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ISO's developing country members urged to become "standards makers", not "standards takers"

by Roger Frost on
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DEVCO meeting San Diego

Developing countries were challenged to increase their participation in standards development and become "standards makers" instead of "standards takers" at a meeting on 17 September in San Diego, USA, of ISO, the world's largest producer of International Standards.

ISO Secretary-General, Rob Steele, was addressing the 46th meeting of the ISO Committee for developing country matters (ISO/DEVCO). The meeting drew more than 340 delegates from 106 developing country members of ISO.

Rob Steele, San Dego 2012 ISO Secretary-General, Rob Steele, at the 46th ISO/DEVCO meeting in San Diego, USA.

He emphasized the important contributions that standards make to national economies, international trade and to tackling challenges facing the world community such as the environment and adequate supplies of water. Mr. Steele said no country had the resources to participate in all of ISO's more than 200 standards development committees. However, developing countries could identify the half-dozen most important sectors to their economies and become involved in the corresponding ISO technical groups developing standards for these.

Mr. Steele reviewed ISO's efforts to assist its developing country members to build up and improve their standardization infrastructures. The roadmap for these efforts is set out in the ISO Action Plan for developing countries 2011-2015.

One of the innovations already launched under the plan is bringing together members of academia and national standards bodies (NSBs) to reflect on how to introduce standardization topics into educational curricula at all levels. A first regional workshop along these lines took place in May in Indonesia and others will follow. This first event coincided with the launching of the ISO database of educational materials on standardization.

Another highlight of the year was the development of workshops on good standardization practice. The first workshop was held in July in Thailand. The programme covered by the workshop includes provision of a self-assessment tool to enable ISO members to benchmark their practices and embark on the path of improvement. One of the main objectives is to help them when developing standards to apply the six World Trade Organization principles for avoiding Technical Barriers to Trade.

To meet the objectives of the Action Plan, ISO has also been running training programmes for the secretaries of ISO technical committees (TCs) and their support teams. In addition, a course for ISO/TC chairs and convenors has been developed and the first one held in Geneva in May.

A related innovation is a new course for implementing the guidance on engaging stakeholders in standardization work developed by the Process Evaluation Group (PEG) of the Technical Management Board (TMB). The course will be delivered for the first time in October.

In providing these courses, ISO has been careful to adopt a more regional approach to make it easier for participants from different parts of the world to attend. This approach is complemented by the use of technology to enable participation by those who cannot attend physically.

Such initiatives are made possible not only by ISO member contributions, but also through funding by external donor organizations, particularly the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

The ISO/DEVCO event opened a week of meetings, including the 35th ISO General Assembly, which are hosted by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

More photos of DEVCO in San Diego