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Global Voices – IEC


Tools for concrete outcomes 


Frans Vreeswijk, General Secretary & CEO, IEC (

This year’s G7 will address a number of important topics pertaining to greater equality and inclusiveness, security and sustainability. All of these will require concrete actions well beyond governance and regulation.  

From understanding issues and identifying opportunities, it is a long and arduous way to delivering the solutions that will make a real difference on the ground.    

Eliminating duplication and waste 

Today, literally hundreds of organizations and companies work in parallel to develop the tools, systems and products that will allow humanity to continue to prosper while taking better care of the planet.  

However, real life solutions will require broad collaboration between the public and private sectors to help eliminate duplication and wasted efforts. The only tried, tested and effective way to achieve greater efficiency is by applying globally relevant Standards that underpin cooperation and enable the large scale deployment of interoperable technologies and processes.  

Addressing climate change 

Policy makers will need to push for more efficient use of energy in order to cope with increasing demand for clean, sustainable electricity. Energy efficiency improvements provide a wide range of benefits, including, for example, reduction in GHG emissions, increased energy security, better health and well-being through lower air pollution, positive impact on public budgets and disposable incomes and much more. According to the IEA, energy efficiency represents the biggest still largely untapped source of power. 

International Standards provide the solid technical foundation and the metrics to deliver built-inmeasurable efficiency gains. They underpin testing and certification and confirm that the efficiency promises of manufacturers are kept.   

In addition to efficiency improvements, the deployment of cleaner technologies will need to be accelerated. Highly polluting infrastructure will need to be replaced by low-carbon alternatives, bringing on board renewable energy and clean off-grid rural electrification. Here too International Standards will make the life of regulators easier and allow countries to access state-of-the art solutions that are globally competitive and easier to maintain and repair.  

Building disaster resilience 

The number and severity of natural disasters due to climate change is expected to rise. When disasters hit, populations often face aggravating factors such as power outages. When the electricity supply goes, it affects clean water, safe food, sanitation, lights, healthcare, and makes recovery longer and harder. To increase the resilience of infrastructure, reduce disaster impact and accelerate disaster relief, policy makers can count on International Standards and testing and certification. Infrastructure that is built and tested to International Standards is more likely to resist extreme conditions. 

Inclusive economic  

To enhance economic growth, many countries need to build quality infrastructure or upgrade existing technology solutions to increase production efficiencies. IEC International Standards together with testing and certification simplify the implementation and upgrading of industrial infrastructure and the retrofitting of clean and environmentally sound technologies or processes. They help increase the safety of tools and of the workers who use them; facilitate technology transfer, encourage innovations that can be exported to many countries and provide easier access to global value chains. 

Tools to advance gender equality 

E-learning can facilitate the education of girls and women and provide them with greater opportunities. The IEC provides the technical foundation for most of the electrical and electronic hardware used in education, including computers, routers, printers, mobile phones, etc.  

Many women give birth at home under high risk conditions. Solar lights and safe medical devices can significantly improve outcomes. The IEC prepares the globally relevant Standards for most medical devices used in diagnostics and treatment.  

The IEC also participates in the International Gender Champions Initiative of the UN and I have been reaching out to all IEC members to increase awareness of the importance of women’s participation in technical committees and to make gender balance a key consideration in the IEC Young Professionals Programme. We have started training technical officers to facilitate a more gender balanced approach in relevant IEC Standards. 


About the author 

Frans Vreeswijk has been IEC General Secretary & CEO since 1 October 2012. Prior to joining the IEC, he worked for almost 30 years for Philips in the Netherlands, Austria and the USA, notably in research, healthcare and consumer electronics.