These were the opening words of ISO’s President, Dr. Zhang Xiaogang, at the 49th meeting of the ISO Committee on developing country matters (DEVCO), held in Seoul, Korea, on Tuesday 15 September 2015.
Hosted by KATS, the ISO member for the country, the gathering is part of a week of events including the ISO General Assembly and brought together over 300 participants from around 100 countries.
The impact of standards in developing countries
The keynote speech of the day, delivered by Dr. Ranyee Chiang of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, highlighted the very real impact that standards are having on developing countries by presenting ongoing work to improve clean cooking technology.
Chiang explained that cooking on open fires and traditional stoves, as is the case for 40 % of the world’s population, comes at a cost – a cost in the region of 4 million deaths a year, the consumption of 500 million tonnes of non-renewable wood, and greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 170 million passenger vehicles.
There are many innovative solutions to this problem in the form of clean cookstoves and clean-burning fuels, she said, but to support this new sector and build a thriving and sustainable market for this technology, we need standards.
International Standards will help ensure that the new solutions being developed are delivering on their promises to improve health, the environment and people’s livelihoods, in addition to promoting the adoption of new technologies around the world.
A new ISO technical committee – ISO/TC 285 – was created in 2013 to develop standards on this subject and Chiang emphasized the importance of having “the right people” at the table when creating these solutions.
“Above all, it is critical that the countries where the new technologies will be used are involved in the development process,” she explained, urging other developing countries present at the meeting to participate.
Strengthening ISO’s developing country members
The work on clean cookstoves highlights the impact standards can have on everyday life, but it also underlines some of the challenges national standards bodies in developing countries may experience.
For this reason, one of the major objectives of DEVCO’s work is to help developing countries participate more actively and build their standardization capacity, a point underlined by DEVCO Chair Dr. Lalith Senaweera in his opening remarks.
One of the primary goals of the meeting, he said, was to finalize the development of the next Action Plan for Developing Countries, which outlines ISO’s activities with regard to developing countries in the period 2016-2020. With this in mind, Dr. Senaweera invited participants to engage actively in the day’s discussions and thanked all attendees for their enduring support of DEVCO’s work over the years.