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The role of standards in supporting policy.....and the challenges NSBs face

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Ben Hedley

This CSN paper is about the role of standards in shaping policy, and the challenges that NSBs face.


We ask: 'What role do national Standards Bodies (NSBs) have in setting government policy?'

A stark answer could be: None. NSBs should have no role in setting policy; policy, the argument might go, is for governments alone. NSBs should focus on technical matters. Reality, however, is not so black and white. In some countries standards are integral to government policy, in others they are peripheral – and in between there are many shades of grey. But standards always matter, in all countries alike.

A coherent approach to the use of standards in regulation will make governments more effective and efficient in serving society, environment and the economy. Standards, it is argued, play an underappreciated role in moving ideas; they are building blocks for incremental spreading of technology and innovation, they are good “messengers”. But exactly how to approach standards and regulations in a coherent manner is fraught with challenges.

Drawing from experience gained via the Commonwealth Standards Network (CSN) work programme, we look more closely five inter-related challenges in developing countries. We discuss how these challenges may be addressed and stress the importance of both good regulatory practices and good standards practices.

We situate these two core activities (regulation and standard setting) within the concept of “quality infrastructure” and suggest a possible starting points for more detailed follow-up.

CSN_The role of standards in supporting policy, and the challenges NSBs face_2021.pdf

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