Standards are an integral part of society and are present in nearly everything that surrounds us on a daily basis; they shape how products are designed, produced and used. They are in all products that cross borders and can play a key role to reduce technical barriers to trade as well as integrate key sustainable aspects directly into the product conception and compliance. Lack of standards, multiplication of standards or standards which are too restrictive can disrupt trade flows. It is crucial to ensure that the standards are applied in a consistent and harmonized manner.
During the UNECE Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (RFSD) the Working Party on Regulatory Cooperation and Standardization Policies (WP.6) organized a side event on 6 April to showcase the importance of standardization to achieve the SDGs 4, 5 and 17 (three of the key themes of the 2022 RFSD) and reflect on the necessary next steps towards a sustainable future. The full recording of this meeting is available on the UNECE YouTube channel.
Standards in technical regulations determine the ability of stakeholders to move goods across borders. Using internationally recognized standards can help to boost trade and help to build trustworthiness in support of traceability and sustainability. The UK Mission to the WTO, UN and Other International Organisations in Geneva outlined the huge potential for cooperation internationally on the standards development and stressed the importance of WP.6. for cooperation and sustainability in development of internationally recognized standards.
The World Trade Organisation’s Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee Chair underscored the important role of cooperation in developing and using standards, especially in the trade policy areas. As international standards are core to achieving the TBT Committee mandate, she stressed the importance for member States to participant and cooperate in their development.
The German Permanent Missions in Geneva underlined that it is time to consider gender equality as an overarching principle and not only a thematic issue. The aim of feminist development policy is the realization of human rights and the equal social, political and economic participation of all people regardless of their gender, gender identity, ethnicity, migration status, age, possible disability or other identity characteristic. It was underlined that the WP.6 gender-responsive standards contributes to this goal. Standards Council of Canada described why gender matters in standardization, by underlining biases that still exist in standards development, often considering women to be niche – even if women represent half the population. The speaker presented the WP.6 Declaration on Gender-Responsive Standards and Standard Development as well as a Guideline on developing such standards. These points were again echoed in the UN Women Roundtable session of the RFSD and reflected in the RFSD final report (paragraph 52).
Academia remains irreplaceable in fostering partnership between multiple actors, identifying problems and finding innovative solutions towards sustainability. One of the main benefits and direct impact of WP. 6 is bringing education on standardization to academia (e.g. through its model programme on standards) and to raise awareness and knowledge to future economic stakeholders. The Matej bel University of Slovakia stressed the importance of this initiative and repeated that standards are present in all aspects of our daily life and the importance of cooperation.
The International Organization of Standardisation demonstrated how cooperation is implemented in standards development, seeking to meet global needs, ensure all voices are heard and promote the use of international standards. It works towards making lives easier, safer and better paralleling the UN 2030 Agenda to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
By integrating into standards development core principles like gender-responsiveness, it is possible to positively affect society in general to move towards a desired outcome. This same principle could be encouraged within product and process design for all aspects of the 2030 Agenda to ensure a sustainable future for all. WP.6 stands ready to explore the possibilities.
Join us to further develop these issues during our 1 June conference on “Gender-responsive standards: bringing standards for sustainable development and gender-equality to standards development bodies” as well as other events during our 1-10 June WP.6 Forum.
For more information on WP.6, please visit our website at: https://unece.org/trade/wp6.