Legal and Regulatory Framework > United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)

Regulatory cooperation and standardization policies

Differences between national regulatory regimes and between voluntary standards may constitute a barrier to exports, especially for small companies that operate in developing and transition economies. The interaction between regulatory and compliance regimes may further adversely impact on competitiveness.

To facilitate the integration of countries with economies in transition into regional and world trade flows, the UNECE, through its Working Party on Regulatory Cooperation and Standardization Policies, provides regional and international forums for discussing concrete initiatives in the areas of technical regulation, standardization, conformity assessment, and market surveillance.

In particular, and with the overall objective of reducing or eliminating technical barriers to trade, the UNECE:

  • Elaborates recommendations and best practice to assist countries in creating a business-friendly standardization and regulatory environment that also protects consumers’ health and safety, the environment, and other public interests;
  • Draws up proposals for harmonizing technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures in the region through agreed, objective criteria for metrology and conformity assessment;
  • Undertakes studies on ways to promote the wider use, in trade, of agreements on the mutual recognition of tests and certificates;
  • Promotes regulatory cooperation and mutual confidence among regulatory authorities (and trading partners).

Capacity building activities in this area of work consist of seminars and workshops that aim to:

  • Provides advice and assistance to countries on the implementation of agreed UNECE recommendations on regulatory cooperation and standardization policies;
  • Encourages coordination in national regulatory and standardization policies and their alignment with international practices;
  • Launches bi-lateral, regional or multilateral dialogues with a view to harmonizing the regulatory requirements for specific products/services;
  • Discusses the design and implementation of national conformity assessment schemes in order to promote practices that are the least restrictive to trade while still ensuring confidence in national test results for exported products;
  • Promotes market surveillance practices that provide adequate consumer protection while minimizing any adverse impact on trade.

The main beneficiaries are governments and state organizations that enforce technical regulations and ensure market surveillances well as trade promotion organizations.

The UNECE works with countries and regional groupings to support the implementation of UNECE Recommendation “L” which provides an “International Model for Technical Harmonization”. The International Model is an important UNECE achievement and has been used as a tool to facilitate regulatory convergence in a number of different sectors, in particular in telecommunications, earth-moving machinery, and, more recently, oil and gas pipeline security and equipment for explosive environments.

Several regional organizations, both from within and outside the UNECE region, are also collaborating with the UNECE in order to use the International Model to support the alignment of their regulatory regimes in specific sectors or product areas. Among these are the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Regional Cooperation Council, , the EurAsian Economic Community (EurAsEC) and the African Organization for Standardization (ARSO).

Market surveillance is also an important area of work. It is the main regulatory response to ensure that products placed on the market, whether produced locally or imported, conform to regulatory standards for consumer protection and the safety of workers. Market surveillance authorities can also be empowered to ensure that the marks the goods carry – be they quality marks or brand names – are genuine. UNECE Recommendation “M” on the “Use of Market Surveillance Infrastructure as a Complementary Means to Protect Consumers and Users Against Counterfeit Goods”, sets out a novel approach in the fight against counterfeit goods, notably through the involvement of market surveillance authorities and the intellectual property owners. The UNECE is currently developing guidelines on best practices in market surveillance, which will also support work with countries in this area.

Since 2009, the Working Party has been working on promoting the use of risk management tools in the development and implementation of technical regulations. In 2011, it adopted a Recommendation which provides that regulatory authorities should establish, implement and maintain a process for determining, analysing, reviewing and monitoring an acceptable level of risk within a regulatory framework. It also developed a body of best practices for enabling regulatory authorities to promptly identify and evaluate risks that confront businesses and consumers , and choose an appropriate risk treatment. In this new area of activity, the UNECE works closely with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and, in particular, its technical committee on “Risk Management”, as well as with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and its schemes for the assessment of conformity to standards.

The Regulatory Cooperation and Standardization Policies unit of UNECE cooperates closely with numerous organizations and agencies: national ministries, regulatory and market surveillance bodies, international standards-setting organizations, regional standardization organizations (including in the CIS region), organizations and agencies of the UN family, donor agencies, consumers and industry associations.

For more information: www.unece.org/trade/wp6/welcome.htm

www.unece.org/trade/wp6/documents/wp6_tor.pdf

Promotion of knowledge-based development

The UNECE Subprogramme on Economic Cooperation and Integration promotes a policy, financial and regulatory environment conducive to economic growth, knowledge-based development and the higher competitiveness of countries and businesses in the UNECE region, with a focus on countries with economies in transition.

The UNECE Committee on Economic Cooperation and Integration (CECI) is the intergovernmental body that oversees the work under this Subprogramme. The CECI programme of work is structured around five main thematic areas:

  • Innovation and competitiveness policies;
  • Entrepreneurship and enterprise development;
  • Financing innovative development;
  • Public-private partnerships for infrastructure development and the provision of public services;
  • Commercialization and protection of intellectual property rights.

Based on an extensive policy dialogue and exchange of experiences and lessons learned, CECI develops guidelines, recommendations and other policy-oriented documents in the thematic areas covered by its programme of work. The results of the policy-oriented normative work are then converted into practical guides and training materials and modules for use in capacity building activities.

CECI provides a forum for high-level policy dialogue and knowledge-sharing initiatives and serves as a focal point for the development of practical solutions to important policy issues related to the establishment of a policy, financial and regulatory environment conducive to economic growth and innovative development. CECI has developed extended expert networks which include experts from Member States’ Governments, the business and academic communities and civil society, who participate actively in the implementation of its programme of work. Through these expert networks, CECI is promoting an ongoing multi-stakeholder policy dialogue and is undertaking policy-oriented normative work in promoting the development of a knowledge-based supply capacity in the UNECE region.

The policy dialogue and the related soft regulatory work take various forms, including open policy discussions, conferences, policy seminars, expert seminars and meetings. One important aspect of the related multi-stakeholder policy dialogue is that it offers a platform for a variety of experts and think tanks to present their views on the issues that are addressed. This helps governments and national policy makers to make more informed choices in selecting policy options.

CECI is also mandated to deliver demand-driven policy advisory services and other capacity-building activities in mandated areas. To this effect, all meetings organized under the auspices of CECI are designed to contain a capacity-building component. In addition, CECI is underwriting a range of targeted field-based capacity- building activities in the areas of its competence.

For more information: www.unece.org/ceci/