ACTION, NETWORKS AND GLOBAL CHANGE
Increasingly we find that justice for the poor and protection of the environment depend on building citizen power to counter the abuses of powerful states and transnational corporations. The experience of the International Organisation of Consumers' Unions (IOCU) provides useful insights into what this requires.
The IOCU was founded in 1960 as a rather polite membership organisation that served as a clearing house for consumer product information. We evolved into a support body for powerful advocacy networks involving thousands of organisations and millions of citizens.
Our first global campaign centred on the irresponsible practice of transnational companies, such as Nestlé, in the marketing of infant formula and other baby foods. These practises were causing thousands of infant deaths each year. Later we helped form and support numerous other global issue networks dealing with pharmaceuticals, tobacco, toxic wastes, biotechnology, food irradiation and others. Our insights grow with our experience.
We have learned, for example, that effective networks are more like love affairs than conventional organisations. You don't become a "member", you become an actor. When you start doing things that support the network's goals, you are in. If you stop, you are out.
We have also found that when dealing with global issues, the most effective networks are those that link:
We have learned to build networking strategies around the multiplication of:
We have formulated five basic principles for global networking:
Global networking is still a relatively new phenomena and we have much to learn. It is already evident, however, that it is an important key to the transformation of global society through people's action. The task is enormous, with ample need for the contribution of every reponsible citizen.
Anwar Fazal is the director of the International Organisation of Consumers' Unions (IOCU) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, and a contributing editor of the People-Centred Development Forum. This column was prepared and distributed by the PCDForum. PCD Forum Column #7.