Standards and conformity infrastructure

The issue

To compete in export markets, it is not enough for developing countries to increase the volume and range of products they sell: they also have to compete in a global trading system where increasingly stringent requirements apply with regard to product quality, safety, health and environmental impacts. Exporters, moreover, need proof from internationally recognized institutions that their products conform to these requirements. The resulting improvements are not only reflected in export figures: higher standards can benefit the domestic labour force, consumer and environment as well. Achieving this requires a variety of support services. In small economies, establishing national capacities for all these purposes may not be cost effective. In that case, it makes sense for countries to create joint capacities.

The solution

UNIDO has developed a comprehensive programme to help developing countries and economies in transition to overcome the shortcomings of their standards and conformity infrastructure. The services offered for specific issues include:

  • Establishment or strengthening of standardisation bodies;
  • Harmonization of standards at the national and regional level;
  • Assistance to participation in regional and international standards-setting activities;
  • Assistance in developing product conformity mark schemes.
  • Establishment or strengthening of laboratory capacities for legal and industrial metrology, in accordance with industrial and export requirements;
  • Assistance in laboratory networking and inter-laboratory comparisons;
  • Support to laboratory accreditation;
Product testing:
  • Establishment or strengthening of laboratory capacities, primarily for chemical and microbiological analysis, coupled with upgrading of specialist laboratories for industries with high export potential (such as food products);
  • Assistance in the harmonization of testing procedures, laboratory networking and inter-laboratory comparisons;
  • Support to laboratory accreditation.
  • Developing national certification capability;
  • Pilot projects for capacity-building related to specific systems standards (ISO 9000, ISO 22000, ISO 14000 etc.).
  • Developing national capacity to comply with EU ‘farm to fork’ traceability laws;
  • Undertaking pilot projects to promote compliance with traceability laws.
  • Establishment or strengthening of accreditation bodies.
  • Helping national accreditation bodies to obtain international recognition from IAF and ILAC through peer evaluations.
Supporting tools

Together with the World Association of Industrial and Technological Research Organizations (WAITRO), UNIDO has created an Internet-based portal for laboratory development called LABNET. LABNET contains a guide for the accreditation process, technical requirements for laboratory development, references to relevant organizations and on-line documents, information about training programmes, job opportunities and a discussion forum.

To access the portal please click here

  • At the country level, the main counterpart is the Ministry of Industry or the Ministry of Science and Technology. UNIDO also works directly with agencies responsible for standards, metrology and accreditation, where these exist. Depending on the nature of the project, sectoral or national business associations are also involved.
  • International partners: UNIDO works with the World Trade Organization as well as with specialized international agencies such as IAF, ILAC, ISO, BIPM, national agencies such as the Association Francaise de Normalisation, BSI British Standards, the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (Germany) and Norwegian Accreditation.