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UNECE Conference highlights role of standards in risk mitigation

Published: 25 November 2009


The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) held an International Conference on Risk Assessment and Management in Geneva, Switzerland, on 24 and 25 November. The purpose of the event was to exchange experience at national, regional and international level on using risk-assessment and risk-management tools when developing and applying technical standards and regulations.

In his opening address, UNECE Executive Secretary Ján Kubiš recalled that the main function of the United Nations was to enable its Member States to better protect their peoples. Peacebuilding and humanitarian assistance were among the Organization’s main responses to natural disasters and military conflicts. On the occasion of this conference, however, he said he wished to highlight a less well-known area of United Nations engagement.

He explained that the normative and technical work being done by the UN also contributed to mitigating risks. UNECE, for example, promoted sustainable forest management, which played a key role in preventing landslides and fires. UNECE also developed and promoted best practice in transport policies, making travel safer and more efficient.  

In those and many other technical fields, the main goal was to provide guidance to member States in setting up a well-balanced regulatory “toolbox”, one that adequately protected from hazards, without stifling innovation or entrepreneurship.

The UN was a natural forum where stakeholders could build on their strengths and expertise and work towards a shared approach that encompassed voluntary standards as well as technical regulations. This was, Mr. Kubiš said, “the best guarantee of enhanced safety for consumers and workers, a well-preserved natural environment and resilient business organizations”. He added that UNECE intended to conduct a risk assessment of its own activities, an exercise that several governmental organizations in the audience said they had already undertaken.

The Secretary-General of ISO (International Organization for Standardization), Rob Steele, also addressed the conference. He said that voluntary standards played a key role in mitigating risks, as they defined the safety features of products that consumers and workers used every day. They were also tools of first recourse in finding solutions to major challenges such as global warming. He concluded by adding that standards enabled organizations to systematically integrate the management of risks into their overall strategies, policies, values and culture. 

The UNECE Working Party on Regulatory Cooperation and Standardization Policies organized the conference.  The programme is available at:


Note to editors

On 15 November 2009, ISO published its standard on Risk Management: ISO 31000, see: www.iso.org/iso/pressrelease.htm

ISO 31000 provides principles, a framework and a process for managing any form of risk. By implementing ISO 31000, organizations can compare their risk management practices with an internationally recognized benchmark, providing sound principles for effective management.

Ref: ECE/TRADE/09/P10


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