67. The Committee recalled that the Commission had discussed this matter on several occasions and had stressed the role of regional Coordinating Committees as mechanisms for strengthening consumer participation in the work of Codex. It was noted in particular that the 22nd Session of the Commission (1997) had reached a number of conclusions concerning consumer participation in the work of Codex. It had agreed that a paper would be prepared by the Secretariat in consultation with independent non-governmental consumer organizations for consideration at its 23rd Session.
68. The Representative of Consumers International (CI) noted that CI had systematically participated in the work of Codex for more than 20 years and that the organization had more than 220 member organizations in over 100 countries world-wide. Member organizations of CI were very active in the NASWP regions. The Representative welcomed the progress made in involving consumer organizations in the work of Codex, particularly through improved communication from the Codex Secretariat and with national Codex Contact Points. CI welcomed the opportunity that the paper to be presented to the 23rd Session of the Commission would provide the opportunity to discuss a number of issues such as the participation of observers in the Executive Committee, the establishment of supporting trust funds to assist consumer participation, etc. Noting that funding was a major obstacle to consumer participation in Codex, Consumers International indicated it would appreciate information relating to no strings attached funding mechanisms that might facilitate consumer participation in Codex, and encouraged Member governments to help defray travel costs associated with consumer participation in Codex whenever possible.
69. The Representative stated that CI intended to repeat the survey undertaken in 1995 to assess progress made in including consumer organizations in the work of Codex at the national level. In order to assess progress objectively, it was suggested that Codex establish measurable objectives to assess consumer participation at the international, national and expert body level and a checklist of steps that governments should be taking at the national level to foster consumer participation. Since the situation was different from one country to another (which often led to confusion), the Representative suggested that the Commission might wish to clarify what is good practice for governments in terms of the involvement of consumer participation.
70. Finally, the Representative of CI welcomed the increased openness towards accepting qualified nominees identified by consumer organizations as experts on bodies such as JECFA, JMPR and ad hoc expert consultations, and encouraged increased coordination and communication between consumer organizations, Member governments and FAO/WHO to identify opportunities for consumers or consumer nominated experts to participate in Codex and Codex related meetings and workshops.
71. The Representative of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) expressed that organizations support for the involvement of INGOs from all sectors in the work of Codex. The Representative also stressed that the quality and utility of the scientific advice provided by expert bodies required that the selection of experts should ensure the best expertise available world-wide. Furthermore, in relation to the establishment and use of trust funds to enhance participation, the Representative noted that as Codex was in intergovernmental organization, first priority should be given to improving the participation of government representatives of developing countries.
72. Several delegations highlighted actions taken to help assure consumer understanding and participation in Codex at the national level. Foremost among these activities was the provision of timely information and improved communication with consumer organizations and individual consumers, especially though the introduction of Internet Web Pages. In the United States, the use of public meetings on Codex-related matters and the issuance of public notices had helped this process. Some delegations also expressed support for the idea of developing a checklist and/or a code of good practice.
73. The Committee noted that the contribution of INGOs to the work of Codex was extremely valuable, including the contributions from consumer, industry and professional and scientific organizations. It expressed the view that this formed the basis of effective partnership between the member governments as well as the Commission, and consumer and other NGOs that contribute to the Codex process. It noted the work underway in the Codex Committee on General Principles to establish a sound framework for the participation of all INGOs in Codex work.