The news from the Third World is so often dominated by reports of wars, revolts and famines that Americans can easily come to the conclusion that little else of note goes on there. But in the midst of the poverty and anguish of millions of human beings, there are strivings within a sprouting consumer movement. In India there are over one hundred consumer groups reaching large numbers of people with tiny budgets. The budgets of these groups are also tiny, with the largest association running on annual revenues of $75,000. However, they can have the services of full time college graduates for under $2000 a year.
Penang, Malaysia seems to be the inspiration for many of the new Consumer and environmental organizations starting in Asia and Africa. In international consumer circles, the name of Anwar Hail stands out as the dynamic and indefatigable organizer, motivator and networker. Fazal, whose base is Penang, is a whirlwind traveler to country after country as part of his work with the International Organization of Consumers Unions (10CU).
Some recent activities in various countries reflect the broader definition of consumer protection that Fazal brings to his priorities in Comparison with counterpart groups in the western world. Zimbabwe commemorated World Consumer Rights Day by circulating the eight basic consumer rights to schools and colleges for essay and poster competitions. These rights relate to protection from air and water pollution as well as contaminated food and deceptive advertising.
A gathering in Malaysia went over practical ways to recycle waste products and discussed the ozone layer depletion. Earlier, consumer advocates joined with fisherman protesting factory pollution poisoning fisheries.
Thousands of miles away, the Cyprus Consumers Association moved to stop the importation of baby dummies that exposed babies to choking. By the end of 1957, about 700 consumer organizations have been established throughout China by government authorities trying to combat the rising marketplace fraud that is associated with allowing private sellers to operate.
Efforts are underway in Nigeria to replace expensive imported milk with home-made soya milk to combat malnutrition. Both out-patient parents and mothers of infants admitted to clinics because of severe malnutrition are learning how to grow, harvest and prepare soya beans.
Concern over the harmful effects of infant formula, sold by multinational corporations such as Nestle, is leading toward action which promotes breastfeeding. One hundred pediatricians in Pakistan adopted the Peshawar Declaration against any further spread of bottle-feeding so as to prevent many more infant diarrhea deaths, especially in rural villages.
There is a growing recognition among Third World peoples that contending political and economic: ideologies held by ruling cliques promise much and deliver little. These clique’s have ingenious ways to suck up the wealth of the country into a few families who then stash it away in Swiss banks, real estate in Europe and the U.S. and other removed depositaries. So, self-help, self-reliance have become the cry of many persons in everything from food to shelter to health care to education.
Banding together in small communities for achieving better living standards is now a subject for compilation — a sure sign of emerging quantitative as well as emulative significance. The Club Rome that alarm sounder of risky global trends, has issued an encouraging report titled “The Barefoot Revolution” which touts these small-scale projects as a far superior alternative to huge Western-style projects that so often end in economic and environmental disaster.
Perhaps with a new Administration in Washington next year, the emphasis will be on supporting such endeavors and providing opportunities for many public-spirited Americans to add to the record of the Peace Corps.