Consumers at UNCTAD: Uniting Approaches to Build the Consumer Movement

09 July 2024
  • Last week Consumers International joined experts and member states in its special advisory role to the United Nations for the eighth session of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts (IGE) in Geneva.  
  • We shared our dialogue for action in a discussion on how government can enhance the consumer movement.  
  • In the IGE’s Agreed Conclusions member states are actively encouraged to support the movement, recognising the trusted role consumer groups play.
  • We amplified the consumer voice across other topical areas - food, competition law and policy, and redress.

Enhancing the Consumer Movement – why, how, what’s next

Since its establishment, the consumer movement has helped to shape policymaking, drive consumer education, resolve disputes, and monitor the market to demand accountability across actors. During the UNCTAD-led session, Enhancing the Consumer Movement on Tuesday 2 July we shared examples of this work in practice and what more can be done to connect consumer groups and government for impact.

The need for joint-up solutions is ever-more pressing considering the issues we face in today’s modern marketplace. From misinformation to sophisticated scams to preserving competitive markets. Despite these issues – civic space has been shrinking and the impact of the pandemic has left actors with limited resources

Director General of Consumers International, Helena Leurent delivered a keynote speech to speak to these points. Other panellists included consumer protection directors from across governments in Poland, Sweden, Argentina, Kenya and Mexico.

 

Consumers International Board Member, Sandra Molenaar and CEO of Consumentenbond, explained how legislation in the Netherlands has itself set a roadmap for collaboration between Consumentenbond and the Dutch Competition Authority – emphasising the value the Authority places in consumer groups. This has seen consumer groups consulted with on a range of issues  from food and drug administration to fairer financial transactions.

At the end of the eighth session, the IGE released its agreed conclusions which included a provision encouraging member states to support the development of independent consumer groups. During the meeting, we started to open dialogue with member states on what a new social contract between the government and consumer advocates could look like. We will continue these conversations to help turn the recommendations set out at UNCTAD into action.

Selected Top Highlights from UNCTAD

  • During a session on global food markets and competition and consumer policies we presented our Fair Food Prices initiative, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, to a diverse audience including competition authorities, consumer groups, academics, regulators. This initiative strengthens evidence against unfair food pricing, convenes stakeholders to find solutions, and advocates for fair competition. We also expressed our commitment to expanding these efforts and welcomed collaboration to further this mission.
  • On day 4, experts focussed on Competition Policy and Poverty Reduction highlighting the powerful link between effective competition policy and poverty reduction, with a particular focus on interventions in the food, energy, and health sectors. These discussions revealed encouraging efforts by authorities and other stakeholders to actively engage non-profit organisations.
  • A draft Declaration on Cross-Border Dispute Resolution and Redress for Consumers highlighted the need for effective ways to handle cross-border consumer disputes. It urged member states to create policies that align with international standards, promote international cooperation, and ensure accessible and effective systems for resolving disputes. As the global advocacy organisation for 200 consumer groups, our work has increasingly called for such systems. Topics such as these must have due attention at global fora.
  • Our Member – Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP, India) shared an overview of the adoption and impact of the International Code for the Protection of Tourists (ICPT) by 24 countries, spotlighting its value during the pandemic and beyond.

 

The eighth session of the IGE showed how experts recognise and value the voice of the consumer. We remain committed to building robust consumer protection measures to benefit consumers and consumer groups worldwide. To find out how you can partner with us contact impact@consint.org 

To view recordings of the sessions, visit here. 

Amplifying the Consumer Voice

In the months prior to the session, we consulted with our Members to ensure their examples of good practice and the consumer voice were heard at UNCTAD – a few top highlights are below.