recover, and thrive. Resilience empowers consumers to make informed choices, manage risks, and demand accountability from businesses and governments. It fosters a greater endurance to shocks, helps to uphold rights and safeguard interests, and contributes a fairer and more sustainable consumer landscape. "
JOIN THE MOVEMENT THIS DECEMBER
From 6-8 December 2023, the Consumers International Global Congress will bring together the consumer movement with leading influencers from across business, civil society and academia to tackle pressing global issues and protect consumers worldwide.
Held every four years, the Global Congress is a pivotal event for those committed to improving the lives of consumers. In 2023, marketplace actors will come together to understand the lived experience of consumers in and outside of crises and build a resilient future for people and planet.
In the meantime, if you have questions about our Global Congress event, or would like to attend, please email email@example.com
For more information, please visit our dedicated Global Congress page here.