Monday, May 5, 2008

Tackle consumer’s rights violations to archieve MDGs

By Bernard Kihiyo

I will be honoured to share with you some issues which are important to UN millennium development goal project. For the matter of facts if we real want countries to make progress in reducing poverty and attain the MDGs we have to think twice and analyse the trend of events with intention to help countries hit the intended targets.

In 2000 the UN Millennium Declaration, adopted at the largest-ever gathering of heads of state, committed countries (rich and poor). I should acknowledge; this strategy is one of the best ever being adopted by UN agreed by 2015 all 191 United Nations Member States have pledged to:
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger,
2. Achieve universal primary education;
3. Promote gender equality and empower women;
4. Reduce child mortality;
5. Improve maternal health;
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases;
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
8. Develop a global partnership for development

We are almost half way to 2015; however I have the feeling that so many countries around the world (including Tanzania) will fall far short of the Millennium Development Goals if the world will not urgently take into account consumers’ rights violation as the matter of concern.

For instance; how can a country eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, if the market if full of counterfeit products, poor services and unfair charges? How can a country eradicate poverty while businesses form cartels to rip more profit out of the little income/resources of the poor especial on food, fuel, essential human drugs, building materials, farming equipment and the like?

How can a country reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; while the market is full of fake drugs of all sort with very poor customer service characterized with unprofessional conducts; with minimum checks and balance by consumers themselves and other stakeholders?.

How can a country ensure environmental sustainability while consumers and producers don’t know their responsibilities to attain sustainable consumption and production? For instance the demand for safe sanitation and environment depends far more on hygiene education.

How can the countries develop a global partnership for development while trade policies in developed countries remain highly discriminatory against developing country exports at the same time encourage sabotage on economies of weaker partners (unfair contracts, counterfeit goods)as a result, we found in our countries with more globalization losers than winners.

Other factors such as declining level of aid, pledge were made by rich countries to allocate at least 0.7% of their gross national income to development by 2015 but; many countries are by far behind this, how can MDGs being attained under these circumstances? This is just to mention some few.

Rich countries have made promises to support MDG but these words must be backed by deeds.

It is not about hard work, support or individual efforts that will reduce poverty but also it is about all potential opportunities to eradicate poverty; should be part of the system which ensures equal rewarding to the hard work or opportunity gained or given to individuals especially the poor.

Thus, to achieve a higher rate of successful national strategic program interventions to achieve MDGs, consumer rights protection and promotion program is of paramount importance.

Section IV (67) of the 1999-UN Consumer Protection guidelines, underscores the need for governments and international organizations to promote and facilitate capacity-building in the area of consumerism.

In particular, governments and donors are urged to facilitate cooperation among consumer groups and other relevant organizations of the civil society, with the aim of strengthening capacity in the area of sustainable consumption and production.

I do believe in this world there is no single approach to reform; the MDGs must become a world reality, embraced by their main stakeholders especially the poor people to ensure they get value for their little money sent on goods or services.

The Author is
Executive Director
Tanzania Consumer Advocacy Society

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