The Forum is now well established and participation is on the increase. In all, 45 delegates from 18 Affiliate countries (Bhutan, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Lebanon, Namibia, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Sudan, Suriname, Tanzania and Zambia) were present. Also in attendance were AFSEC (African Electrotechnical Standardization Commission) President Claude Koutoua and Secretary Paul Johnson, as well as IEC-LARC (Latin America Regional Centre) Regional Manager Amaury Santos. Both the WTO (World Trade Organization) and IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) sent a representative to the meeting in Tokyo Japan.
IEC Affiliate Executive Secretary Françoise Rauser opened the session. After a warm welcome to all participants, she made some introductions and outlined the proposed agenda.
Report from the Affiliate Leader
In the absence of IEC Affiliate Leader Phuntsho Wangdi, whose arrival in Tokyo was delayed, Rauser delivered the speech he had prepared. This year was special for Wangdi since he will step down as Leader at the end of December 2014. The Forum gave him the opportunity to look back and reflect on the three and half years he spent as the voice of the Affiliates.
A few facts
Since June 2011, the Programme has grown and evolved. Four countries have joined, seven have started to adopt IEC International Standards as national ones, and five have begun to submit comments on technical documents at the CD (Committee Draft) and CDV (Committee Draft for Vote) stages. During Wangdi’s term, eight more countries made better use of the programme. The Leader was also pleased to report that more than half of the 83 Affiliate countries have established their NEC (National Electrotechnical Committee).
In addition, Wangdi sees the launch of ACAS (Affiliate Conformity Assessment Status) and the Mentoring Programme in 2013 as major developments for the Programme.
Wangdi also expressed his feelings, shared by many, that awareness of standardization and conformity assessment is still poor in many developing countries. He stressed the fact that the Affiliate Secretariat, the Leader, the Coordinators and the IEC Regional Offices still had a lot of work to do at the national level to overcome the hurdles of bureaucracy.
Equally, unawareness still prevails for consumers who are ill-equipped to assess the quality of products on the market, and who more often than not don’t know their rights as consumers.
The Affiliate Programme can help change this situation through workshops and seminars organized in Affiliate countries. New avenues should be explored, for instance strengthening links with academia to educate future generations.
To conclude, he thanked the Affiliate team and all Affiliates for their support.
Rauser then took the opportunity to introduce Wandgi’s successor, Rosario Uría, of Peru, who will become the new Leader as of 1 January 2015.
The WTO TBT Agreement explained
Devin McDaniels, an economist in the WTO Trade and Environment Division, gave a presentation on “Developing countries, International Standards and the TBT Agreement”. He explained how the use of International Standards is essential to the elimination of unnecessary barriers to trade, how standards can be used as a basis for legislation and regulations and how developing countries in particular can benefit from the TBT (Technical Barriers to Trade) Agreement.
He spoke about the six principles that govern the TBT Agreement: transparency; openness; impartiality and consensus; relevance and effectiveness; coherence; and development. He told his audience that the TBT Agreement recognizes the challenges faced by developing countries in standardization and conformity assessment and praised the IEC for the Affiliate Country Programme that has helped promote greater effectiveness and relevance of International Standards.
Both Botswana and Peru shared their experiences in setting up a NEC and the challenges they face in adopting International Standards as national ones, in encouraging and increasing active participation from their stakeholders, and in recruiting experts to comment on technical publications.
Before concluding the Forum, Rauser asked every delegation to provide a brief update on the situation in their respective country.
After the plenary session, the Forum broke out into three regional sessions on Africa, Asia and Latin America with Evah Oduor, the IEC Coordinator for Africa, chairing the regional session on Africa, Rauser chairing the Asia-Pacific session, and Amaury Santos the Latin America session.
The breakout sessions addressed issues specific to each region and updated participants on recent developments, regional events and activities.