Vienna Agreement is compass for future
High-level online conference on visions and responsibility of international standardization
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Agreement, the leaders of the international standardization organizations and around 160 interested people from all over the world took part in a hybrid conference on 11 October 2021. Under the title "From global to local: Joining forces to help global standards create local impact", they discussed opportunities and visions in standardization and highlighted the major role that standards play for a sustainable future.
In his welcome address, Vienna's Mayor Michael Ludwig emphasized: "Standards help tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow. They have frequently pointed the way for international rules already in the past and support global economic relations."
The Vienna Agreement was signed in Vienna in 1991 and has formed the basis of co-operation between the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) ever since. One of the themes of the conference was how countries and regions can effectively collaborate to reach their common objectives worldwide also in the next 30 years and beyond. Elisabeth Stampfl-Blaha, Managing Director of Austrian Standards International (A.S.I.): "This conference is much more than just an anniversary celebration. We want to share visions and plans."
Harmonized standards are indispensable in a networked world
Eddy Njoroge, President of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), stressed the importance of international co-operation: "The Vienna Agreement is a milestone in the history of standards. The Agreement and the ISO process itself show how powerful collaboration is and how valuable solutions are in whose development every voice is heard. At the same time, we face many urgent problems, such as the health crisis and climate change, that require our continuous commitment. The world needs standards more than ever."
Vincent Laflèche, President of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), agreed with him: "Standards provide access to markets within and outside the European borders. They contribute to improving the safety and sustainability of products and services. They support the fast uptake of innovations in the market and help us reach common objectives such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations. Our commitment to international standardization is also manifest in our CEN-CENELEC Strategy 2030 that defines a roadmap for the next ten years. The achievement of our strategic objectives is based on strong co-operation with ISO and IEC."
Ruggero Lensi, Vice-President Technical of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), added: "The harmonization of standards at the national, European and international level is a great success story. It provides clarity for markets, industry and consumers. The lesson we learnt from the pandemic is: 'from global to local' is more relevant than ever. From healthcare to tourism, we need solutions helping us overcome such crises regionally and internationally in the long term."
SDGs as a guiding theme for future standards
In the panel discussion, participants also agreed that internationally harmonized standards can set the framework for sustainable products and solutions. Zaki M. Al-Rubaei, Head of Strategy Management and Acting Head of Marketing & Intl. Relations at GCC Standardization Organization (GSO), for example, emphasized: "The harmonization of standards influences not only the quality and safety of products and infrastructure, it also saves resources. The Vienna Agreement is a success story that we want to continue at any rate. We all share the vision that we can achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with the help of harmonized standards."
Hermogène Nsengimana, Secretary General of the African Regional Organization for Standardization (ARSO), stressed: "In a fair global economy, however, we also have to reconsider the role standards play and adjust it to changing conditions again and again. Moreover, we continue to need intensive exchanges of information. In future, all standards have to be linked to the SDGs as a guiding principle."
Mitsu Matsumoto, Convenor of PASC WG2 on Capacity Building / Pacific Area Standards Congress (PASC), also shared that opinion: "Everything we do has to be compatible with the SDGs. Open communication between stakeholders and members is enriching for all and also of great importance internationally. We appreciate the mutual transfer of know-how and see great benefits in the harmonization of standards."
Participation as a success factor
For the experts, key success factors of the Vienna Agreement are, in particular, democratic processes and access to participation for all members regardless of their size.
Anton Shalaev, Head of the Russian Federal Agency on Technical Regulating and Metrology / Euro-Asian Council for Standardization, Metrology and Certification (EASC): "Global co-operation is also a question of competence sharing. The know-how of regional organizations is as valuable as the one of international bodies. Only together we can address new realities."
Osvaldo Petroni, President of the Pan-American Standards Commission (COPANT): "The Agreement is a role model for many regions and a compass for the future. Especially for smaller or remote members, the possibility to participate enormously improved due to the pandemic and as a result of the swift establishment of online meetings."
Iuliana Chilea, Director General of the Romanian Standards Association (ASRO) & Board Member of the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC): "Avoiding duplication raises the efficiency of standardization processes. This is important especially for smaller members. By participating actively while optimally using their resources, they have the opportunity to reach the international level. Overall, standards enhance the security of investments and products in and from the region."
Scott Steedman, Director of Standards of the British Standards Institution (BSI), added: "We want to encourage all members to reflect international standards and to adapt them where needed. By involving regional stakeholders, our members build the bridge to the global economic area."
Reports from practitioners worldwide
Be it globally or locally, the Vienna Agreement and efforts of international co-operation are seen positively worldwide as illustrated by the reports of representatives of standardization organizations from the USA, South America, Africa, Indonesia and China.
"ISO is a strong and reliable partner. Interest in ISO standards is very high in the USA. Around ten percent of national US standards correspond to ISO standards. Close co-operation with regional organizations plays a key role in co-operation with other international organizations," said S. Joe Bhatia, President of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
From South America, Rosario Uria, Director of Standardization of the Instituto Nacional de Calidad (INACAL), reported: "International standards raise requirements at the regional level. Peru has signed several agreements and enormously benefits from participation at the international level."
Indonesia has already focused on international co-operation with standardization organizations for a long time. Kukuh S. Achmad, Chairman of the National Standardization Agency of Indonesia (BSN): "BSN is a governmental organization and already has been a member of ISO since 1956. It has become clear that internationally applied standards can also harmonize markets and products and have a regulatory effect."
China also affirmed its commitment to closer co-operation: "China is highly interested in the international harmonization of standards and wants to take part actively in this process. We all have to work together," said Liwen Gao, Vice Director of the Standardization Administration of China.
For Sadhvir Bissoon, Executive Standards of the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), standards that have been defined and harmonized form a sound basis for new members: "We do not have to re-invent the wheel. Thanks to already existing international standards and co-operation we look ahead with confidence."
Eve C. Gadzikwa, Director General of the Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ), spoke about the experiences that Zimbabwe made as a young member: "By adopting the ISO methodology framework as a national standardization body, SAZ successfully developed and implemented the National Standardization Strategy (NSS) 2018-2020. This has resulted in several successful standardization projects." Examples mentioned by Gadzikwa are the harmonized African automobile standards and the national standards on renewable energies – "a success story for SAZ."
Conclusion: Standardization shapes reality with responsibility
Elena Santiago Cid, Director General of the European Committee for Standardization and the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CEN/CENELEC), stated: "I see great passion for standardization among all the participants. Standards can play a key role in achieving the SDGs. Thus, we bear responsibility not only for industry but also for the environment and society."
At the end of the conference, Sergio Mujica, Secretary-General of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), concluded: "Agreements like the Vienna Agreement support people very specifically in the implementation of their projects. It addresses global problems and provides regionally adequate solutions worldwide by promoting national talents, fostering international networks and pooling know-how and resources efficiently."
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