A Unique Approach for Developing Countries: IEC Standards and Conformity Assessment

By Marchand, Claire | International Trade Forum, July-September 2010 | Go to article overview

A Unique Approach for Developing Countries: IEC Standards and Conformity Assessment


Marchand, Claire, International Trade Forum


International trade in electrical and electronic products is becoming increasingly competitive. As technologies evolve rapidly, safety, reliability and performance must keep pace. This is equally true for companies in industrialized and industrializing countries.

To develop their electrotechnical industry sector, to gain access to regional or international markets and to make sure that imported electrical and electronic goods are safe and reliable, developing countries have access to IEC International Standards and Conformity Assessment (CA) systems.

Aiming for the best

No matter where manufacture takes place, the primary concern is identical: designing and manufacturing electrical and electronic products that meet the strictest safety and performance requirements. Using IEC International Standards helps reduce research and production costs, improves design, engineering and manufacturing and better manages quality.

Without testing and certification, standards remain theoretical. Proving that products are built to IEC specifications is where the three IEC CA systems come in, covering the whole spectrum of electrotechnology.

One test, one certificate

The combination of IEC International Standards and CA systems makes products safer and more reliable, increasing consumer confidence and public safety.

All members of the IEC CA systems accept certificates issued by other members. Duplication of tests is eliminated, reducing time and cost. A manufacturer based in a non-member country can approach a certification body in any member country and have its products tested and certified.

IEC CA systems reduce the number of steps required to obtain national certification. They take into account variations that may be included in a standard when adopted nationally and reduce trade barriers. IEC CA systems provide a standardized approach to testing and certification.

Safety is a right for all

Developing countries have often been the dumping ground for low-quality, counterfeit electrical and electronic products--faulty switches, unprotected sockets, non-standardized circuits, overheating, fires.

Protection of citizens by governments is imperative. Through the Affiliate Country Programme, the IEC encourages developing countries to adopt international standards as national ones and to recognize IEC CA certification. Governments ensure imports comply with IEC standards and are tested and certified to one of the IEC CA systems.

A basis for legislation

IEC International Standards also serve as the basis for legislation and regulations. As technologies evolve, standards are revised accordingly and legislation updated. Standards also provide governments with technical references in public tenders, lending confidence that products meet commonly agreed standards.

About the Affiliate Country Programme

Many countries have adopted IEC International Standards as national standards. Industrialized countries have done so for more than 100 years and form the core membership of the three IEC CA systems. Since 2001 the IEC has helped bring developing countries on board by establishing its Affiliate Country Programme.

Joining the programme can represent a country's first experience of international electrotechnical standardization and conformity assessment. The programme facilitates initial contacts with the IEC community and helps identify relevant sectors.

The programme offers participation in the IEC without the financial burden of membership. Objectives include: encouraging greater awareness and use of IEC International Standards; helping to participate in the IEC's work; and facilitating the adoption of IEC International Standards as national standards, Affiliates may use relevant IEC International Standards (up to 200 standards) when they join and learn how to monitor technical work in the technical committees, thereby taking a step-by-step approach to establishing a National Electrotechnical Committee (NEC). …

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