The UNECE Working Party on Regulatory Cooperation and Standardization Policies (WP.6) aims at promoting regulatory policies to protect the health and safety of consumers and workers, and preserve our natural environment, without creating unnecessary barriers to trade. To contribute to this goal, it develops recommendations, and undertakes sectoral initiatives and capacity-building activities.
The Working Party is a convening platform open to governments, regulatory bodies and administrations, but also, standardization bodies, the private sector, and the wide range of bodies that make up a country’s “quality infrastructure”. Historically, it has played an important advocacy role, promoting the use of standards by policy-makers and businesses, as tools for reducing technical barriers to trade, furthering innovation and competitiveness, promoting increased resilience to disasters, and fostering innovation and good governance.
After the adoption of Agenda 2030, the WP.6 becomes then naturally a platform for the promotion of standards as a tool for the implementation of UN-wide agendas, in particular the SDGs but also other key landmark UN Agreements, especially as regards: the integration of standards in regulatory frameworks; the use of standards by policy-makers and business; and the development of institutional mechanisms and infrastructure needed to support the implementation of standards.
The recommendations and best practices developed by the Working Party are voluntary and are widely used by public authorities. In particular, they have been referenced as best practice by the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade and by the European Union. They have formed the basis of regulatory cooperation in the Commonwealth of Independent States and in the Eurasian Economic Commission. Since 1970, 18 Recommendations have been adopted.
The Recommendations are practical tools, developed by authorities and experts and of immediate use in regulatory practice. The most important ones are as follows:
- Recommendation T – adopted in 2017 - sets out best practice for regulatory agencies engaging in regulatory processes needed for the implementation of the SDGs. It encourages them to develop risk-based regulatory systems proportionate to the risks that can impact upon the SDG achievement, especially as regards regulatory requirements, conformity assessment and surveillance procedures.
- Recommendation D – last revised in 2013 – encourages authorities to use international, regional and national standards in regulatory and policy work whenever possible and sets out various practical methods for referencing standards in technical regulations.
- Recommendation L enshrines the “International Model”, a set of tools that countries can use to approximate technical regulations in specific sectors. The Working Party has taken the lead to implement this Recommendation by fostering “sectoral initiatives” to develop common regulatory frameworks in the areas of telecom, earth-moving machinery, equipment for explosive environments, and pipeline safety. Texts related to these sectoral initiatives are constantly kept up to date on the website at https://goo.gl/rGB1SK
- Recommendations F and G – last revised in 2016 – aim at facilitating international trade by avoiding the duplication of conformity assessment procedures which are not justified on grounds of safety and public health and promote the establishment of agreements on conformity assessment processes when relevant.
- Recommendations M and N compile best practice in the area of enforcement and aim at promoting cooperation among enforcement authorities. In all UNECE markets, non-compliant products are on the rise; but competent authorities and consumer associations are severely underfunded. For these reasons, action to ensure that regulations are enforced is of paramount importance.
- Recommendation S on “Applying Predictive Risk Management Tools for Targeted Market Surveillance” provides guidance to market surveillance authorities in planning surveillance activities on the basis of a predictive risk-based assessment of products/businesses within their jurisdiction. It fosters a culture of prevention of accidents on the basis of a structured assessment of risks. The Working Party has also published a glossary of terms related to market surveillance activities (ECE/TRADE/389), and has developed a database gathering information on market surveillance authorities, their mandate, their legislative references, and their sector of activity (http://www.unece.org/trade/wp6/marsdbase.html).
- Recommendations P and R offer guidance on how risk-management tools can be used in order to better prioritize standardization and regulatory work, make better informed choices between regulatory alternatives and better manage regulatory crises. They also advise authorities on how risk management tools can form the basis for regulatory cooperation work. Best practice developed by the Working Party in this area has also been published in the volume Risk Management in Regulatory Frameworks: Towards a Better Management of Risks (ECE/TRADE/390).
- Recommendation I, last revised in 2012, encourages authorities – where feasible and where the legal framework permits – to further promote the inclusion of standards as a subject in the curricula of universities and research centres. A collection of 15 “educational modules” – including teaching materials ready to be used by teachers and students at the universities or other academic institutions – is currently being developed to assist in vocational education and support the introduction or further development of the subject of standardization in universities.
Recommendations to UNECE Governments on Standardization Policies
The Recommendations have been compiled in a single publication (ECE/TRADE/379/Rev.1) available at https://goo.gl/HETj8V The complete list of Recommendations adopted to date is as follows:
As of 12 December 2017