UNCTAD urges G20 to champion the cause of consumer protection

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By ETV Bharat Tech Team

Published : Aug 26, 2023, 11:58 AM IST

UNCTAD urges G20 to champion the cause of consumer protection

Ahead of the G20 Summit to be hosted by India in September, Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary General of UNCTAD, has highlighted the importance of continuing with the practice of holding G20 Consumer Summits, writes ETV Bharat’s Aroonim Bhuyan.

New Delhi: Ahead of the G20 Summit to be hosted by India next month, Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), has urged the intergovernmental forum to champion the cause of consumer protection.

“UNCTAD, as a focal point on consumer protection within the United Nations system, has supported all G20 presidencies in advancing consumer protection at the global level,” Grynspan said while addressing a global webinar on ‘The G20 Championing the Consumer Movement’ organised by the CUTS International think tank in collaboration with UNCTAD.

Highlighting the importance of holding G20 Consumer Summits, she urged the forum to continue with this practice. The first G20 Consumer Summit was held in Berlin in 2017. This was followed by G20 Consumer Summits in Buenos Aires, Tokushima and Trieste.

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“In general, the G20 Consumer Summits have been an effective way to mainstream consumer protection issues in the wider G20 discussions, on such wide challenges as the digital transformation and the green transitions,” Grynspan, a former Vice President of Costa Rica and the first woman and Central American to serve as UNCTAD Secretary General, said.

Following a successful consumer summit, the Declaration of G20 Digital Ministers of 2021, under the Italian presidency, contains a full chapter on consumers’ awareness and protection in the global digital economy. Describing this as a great achievement, she said that “it is important, however, that we continue calling for G20 (Consumer) Summits”.

“This year, India convened an important meeting for G20 Global Food Regulators, an area which is extremely important for consumer protection worldwide,” Grynspan said. "But we must remain extremely ambitious and call for another G20 Consumer Summit as soon as possible.”

She further said that the UN’s 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) “are not just a set of targets; it is a promise we made to ourselves and to future generations”.

“It is the last collective roadmap in a world that is more polarised than ever, a world in desperate need of solidarity and multilateralism. In a context of cascading crises, by nearly every measure, we are moving backwards. Backwards on ending poverty. Backwards on hunger. Backwards on women’s rights. And backwards on development, with only 12 per cent of the Sustainable Development Goals on track.”

The UNCTAD Secretary-General said that consumer protection is not just a policy or a regulation. “It is the armour that shields us all from harm, deception, and fraud,” she said. “It is the foundation upon which trust is built, and it is trust that ultimately fuels the engines of progress and multilateralism.”

Vijay Nambiar, Sherpa of Civil20 during India’s G20 presidency, emphasised that “while consumers play a significant role in economic activity, it's crucial to remember that the primary goal should be the protection, maintenance, and enhancement of a sustainable quality of life for all”.

“A functional market involves effective collaboration among producers, traders, and consumers. However, global inequalities and vulnerabilities necessitate robust consumer protection measures,” Nambiar said.

Civil20 or C20 is one of the official engagement groups of the G20 that provides a platform for civil society organisations around the world to voice the people’s aspirations to the world leaders in G20.

Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS International, noted that consumer protection, though discussed within the G20 framework, has fluctuated in importance across summits based on global circumstances. “Lately, this focus has diminished,” Mehta said. “The aim now is to remedy this decline and reinstate consumer protection on the G20 agenda during the upcoming Brazil summit (in 2024) and beyond.”

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