Thursday, 5 May 2011

Consumers International World Congress - Day 3 roundup

Consumers can be empowered, and consumer organisations can make sure this happens through sharing and networking, speakers at the 19th Consumers International World Congress in Hong Kong said. The programme of the Congress finished on Thursday evening, and on Friday the global consumer body will hold its General Assembly and Council elections. 

In his closing remarks, CI President Samuel Ochieng, emphasised "our ability to shape our future," ending the event on a positive note. Acting Director General, Helen McCallum, showed, in her remarks, the real excitement of the last few days.


Earlier, CI Vice President, James Guest, who is also President and CEO, Consumers Union of United States, delivered a keynote address on one of the key themes of the Congress: "The fight for fair financial services - a battle our movement must win".

Guest had this message for delegates and consumers around the world: "If you're wondering whether you, as an individual or through your organisation, can really make a difference in a David versus Goliath battle against the power of special interests, you already know the answer — yes, you can. The banking lobbyists are rich and powerful, and they spend a lot of money trying to buy influence. But there is one important asset that they lack and we have: people power. In the end, although it will be a hard and difficult fight, I believe that people power - mobilised by the over 220 members of CI - will eventually win.

"That’s because our cause and our stories and our passion are real. We fight for change, not because we are well-heeled lobbyists paid to do so, but because we care about our lives and the lives of our children, our neighbours, our countrymen, and citizens of the world - today and tomorrow, for this generation and the next."

Other highlights:

In a video message to the CI World Congress, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, that currently holds the presidency of the G20, said that the "G20 called for action on behalf of consumers, and with OECD I am working to protect consumers of financial services". She expressed the view that "consumers should be participants in the process of ensuring their own security," and admitted that "at the time of the crisis we did not focus enough on consumers in the first instance". Christine Lagarde said she remained "interested in the proposals developed for consumer protection and involvement following a successful CI Congress".


Gerd Leonhard, CEO of The Futures Agency, attracted a lot of interest with his views. Consumer organisations must network to have greater impact, they must share and publish; this is how you engage and enable others, he suggested. The difference between MTV and YouTube is the difference between 'the network' and networked, he said.

"'When five billion people are on the internet within a few years, the power of the consumer will be greater than ever," Gerd predicted. 

We use social media/mobile phones to 'review' services, and corporations are paying attention, he added and noted that with broadband culture "everything known to man will be copied".

Former CI President Anwar Fazal delivered a rousing speech, which resulted in a standing ovation from the audience. He said that "in a world of big power, big media... networking is the new democracy". 

Fazal added: ''CI is a force for social justice, we can do it, we must and we will!' He warned consumer organisations to "train new people or you will have no future," and noted that we "must not allow modernity to replace fundamental human connections".



On the subject of copyright and access to knowledge, David Hammerstein, TACD IP adviser, said: "We are not against copyright, we are for a more direct relation between artists and consumers".

CI's Dr Jeremy Malcolm added: "We want to support authors but not outdated regulation". He also argued that "unbalanced copyright and IP laws hurt consumers not pirates".

We aim to have A2K included in UN guidelines on consumer protection, Malcolm said.

Go to www.a2knetwork.org to comment on draft UN guidelines for A2K.

Sunil Abraham, Executive Director, Centre for Internet & Society, argued that fake mobile phone innovators in China are not pirates but "enablers of connectivity in the developing world".




Sue Rutledge, Coordinator for Global Program on Consumer Protection and Financial Literacy, World Bank, thanked Consumers International and HKCC for tackling the issue of financial services. She said that "all financial services providers should enable consumer redress," and that she "would like to see consumer ogranisations play an active role in protecting consumer financial protection".

Interviews

A number of speakers at CI World Congress have been interviewed by young TV journalists from Hong Kong City University involved in covering the event. Check the following videos:

Samuel Ochieng, President, Consumers International 

Helen McCallum, Acting Director General of Consumers International

James Guest, CI Vice President - President and CEO, Consumers Union of United States 

Connie Lau, Chief Executive, Hong Kong Consumer Council

Sue Rutledge, Coordinator for Global Program on Consumer Protection and Financial Literacy, World Bank

Niall Dunne, Former Managing Director Saatchi & Saatchi Sustainability

Guido Adriaenssens, Chief Executive, International Consumer Research & Testing (ICRT), Belgium 

You can also watch:

CI World Congress gala dinner

Day 3 - Morning sessions highlights

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