The Consumer Safety and Health Network (CSHN)

In a context of globalized and dynamic markets and asymmetries of information and market power between consumers and providers, people are exposed to unsafe products that can cause serious health conditions and risks to their life and property. Furthermore, as the more developed economies of the world strengthen their surveillance capacity regarding consumer product safety, the likelihood of unsafe products being diverted to regions with lower levels of protection increases.

In such a context, and based on the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS), declarations of the Heads of State and Government, and successive OAS General Assembly resolutions since 2009, the OAS member states have supported the creation of the Consumer Safety and Health Network (CSHN), in order to strengthen national capacities and regional cooperation with the aim of enabling early detection of unsafe consumer products and the adoption of coordinated actions among the competent agencies, thus aimed at preventing risks from materializing into harm to consumers in the Americas.

The CHSN is the inter-American interdisciplinary mechanism, specialized in promoting -at a national and hemispheric level- consumer health and safety policies and programs, and the impact they can have on consumers' health and wellbeing.

Consumer product safety is, on the one hand, an international challenge that individual countries cannot face in isolation, but for which they rather seek sub regional, hemispheric and global cooperation; on the other hand, it is an inter-institutional challenge, since it exceeds the scope of the responsibilities assigned to consumer protection agencies alone and must be focused on a systemic and interdisciplinary perspective that involves all the national institutions with commitments related to product safety -including the sanitary surveillance authorities, health ministries, metrology institutes, customs administrations, among others.

The CSHN offers countries a space for technical cooperation to prevent and/or stop, as a region, the circulation of unsafe products in their markets. Among other aspects, the CHSN has promoted and supported the creation and/or the strengthening of consumer product safety national market surveillance systems, has trained hundreds of specialists and officials and administers the only existing regional safety alert portal in the Americas.

A central element of the CSHN that supports and strengthens cooperation among member states and national capacities on this issue, is the Inter-American Rapid Alerts System (SIAR) which allows national agencies to rapidly generate and exchange information on consumer product safety alerts in a secure and collaborative environment.

Structure of CSHN

The OAS General Assembly, through resolution AG/RES.2830 (XLIV-O/14) of June 2014, established a structure to guide the work of the CSHN, which shall "respond to the mandates and guidelines established by the General Assembly" and "is accountable to the appropriate political bodies within the OAS."

The organs of the RCSS at the technical level are the Plenary, the Management Committee, and the Technical Secretariat.

  • The Plenary is the "supreme authority of the CSHN." Participation in the meetings of the Plenary shall be open to all competent national agencies. However, every Member State shall exercise its vote and interact with the CSHN through a "Representative Authority" appointed by each country.

  • The Management Committee is the body elected to exercise permanent leadership over the CSHN. It consists of a Chair, two Vice-chairs, and two member delegates, and it shall be endeavored to reflect and respect the principle of equitable geographic representation.

  • The functions of Technical Secretariat shall be exercised by the General Secretariat of the OAS (GS/OAS), which acts in partnership with PAHO.