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Anwar Fazal, born in 1941, first became associated with the consumer movement in 1969 when he founded the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) and later worked on consumer affairs for, among others, the Government of Mauritius, the Hong Kong Consumer Council and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In 1978, he was the first person from the Third World to become President of the International Organisation of Consumers Unions (IOCU), an independent, non-profit group which links the activities of consumer organisations in over half the countries of the world. IOCU, which has since changed its name to Consumers International, promotes international cooperation in consumer protection and education, represents the consumer interest at the global level and facilitates the comparative testing of goods and services.
In the following six years, Fazal galvanised the international consumer movement, founding a number of global networks, which he called “a new wave of the consumer movement”. These included:
CONSUMER INTERPOL - a global citizen alert system on hazardous products, processes and wastes;
IBFAN - International Baby Food Action Network, a coalition of groups active in the infant formula campaign;
HAI - Health Action International, a coalition focusing on pharmaceutical issues;
PAN - Pesticides Action Network, a global coalition of groups working on the danger of agrichemicals.
Fazal identifies five key responsibilities that must be fulfilled if people are to obtain the benefits of consumer organising. These are critical awareness (being more alert and questioning about goods and services used), action (being prepared to be assertive and to act in order to get a fair deal), social concern (being aware of the impact of consumption on other people, especially disadvantaged or powerless groups), ecological awareness (understanding the environmental consequences of consumption) and solidarity (organising as consumers to develop the strength and influence to promote and protect common interests).
Fazal currently (2014) serves as Chairperson Emeritus of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), Chairperson of Think City, advises the Taiping Peace Initiative and is also active with issues relating to inter-faith dialogue, urban governance, migrant workers’ rights, toxic contaminants, and corruption and integrity. He has established a trust fund that develops and supports new and creative initiatives by citizens’ groups to promote what he calls the “Panchasila” (five principles in Sanskrit) of Right Livelihood – social justice, ecological sustainability, cultural vibrancy, political participation and economic productivity. He also serves on the Boards of Pesticides Action International, Citizens International, Friends of the Earth, Malaysia and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
He has been honoured with the Gandhi-King-Ikeda Community Builders Award, the UNEP Global 500 Award, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Achievement Award for Malaysia, the Tower Person Award for Consumer Education, the Langkawi Environment Award, the International Health Award by Le Leche League International and the Multinational Monitors ‘Activist of the Year’ Award.
He has also served on the Jury of The Goldman Environmental Prize Foundation, the Board of Green Grants Foundation, Transparency International Malaysia and as Chairperson of the Malaysian Interfaith Network. He was the head of the United Nations Good Urban Governance Initiative for Asia and the Pacific for over a decade and a Visiting Professor at the Universiti Sains Malaysia from 2009–2012.
In 2008, Fazal became a jury member of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation. He is also currently the Director of the Right Livelihood College (RLC), which was established in January 2009.
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