The concept came out of the extensive work on competition policy issues by Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), which floated the idea as a result of a path-breaking project on comparison of competition regimes in developing countries (popularly called the 7-Up Project).
It revealed a crying need for building a network of stakeholders, especially civil society, so that the competition regimes at the national level could be strengthened, and developed where absent.
As businesses and their anti-competitive practices have become global in nature, the need for consumer-oriented competition advocacy at the global level cannot be understated.
Competition enforcement agencies of different countries of the world have responded to such a situation through the formation of International Competition Network (ICN). Similarly, the Global Competition Forum (GCF) of competition lawyers has been created under the auspices of the International Bar Association. The OECD has floated a Global Forum on Competition, which organizes annual meetings of competition authorities, while Members of the WTO are also considering a multilateral agreement on competition.
To complement such initiatives and enhance peoples’ participation, it is essential to establish a similar network at the civil society level, whose voice on the global stage is not as strong as is desirable. Thus, the network is named as, “International Network of Civil Society Organisations on Competition” (INCSOC).
The first general body meeting of the Network was held on February 20, 2003. Over 35 organizations that attended the meeting at Geneva, expressed a strong support for such a network. These organizations came from diverse countries such as Zambia, Bangladesh and Nepal from the LDC category; India, Argentina and Brazil from the developing category, and UK and USA from the developed category of nations.
The key point of agreement was that research organizations and advocacy groups need to work more closely together, in enriching their competition advocacy work, which emerged as a critical learning from the 7-Up project process. This is important since effective advocacy calls for a solid research base to enable advocacy groups to convince citizens and politicians that a competition culture is good for the citizens, particularly the poor.
The network intends to put civil society on the map of competition policy discussions at the international and domestic arena. One of the first major projects will be to prepare a World Competition Report by 2005.