• home

    A unique approach for developing countries: IEC Standards and Conformity Assessment


    International Trade Forum - Issue 3/2010

    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).

    In 2009, the IEC set up Affiliate Plus status for participants that have adopted at least 50 IEC International Standards and have established an NEC. Countries with Affiliate Plus status are entitled to 400 IEC International Standards for national adoption and can receive mentoring. (For more information, see www.iec.ch/affiliates/.


    About the IEC

    The IEC, founded in 1906, prepares and publishes International Standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies - collectively known as 'electrotechnology'. It has 81 members and 81 affiliates.

    All IEC International Standards are consensus-based and represent the needs of key stakeholders of participating countries. The IEC has:

    • More than 10,000 experts in 174 technical committees with more than 1,000 working groups
    • More than 6,000 International Standards in catalogue
    • More than 500,000 CA certificates established.

    IEC International Standards cover power generation, transmission, distribution, including all renewable energy sources; batteries; home appliances; office and medical equipment; all public and private transportation; semiconductors; fibre optics; nanotechnology; multimedia; and information technology. They also cover safety, performance and the environment.

    About the IEC Conformity Assessment Systems

    IECEE The IEC system of CA schemes includes coverage of conformity testing and certification for safety and performance of home and office equipment, home entertainment, medical devices, cables, lighting, portable tools and solar photovoltaics.

    IECEx This system relates to equipment for use in explosive atmospheres. Coverage includes certification of electrical and electronic products and systems in explosion protection and certification of personnel competencies (maintenance and repair). This includes all areas where inflammable gases, liquids and combustible dusts may be present, i.e. the oil and gas industry, mining, refuelling stations for cars, trucks and planes, printing and paint industry, grain storage and handling, and sugar refineries.

    IECQ The IEC quality assessment system for electronic components covers the supply of components and associated materials and processes, the business-to-business supply chain management systems for avionics, management of electrostatic discharge and use of hazardous substances in manufacturing processes.


    Standards & conformity