International standardization covers many areas of technology and trade – from mechanical engineering, heavy metals, textile, packaging, environmental protection, transport of goods, power production and distribution, banking and financial services, to electrical engineering, information technology and telecommunications – to mention only some.
Why is international standardization needed?
The existence of non-harmonized standards for similar technologies in different countries or regions can contribute to so-called "technical barriers to trade". Export-minded industries have long sensed the need to agree on world standards, the contents of which are approved through consensus by all interested countries, to help rationalize the international trading process. The main benefits of international standardization are reflected in:
Worldwide progress and trade liberalization: Today's free-market economies require opportunities to access the market without barriers and fair competition based on impartial criteria that apply to all. Such clearly defined general guidance and criteria that are equally recognized by trading partners worldwide are International Standards.
Interpenetration and linking of sectors: No industry in today's world can truly claim to be completely independent and autonomous. Individual components, products, rules of application and maintenance, and – last but not least – their disposal at the end of life, belong to various sectors and need to be handled in an interdisciplinary way; therefore also the standards for them need to be mutually consistent.
Communications systems compatibility: The computer industry offers a good example of technology that needs quickly and progressively to be standardized at a global level. Full compatibility among open systems fosters healthy competition among producers, and offers real options to users since it is a powerful catalyst for innovation, improved productivity and cost-cutting.
Developing standards for emerging technologies: Standardization programs in completely new fields are developed in the very early stages of new technology development. Such fields include advanced materials, the environment, urbanization and construction, by first defining terminology and accumulating databases of quantitative information that enable everyone to speak the same language.
Care for developing countries: Counties that have only just started building their industry and setting up their standardization infrastructure are increasingly recognizing that the use of International Standards is a basic condition for enhancing productivity, market competitiveness, and export capability.
Users' confidence: Users have more confidence in products and services that conform to International Standards. Assurance of conformity can be provided by suppliers' declarations, or even more by audits carried out by independent bodies.
INTERNATIONAL STANDARDIZATION OPERATORS
The international standardization operators are: International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Slovenian Institute for Standardization (SIST) is a full member of ISO and IEC. Electrotechnical Association of Slovenia is a member of ITU.
Access to the servers of all standardization organizations is provided through the World Standards Services Network (WSSN).
IEC – International Electrotechnical Commission
IEC, the International Electrotechnical Commission (www.iec.ch), which prepares standards for electrical, electronic and related technologies, was founded in 1906.
The IEC rules allow for two regular forms of membership (Active or Full Membership and Associate Membership), and an Affiliate Country Program. Full members are national electrotechnical committees, each having equal voting rights. Associate Membership allows for limited participation of countries with limited resources, who have an observer status in IEC and no voting rights. Currently, IEC has 52 Full Members and 11 Associate Members, while the Affiliate Country Program, which was adopted in 2001, has so far attracted 51 participants, thus raising the total membership to 114. The organization is based in Geneva, Switzerland.
ISO – International Organization for Standardization
ISO, as a non-governmental organization for standardization, which covers all fields except the electrotechnical (covered by IEC), was founded in 1947. The results of ISO's work are international agreements published in the form of International Standards, ISO (www.iso.org).
The prefix "iso-" is derived from the Greek isos, meaning "equal", and this prefix appears in many words, which represent the basis of ISO's philosophy: isometry (equality of measure), isonomy (equality of civil or political rights).
ITU – International Telecommunication Union
ITU is the leading United Nations agency (www.unsystem.org), where governments and the private sector coordinate the global telecommunication network and services. ITU (www.itu.int) is the leading publisher of publications on telecommunication technology, legislation and ITU-T recommendations on application of standards in telecommunications.