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Standards for the SDGs conference to explore voluntary standards as powerful tools for sustainable development

Standards for the SDGs conference to explore voluntary standards as powerful tools for sustainable development


We aren’t generally aware of the role of international standards in our daily lives. For individuals, standards ensure that products are safe, reliable and respect the environment. Every item and service we use during the day is in some way affected by standards- from the shoes we wear, the cars we drive and the fuels that power them, to the buildings where we work and house our families. 


When we start to imagine how the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will transform our world, the connection to standards may seem abstract. Yet standards make a difference to the water we drink (SDG 6), our access to affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), in creating sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11) and for urgent action to combat climate change and address its impacts (SDG 13), and in many other areas as well.

Taking place on 26 September 2018 at the International Conference Centre Geneva (CICG), the International Conference on Standards for the SDGs will bring together representatives of the standards community, UN organizations, corporate entities, diplomats and national policymakers. As a side session to the 41st ISO General Assembly, this multi-stakeholder engagement will showcase and explore the role of standards for the achievement of the SDGs.

The event will showcase the stories from countries around the world, illustrating how they have used standards in policymaking, and how those policies support progress towards the SDGs, focusing on Goals 6, 7, 11 and 13. The event will present a collective body of potential lessons and practical tools that link standards with the SDGs they support. 

A snapshot of some of these stories illustrate the practical use of standards for the SDGs:

Samoa, South Africa and Thailand all used the WHO Global Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality in very different ways. In Samoa, the Guidelines led to improved monitoring of water quality compliance performance of utilities and water service providers. In South Africa, they used them to develop revised indicators that effectively allow tracking both the provision of infrastructure and the sustainability of the services for the provision of water supply. In Thailand they created the Thai Quality Standard on assessing village water supply systems (QSVS), from which they developed a self assessment tool. All efforts are leading to the achievement of SDG target 6.1  “By 2030, to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all”.

The United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC), developed at UNECE, is supporting energy reform in Mexico, with the aim of developing cleaner and more affordable energy (supporting progress towards SDGs 7 and 13). UNFC is a universally applicable system for the management of all energy and mineral resources.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia used the Energy Management System (EnMS) in accordance with the UNIDO Methodology and ISO 50001 in the industrial sector. Working with 12 partner companies, they project a 5-year savings in energy of $10.8m US Dollars, for a pilot project investment of $290k US Dollars. They are exploring how to scale this success to the entire sector, further enhancing their contribution to SDG 7.3, “By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency”.

Accelerating progress on SDG 11, the city of Pully in Switzerland has been using Key Perfomance Indicators (KPIs) developed under the United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC) initiative to evaluate the impact of information and communications technology (ICT) integration on making the city more sustainable and to support the city’s self assessment of wider SDGs progress. The KPIs are is based on international standards developed at International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

The use of International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards for photovoltaic modules in Chile has supported the country in the development of quality infrastructure for solar power systems in desert conditions, helping to unlock the country’s renewables potential for progress towards SDGs 7 and 13.

Even as standards play such a prominent role in our lives, their contribution to reaching the SDGs has yet to achieve its full potential. As this conversation and work continues, we need to collectively double down on our efforts to increase awareness and adoption of international standards by policy-makers and regulatory authorities. As more stakeholders report on their progress against the SDGs using internationally agreed standards, we will increase our capacity to more accurately measure progress in achieving the SDGs. This event and the stories of Member States will underline that standards can lead to real regulatory and policy change and equip their users with a powerful tool to scale up their commitments to the 2030 Agenda.  

UNECE acts as a convening platform to support partnerships among standards bodies, and between standards bodies and decision-makers in businesses, administrations, donor agencies and local communities. The UNECE Working Party on Regulatory Cooperation and Standardization Policies (WP.6) develops best practice for standards-based policies and regulations that protect the health and safety of consumers and workers, preserve our natural environment, without creating unnecessary barriers to trade. 

Join the discussion: #standards4SDGs

For further information on the Conference, please visit: https://www.unece.org/sdgs-isoweek2018.html