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UNECE International Seminar on Regional Experiences in Good Governance for Regulatory Practices (with special reference to Balkan countries)

Geneva, 10-11 November 2003

Statement by Mrs. Brigita Schmögnerová,
Executive Secretary

Honourable delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to open this Seminar on Regional Experiences in Good Governance for Regulatory practices. The choice of this topic shows the ability of your Working Party on Technical Harmonization and Standardization Policies (WP.6) to show innovativeness and flexibility while, at the same time, preserving continuity in its activities and standards -- Qualities that are increasingly important in today’s world of changing international architectures and ever greater demands on international organizations.

This seminar is very timely, coming on the eve of EU enlargement, an event that promises great potential, but also brings significant challenges to the UNECE region. One of these challenges is the implementation, across the region, of good governance and improved regulatory practices – exactly the topic of your discussions for the next two days.

Over the past 50 years, the UNECE has played an important role in fostering European integration through well-targeted initiatives aimed at greater regional economic development and integration.

In particular, UNECE normative and legal instruments have proved vital in facilitating trade, transit and customs matters and promoting a common legal framework in areas such as transport, energy, environment and electronic commerce.

Why are we looking at regulatory convergence?

Harmonized standards are essential for companies to be able to purchase internationally materials that are needed for their supply chains. When economic operators of non-acceding countries move away from their domestic markets to compete in the EU market or international markets, their success or failure often depends on how familiar they are with the regulations and standards in export markets.

As a result, we believe that contributing to the dialogue on technical harmonization really matters. Even where the harmonization of technical regulations and standards is not possible immediately, the UNECE’s experience shows that Governments and national bodies should try to create a simple and transparent framework for adopting and applying their national technical regulations and standards and keeping foreign companies informed of how to meet these requirements.

As I mentioned earlier, the UNECE acts as a standards and norm setting body in certain areas, having developed regional and international conventions, regulations and standards for international trade, agriculture, environment, transport, energy, timber, human settlements and statistics.

As a result, in these sectors, the UNECE has a particularly important role to play by:

  • providing a forum for cooperation between countries in the area of regulatory harmonization and convergence
  • promoting the use of international standards and best practices (as elaborated by the UNECE as well as other international organizations such as ISO)
  • raising awareness of the necessity of harmonization of standards and technical regulations.

One example of UNECE activities in the regulatory area is the UNECE Recommendation “L” on Standardization Policies, also referred to as the “International Model for Technical Harmonization” which was elaborated by your Working Party and has been well received by a significant number of UNECE member states (including such regional groupings as European Union and Commonwealth of Independent States – CIS).

The telecommunications sector was the first to demonstrate interest in the application of Recommendation “L” and the first steps toward implementation are being taken in order to harmonize technical regulations on certain telecom products. In the respective expert community, this effort is known as the “UNECE Telecom Initiative”.

On a regional level, the countries of the former Soviet Union (CIS) used the Model’s approaches in preparation of a draft agreement on harmonization of technical regulations in the CIS grouping. This draft agreement will be presented at your Seminar by a speaker from the CIS Interstate Council for Standardization, Certification and Metrology (which unites the standardization agencies from the 12 countries of the former Soviet Union).

Therefore, we can see that the mechanisms suggested in the “International Model” are not only theoretical, but are already being used in practice in sectoral and regional projects.

The Working Party is to be congratulated on this important contribution to the international dialogue on technical convergence dialogue.

I am confident that during this seminar we will learn more about the positive experiences and regulatory approaches found, not only in Europe but also in North America and Asia and the Pacific.

In conclusion

  • The harmonization of regulatory measures, such as technical regulations, standards and product specifications, stimulates markets and creates common understandings between market operators, thus facilitating trade.
  • Therefore, regulatory measures, their convergence, and the possibilities for linking them to regional and international standards, has become one of the central issues for UNECE discussions about a “wider Europe”.
  • The UNECE can make an important contribution to regulatory convergence and technical harmonization through its existing work in standards setting (for example, agricultural quality standards and e-business standards).
  • Through its intergovernmental mechanisms and its advisory services, the UNECE offers its experience and expertise to its member States to assist them in adopting the necessary international and UNECE standards for trade.
  • The UNECE has, among its top priorities, to assist in the further strengthening of cooperation among its member States, to promote economic development, and to stimulate the integration of transition economies into the European and world economies.
  • As one result, the UNECE plans to concentrate its future capacity building and implementation activities on Southern Europe and the CIS countries, including the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia. This Seminar and its emphasis on regional experiences and on the situation in Balkans being a good example of our work in this area.

I am confident that your discussions during this seminar will make a substantive contribution to the search for practical ways and means of facilitating trade and economic integration in the UNECE region.

In addition, I am sure that this seminar will contribute to a better understanding of regulatory issues and to confidence building in this area.

Today we have with us one of the UNECE’s most important partners in this work – the ISO and its Secretary General, Mr. Alan Bryden and I welcome him. I believe many of you know him, not only in his present capacity, but also as a result of his past, active participation in WP.6, to which he successfully contributed for many years as the WP.6 Rapporteur for Laboratory Accreditation.

Now, I am pleased to pass the floor to Mr. Alan Bryden and I wish you every success in both this seminar and the WP.6 plenary session.


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