Thursday, 21 April 2011

CI World Congress Fringe events: consumer issues beyond the main programme

Jez Fredenburg of the CI Policy Unit talks about the Fringe programme at Consumers International World Congress in Hong Kong on 3 May 2011.

Want to get more involved at the CI World Congress this year? Head to a Fringe event on 3 May where this year’s Fringe events programme promises an exciting range of pertinent issues and topics all presented by those who are at the forefront of the consumer movement, plus high profile guests from the likes of UNCTAD and WHO.

What is the Fringe programme?
The Fringe gives members and CI partners a chance to discuss issues that go beyond the main programme.

Fringe events are less formal and provide an opportunity to play a more participatory role - for example, some events are focused work sessions. In addition the sessions are longer and try to encourage members from different regions and other stakeholders to contribute more. 

Sessions will be covering issues as diverse as pharmaceutical policies, financial services, and fair trade in Asia, amongst others. There is also an impressive list of speakers - Anwar Fazal, a renowned activist, will speak on pharmaceutical policy, while Ms Norma McCormick , the ISO Chair will speak on product safety. Officials from WHO, OECD, UNCTAD, and the Financial Stability Board will also be sharing their expertise.

Indrani Thuraisingham, Head of CI Office for Asia Pacific and the Middle East, who has been organising the Fringe, said:
“There is no particular theme for this year, but as always, there will be policy debates that address the emerging consumer-rights issues, introduction of innovative strategies, and initiatives to achieve significant impacts for consumers in general.”

Expect to bump into business leaders, intergovernmental organizations, policy-makers, funding partners, academics, civil society groups, media professionals, and other CI members. 

Any particular sessions to look out for?
Now obviously this depends on what issues in the consumer movement get you excited, curious, or just plain angry- but here are two sessions to look out for:

Access to Knowledge (9.30am-1.30pm and 2.30pm-5.30pm)
If you want to have a voice in shaping the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection in our new digital world, then head to the Access to Knowledge sessions. Dr. Jeremy Malcom, CI’s Project Coordinator for the A2K project, and author of Access to Knowledge - A Guide for Everyone, will be presenting with world experts including Hassan Qaqaya, Head of Competition Law and Consumer Policies programmes at UNCTAD. 

This impressive list of speakers will be discussing an urgent matter - consumers in today's digital world face a whole range of issues that were unheard of when the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection were last revised.  So in the second session Jeremy will be asking for input to a draft text to be proposed as the basis for the next round of revisions. To have Hassan Qaqaya there will be a huge opportunity, since it is UNCTAD that is responsible for administering the UN Guidelines.

If this isn’t your area of expertise, then don’t worry - Jeremy will be holding a ‘background’ session where you can find out about why this area is important and what the latest developments are.

Making fair trade the easy choice (2.30pm- 5.30pm)
Come along to this session and expect to be met with questions such as- how do you make fair trade the easy choice for consumers? How can it be mainstreamed in Asia where appreciation of fair trade is low? And what role do supermarkets have in all of this?

Of special interest will be the CI Supermarket Project, presented by Tom McGrath, Campaigns Officer, which has been running in six European countries to raise awareness about how supermarket policies and practices impact on farmers and suppliers in developing countries. This project drew global interest from a collaborative film on the Costa-Rican pineapple industry.

A great line up of stakeholders have been invited to give delegates a complete picture about what is happening in the market and to discuss consumption trends, challenges, current efforts and needed actions.

For a full list of events and speakers, check out the Fringe Programme.

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