The Economic Times, April 10, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted and impacted the daily lives of people and hampered economic activities in many countries across the world. The coronavirus’s continuing spread requires global stakeholders to collaborate, support each other and find innovative solutions together in order to address the core challenges that Member States are experiencing.
In this context, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), have signed an agreement to empower consumers to contribute to the global development agenda as well as support their respective governments in times of global crisis.
Director General of UNIDO, LI Yong, and the Secretary General of CUTS, Pradeep S. Mehta, have signed a memorandum of understanding for five years, which aims to initiate joint technical co-operation projects to support ongoing activities in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
CUTS has expressed a strong interest in supporting UNIDO in promoting e-commerce as a platform to accelerate Member States’ transition to the digital economy and adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. UNIDO and CUTS plan to develop and implement a BRICS e-commerce project that will build upon the success of UNIDO’s pilot e-commerce project implemented in the BRICS countries between 2016 and 2018.
E-commerce is one sector that can contribute to the economy during the COVID-19 emergency. Many lockdowns implemented across the world have required consumers to explore online purchasing options. This clearly indicates that e-commerce has an opportunity to grow as well as expand its attractiveness in countries that have yet to jump on the “e-commerce bandwagon”.
E-commerce can also support the implementation of social distancing measures due to the limited amount of physical contact involved in this activity. However, it is also important to note that there are also challenges that enterprises need to address due to specific restrictions. For example, there are ongoing issues with increasing strains on existing IT infrastructure and reduced supply-chain capabilities.
The proposed BRICS e-commerce project that UNIDO and CUTS intend to implement will encourage governments of these countries to understand different aspects of national and international regulations negotiations with respect to e-commerce.
This project will also encourage MSMEs to use e-commerce platforms to reach consumers’ needs. It is also envisioned that UNIDO and CUTS will develop online capacity building courses to support enterprises’ capacities to take advantage of different e-commerce platforms, as well as target consumers by increasing awareness of consumer welfare and sovereignty.
CUTS has also been invited by UNIDO to contribute to the on-going development of its “Culture of Quality Tool” which will support Member States establish a strong quality infrastructure to promote increased access to global value chains.
CUTS is an India-based institution, established in 1983, working to achieve “consumer sovereignty in the framework of social justice, economic equality and environmental balance – within and across borders”. The core engagement areas of CUTS are promoting good governance, rules-based trade and effective regulations.
CUTS facilitates good governance through grassroots capacity-building, networking, and awareness, leading to government engagement to bring marginalized voices to the table and ensure accountability of policy practices. The organization collaborates with an existing network of more than 60 research and civil society institutions all over the world to assist stakeholders across in developing countries to establish ecosystems that promote rules-based trade for consumers – enabling them to enjoy the benefits of liberalization and integration into the world economy.
CUTS also engages with advocacy partners to ensure regulations are implemented to ensure that consumers can have better access to quality goods and services at affordable prices.
Both organizations will continue to explore other sectors where joint collaboration can be initiated under the purview of UNIDO’s mandate of promoting inclusive and sustainable industrial development and CUTS mandate of promoting consumer sovereignty which includes the Sustainable Development Goals.
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