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About Standardization

1.0  What is a standard?
1.1. Definition of a standard
1.2. Content of a standard
1.3. The role of standards
1.4. Types of standards
1.5. Life cycle
1.6. Copyright & right to use

2.0  Regarding standardization
2.1. The role of standardization
2.2. International, regional and national standardization
2.3. The standardization processes
2.4. Standardization and the WTO

 1. What is a standard?

1.1. Definition of a standard

The internatfional guide, ISO/IEC Guide 2:1996, defines a standard as a document, established by consensus and approved by a recognized body, that provides, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context.

1.2. Content of a standard

Standards are varied in character, subject and medium. They :

cover several disciplines: dealing with all technical, economic and social aspects of human activity and covering all basic disciplines such as language, mathematics, physics, etc.; are coherent and consistent: standards are developed by technical committees which are coordinated by a specialized body, and ensure that barriers between different areas of activity and different brands are overcome;
result from participation: standards reflect the results of joint work involving all competent parties concerned and are validated by consensus to represent all relevant interests: producers, users, laboratories, public authorities, consumers, etc.;
are a living process: standards are based on actual experience and lead to material results in practice (products- both goods and services, test methods, etc.); they establish a compromise between the state of the art and the economic constraints of the time;

are up to date: standards are reviewed periodically or as dictated by circumstance to ensure their currency, and therefore evolve together with technological and social progress;

have a reference status: in commercial contracts and in court in the event of a dispute;

have national or international recognition: standards are documents which are recognized as valid - nationally, regionally or internationally, as appropriate : are available to everyone: standards may be consulted and purchased without restriction.
As a general rule, standards are not mandatory, but are for voluntary application. In certain cases, implementation may be obligatory (such as in fields connected with safety, electrical installations, in relation to public contracts, etc.)

1.3. The role of standards  [Back to top]

A standard represents a level of know-how and technology which renders the presence of industry to its preparation indispensable. A standard is never neutral.

It is a reference document used in particular in the context of public contracts or in that of international trade on which the majority of commercial contracts rely.

It is used by industrialists as the indisputable reference, simplifying and clarifying the contractual relations between economic partners.

It is a document that is being used more and more by jurisprudence.

For the economic players, the standard is:

a factor for rationalization of production: the standard makes it possible to master the technical characteristics, to satisfy the customers, to validate the manufacturing methods, to increase productivity and gives operators and installation technicians a feeling of security;

a factor for clarification of transactions: faced with overabundant product or service offers which may have extremely different practical values, the existence of systems of reference enables one to better assess the offers and to reduce uncertainties, to aid in the definition of needs, to optimize supplier relations, to do without additional testing;

a factor for innovating and developing products: to participate in standardization work enables one to anticipate and therefore to make one's products progress simultaneously. Standards play a favorable role for innovation thanks to transfer of knowledge;

a factor for transfer of new technologies: standardization facilitates and accelerates the transfer of technologies in fields which are essential for both companies and individuals (new materials, information systems, biotechnology, electronics, computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM), etc.);

a factor for strategic choice for companies: to participate in standardization signifies introducing solutions adapted to the competence of one's company and equipping oneself to compete within competitive economic environments. It signifies acting on standardization, not enduring it.

1.4. Types of standards [Back to top]

Four major types of standards can be cited:

  • fundamental standards which concern terminology, metrology, conventions, signs and symbols, etc.;
  • test methods and analysis standards which measure characteristics;
  • define the characteristics of a product (product standard) or of a specification standards which service (service activities standard) and the performance thresholds to be reached (fitness for use, interface and interchangeability, health, safety, environmental protection, standard contracts, documentation accompanying products or services, etc.);
  • organization standards which deal with the description of the functions of the company and with their relationships, as well as with the modeling of the activities (quality management and assurance, maintenance, value analysis, logistics, quality management, project or systems management, production management, etc.);

1.5. Life cycle [Back to top]

A standard generally comprises seven major phases:

Identification of the needs of the partners: analysis per sector of the appropriateness and of the technical-economic feasibility of normative work on the basis of two determining questions: will a standard provide a technical and economic "plus" to the sector? Is the necessary knowledge required for the drawing-up of a standard available?

Collective programming: reflection on the basis of the needs identified and the priorities defined by all of the partners, then decision to register in the work program of the organization involved;

Drawing up of the draft standard by the interested parties, represented by experts (including producers, distributors, users, consumers, administrations, laboratories, etc. as relevant), gathered together within standardization committees;

Consensus of the expert concerning the draft standard;

Validation: wide consultation, at the international and/or national level as appropriate, in the form of a public enquiry, involving all of the economic partners in order to make certain that the draft standard conforms to the general interest and does not give rise to any major objection. Examination of the results and of the comments received. Finalization of the definitive text of the draft standard;

Approval and publication of the text as a standard;

Review: application of a standard forms the subject of a regular assessment of its relevance by the standardizing body, which makes it possible to detect the time when a standard must be adapted to new needs. Following review, a standard may be confirmed without change, go forward for revision or be withdrawn.

1.6. Copyright and right to use  [Back to top]

National standards:

The standard is a collective work. The national standard is programmed and studied under the authority of the national standards body. It is published by the latter. Unless otherwise specified, it is therefore protected, as early as at the draft standard stage, by a copyright belonging to the national body. In Ethiopia, it is the Quality and Standards Authority of Ethiopia.

International standards:

From the stage of Committee Draft (CD), international standards are protected by the copyright of the international standards body (ISO, International Organization for Standardization; IEC, International Electro-technical Commission, OIML, International Organization for Legal Metrology, ARSO, African Organization for Standardization, CAC, Codex Alimentarius Commission). The exploitation right of this copyright is automatically transferred to the national standards bodies which comprise the membership of ISO, IEC, OIML, ARSO etc, for the purpose of drawing up national standards. Each draft International Standard and each published International Standard bears a copyright statement with the international copyright symbol, the publisher's name and the year of publication.

Reproduction of standards:

Unless otherwise specified, no standard or part of a standard may be reproduced, recorded or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and microfilm, without the written consent of the national or international standards body concerned.

Use of public networks, including the Internet:

At all levels - national, regional or international - the national standards body must be consulted prior to the opening up of any public or private electronic network (Internet, Intranet or similar) aimed at disseminating, transmitting or exchanging texts or parts of texts of standards, within the framework of standardization work. Whatever the case, there is a strict obligation to follow the recommendations of the international or national body concerned whenever public or private networks are used.

2. Regarding standardization

2.1. The role of standardization [Back to top]

Standardization is today recognized as being and essential discipline for all players within the economy, who must strive to master its motivating forces and implications. 20 years ago, it was the reserved field of a few specialists. Today, companies have integrated standardization as a major technical and commercial element. They are aware that they must play an active role in this field, or be prepared to accept standardization which is established without them, or without consideration of their interests. Various factors have combined to produce this trend:

The quality requirement

Born in the 50s, the quality requirement has taken on an increasing importance and asserts itself more and more as a determining factor of competitiveness. While today it is easy to compare prices, it is much more complex to compare levels of quality. The existence of a unanimously recognized quality system of reference, constitutes a very precious clarification tool. The standard plays precisely this role.

The technical and technological evolution

Another very positive factor for the expansion of standardization is the emergence of new techniques and technologies. All the techniques which concern information, its processing and its remote transmission (data processing, telecommunications, information highways, etc.). involve the setting up of networks. As for other network-based techniques (electronic transmission), their development depends on acceptance by the users of common rules which facilitate interoperability. In the economy of developed countries, these techniques play a considerable role, as is attested by, for example, the increasing expansion of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).

2.2. International, regional and national standardization [Back to top]

Standards are drawn up at international, regional and national level. The coordination of the work at these three levels is ensured by common structures and cooperation agreements.

International standardization

ISO, International Organization for Standardization

Founded in 1947, ISO is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies, currently comprising over 130 members, one per country. The mission of ISO is to encourage the development of standardization and related activities in the world in order to facilitate international exchanges of goods and services and to achieve a mutual entente in the intellectual, scientific, technical and economic fields. Its work concerns all the fields of standardization, except electrical and electronic engineering standards, which fall within the scope of the IEC.

To date, ISO has over 2 800 technical work bodies (technical committees, subcommittees, working groups and ad hoc groups) and published over 11 000 International Standards.

IEC, International Electrotechnical Commission

Founded in 1906, the IEC is responsible for international standardization in the fields of electricity, electronics and related technologies. Its charter embraces all electrotechnologies including electronics, magnetics and electromagnetics, electroacoustics, telecommunication, and energy production and distribution. IEC's members, which currently number over 50, are national committees, one for each country, which are required to be fully representative of all electrotechnical interests in the country concerned. National committees obtain a large measure of support from industry and are mostly recognized by their governments.

The IEC has published over 4 500 standards.

Both ISO and the IEC have their central offices in Geneva, Switzerland, and operate according to similar rules. The adoption of ISO and/or IEC standards into the national collections is voluntary: It may be complete or partial.

ITU, International Telecommunications Union

The birth of the ITU can be traced back to 1865. A specialized agency of the United Nations since 1947, ITU membership currently includes some 180 member States and over 400 sector members. ITU international recommendations are developed in the fields of both telecommunications and radiocommunications. ITU headquarters are located in Geneva, Switzerland.

Other International standardizing bodies

A large number of international organizations are in liaison with ISO and IEC and participate to varying degrees in their work. Several of these organizations have themselves standardization activities in their own area of interest, which are recognized at international level. In a number of cases, the results of the standardization work of these organizations are fed directly into the ISO/IEC system and appear in International Standards published by ISO or by IEC. However, some of these organizations themselves publish normative documents, and these must be taken into account in any review of international standardization.

Regional standardization in Africa

ARSO, African Regional Organization for Standardization

Founded in 1977, ARSO draws up African regional standards and is comprised of 24 African standards bodies. It has published some 400 African Regional Standards to date. The objectives of ARSO are to: to promote standardization activities in Africa; to elaborate and harmonize regional standards; to promote social, industrial and economic development and provide consumer protection and human safety by advocating and establishing activities concerning standardization in Africa; and to promote the harmonization of the views of its members and their contribution and participation at the international level in the field of standardization. The technical work is concerned with the operation of activities in the following principle fields:

  • Preparation and issuance of African Regional Standards;
  • Quality Assurance activities;
  • African Regional Accreditation and Certification Marking Schemes (ARAS);
  • Metrology;
  • Laboratory testing;
  • Technical information and consultancy services in standardization; and
  • International liaison and participation.

Its headquarters is located in Nairobi, Kenya.

in Europe

CEN, European Committee for Standardization

Founded in 1961, CEN draws up European standards and regroups 18 European standards institutes. CEN has witnessed strong development with the construction of the European Union. Its headquarters is located in Brussels, Belgium.

A Technical Board is in charge of the coordination, planning and programming of the work which is conducted within the work bodies (technical committees, subcommittees, working groups), the secretariats of which are decentralized in the different EU member states. CEN, which counts over 250 technical committees, has published some 2 400 documents, including 2 100 European standards. Over 9 000 documents are under study.

CENELEC, European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization

Founded in 1959 and also located in Brussels, Belgium, CENELEC fulfills within the electrotechnical sector the same functions as CEN.

ETSI, European Telecommunications Standards Institute

ETSI develops European standards in the telecommunications field (ETS, European Telecom Standard). Its headquarters are at Sophia Antipolis, France.

ETSI regroups 400 members (administrations, operators, research bodies, industrialists, users) representing over 30 countries (EU, EFTA, Eastern Europe).

in Asia and Pacific

ASEAN Consultative Committee on Standards and Quality (ACCSQ)

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is composed of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The standards and conformance forum within ASEAN is called the ACCSQ. The principle objectives of the ACCSQ are to reduce technical barriers to trade between countries in the region and to harmonize standards and conformance procedures.

in the Americas

COPANT, Pan American Standards Commission

COPANT is a civil, nonprofit association. It has complete operational autonomy and unlimited duration. The basic objectives of COPANT are to promote the development of technical standardization and related activities in its member countries with the aim of promoting the industrial, scientific and technological development in benefit of an exchange of goods and the provision of services, while facilitating cooperation in the intellectual, scientific and social fields.

The Commission coordinates the activities of all institutes of standardization in the Latin American countries. The Commission develops all types of product standards, standardized test methods, terminology and related matters. COPANT headquarters are in Buenos Areas, Argentina.

MERCOSUR, the Common Market of the South

Known by either its Spanish acronym MERCOSUR, or its Portuguese acronym MERCOSUL. MERCOSUR is a common market made up of the economies of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Its principal objectives are to improve the economies of its member countries by making them more efficient and competitive and by enlarging their markets and accelerating their economic development by means of more efficient use of available resources; to preserve the environment; to improve communications; to coordinate macroeconomic policies; to harmonize the different sectors of their economies.

MERCOSUR's permanent headquarters are in the city of Montevideo, Uruguay.

National standardization

Each country possesses its own national standardization system. The central or most representative national standards body participates within the regional or international bodies.

2.3. The standardization processes [Back to top]

At national level, the standardization work is conducted by standards committees which can obtain assistance from groups of experts. These committees or working groups are made up of qualified representatives of the industrial circles, research institutes, public authorities, consumer or professional bodies.

At regional or international level, the work is conducted by technical committees for the secretariats of which, responsibility is assumed by the national standards bodies. These technical committees are created by the technical management boards of the relevant regional or international bodies. All national members are entitled to be represented within the international or regional committee dealing with a specific subject matter.

2.4. Standardization and the WTO (World Trade Organization)  [Back to top]

The last negotiations of the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) Uruguay Round, gave birth to the WTO, which was established on 1 January 1995. As of 1 January 1998, there were 132 members (central governments). The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (WTO TBT) is one of the 29 individual legal texts of the WTO Agreement which obliges members to ensure that technical regulations, voluntary standards and conformity assessment procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade. Annex 3 of the TBT Agreement is the Code of Good Practice for the Preparation, Adoption and Application of Standards. In accepting the TBT Agreement, WTO Members agree to ensure that their central government standardizing bodies accept and comply with this Code of Good Practice and agree also to take reasonable measures to ensure that local government, non-governmental and regional standardizing bodies do the same. The Code is therefore open to acceptance by all such bodies.

The TBT Agreement recognizes the important contribution that international standards and conformity assessment systems can make to improving efficiency of production and facilitating international trade. Where international standards exist or their completion is imminent, therefore, the Code of Good Practice says that standardizing bodies should use them, or the relevant parts of them, as a basis for standards they develop. It also aims at the harmonization of standards on as wide a basis as possible, encouraging all standardizing bodies to play as full a part as resources allow in the preparation of international standards by the relevant international bodies.

In the interest of transparency, the Code requires that standardizing bodies that have accepted its terms notify this fact to the ISO/IEC Information Centre located at the ISO Central Secretariat in Geneva, either directly or through the relevant national/international member of ISONET (ISO Information Network). Contact information for all ISONET members is given in the ISONET Directory. At least once every six months, standardizing bodies must publish their work programs and also notify the existence of their work program to the ISO/IEC Information Centre. Other important provisions relate to the preparation, adoption and application of standards. The WTO TBT Standards Code Directory, lists standardizing bodies that have notified acceptance of the WTO TBT Code of Good Practice for the Preparation, Adoption and Application of Standards. The Directory also contains the addresses of these standardizing bodies and information related to the availability of their work programs. It is published annually.

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Last Modified: 01/20/2014