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Standards and Norms

Norms are very much a part of our everyday life. The blueprints of products we buy and use are developed in close reference to standards and technical regulations. When designs are developed into manufactured goods, firms cooperate with competent bodies that check conformity of their merchandise with relevant requirements. And finally, when products are on the market or are used as equipment at the workplace, specialized authorities monitor to protect consumers, workers and employees from the hazards of non-compliant products.

More technically, standards are “documents, established by consensus and approved by a recognized body, that provide “rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results”. Technical regulations are set by competent authorities, and define criteria for the design, content, operation, and disposal of products. While technical regulations must be complied with, compliance with standards is voluntary.

UNECE encourages rule makers to base their regulations on international standards. These provide a common denominator to the norms that apply on different markets, and reduce the need to customize and retest the products whenever they cross a national border.

Often, it necessary to specify which international standards constitute the common denominator, and how compliance with the standards should be assessed. To this end, the START Team has developed a regulatory cooperation model based on good practice. Several ongoing Sectoral Initiatives are based on Recommendation L.