A Shared Vision for a Better World through Standards

By Collins Wafula

We are now approaching the homestretch. The deadline for achieving the UN agenda 2030 and its 17 sustainable development goals are fast approaching. The main pillars of the agenda being economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Despite the significant progress made, there are glaring challenges to achieving the SDGs. Besides confining contemporary 21st century challenges like climate change, security, hunger and poverty to the periphery of public discourse, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant global public health, social and economic challenges. Importantly, it has also highlighted and exacerbated existing inequalities that risk setting us back in achieving the SDGs. What the world needs in this juncture of great inequality and very confounding challenges, are practical action plans and solutions agreed on through consensus. This is precisely what standards and standardization offers.

Standardization bodies like UNBS spare no efforts in ensuring that, all perspectives of stakeholders are taken in to account when developing standards for products, processes, systems or services. Since standards are developed through collaboration and consensus, they represent plausible solutions to real society challenges. They are recognized guidelines and frameworks on which innovation can thrive to provide tools to help governments, industries and consumers contribute to the achievement towards each of the SDGs.

As Uganda joins the rest of the world to mark the World Standards Day and pay tribute to thousands of experts and stakeholders in the standardization community, the role that standards continue to play in building a sustainable world cannot be overstated. With the globe facing an existential threat of climate change/global warming, the standardization community at the recent ISO general assembly endorsed the London Declaration. The Declaration highlights the crucial role of standards in underpinning the global economy while being enablers and accelerators of solutions and commitments under the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties.

The role played by standards in COVID19 response is well documented right from guidance on procedures for handling viral materials and testing to sanitizers, facemasks and personal protective equipment, and data exchange to safe food and nutrition.  In the post-pandemic recovery efforts, standards will play a crucial role in putting forth clear action plans to not only rebuild the economy but also accelerate achievement of Agenda 2030.

Standards contribute to the achievement of the UN SDGs by facilitating international exchange of goods and services in the context of safe trade, support sustainable and equitable economic growth, promote innovation and protect public health, safety and the environment. The flow of goods and services within and between countries is still one of the most important drivers of job creation and prosperity. With the ripening of regional and continental markets through EAC, COMESA and more recently the AfCFTA, standards are key to penetrating and sustaining these markets without unnecessary barriers to trade.

The standardization community will dedicate the countdown decade to highlight the role of standards in achieving the SDGs. We want to embrace our diversity through inclusion and spur innovation by involving the next generation. The onus is on all actors whether in government, private sector or individuals to act now.

Act now in the right direction and in a coherent manner through use of standards.

The Writer is a Standards Officer at Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS)