Source: Small Island Developing States
14 May 2019: Countries and international, regional and national standards bodies and organizations signed the Declaration for Gender Responsive Standards and Standards Development at a ceremony hosted by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). Signatories to the Declaration pledge to create and implement a gender action plan for their body or organization, and to share data and information on their plan’s implementation.
According to a study by UNECE, women are “widely under-represented in developing the standards that affect so many areas of our lives” from the products we consume to the infrastructure and technology that surrounds our everyday lives. Further, many standards do not adequately address how women and men may be affected in different ways. For example, the standard values used to set office heating and air conditioning systems overestimate female metabolic rate by up to 35%, which means that offices are five degrees Celsius too cold for women, on average. Such issues hinder progress on SDG 5 (gender equality) and undermine the potential of standards to serve as tools to support sustainable development.
To address this gender gap, UNECE began work on the Gender Responsive Standards Initiative in 2016. The Initiative aims to strengthen the use of standards and technical regulations as tools to achieve SDG 5, integrate a gender lens in the development of standards and technical regulations, and elaborate gender indicators and criteria for use in standards development. The Initiative’s activities culminated in drafting the Declaration for Gender Responsive Standards and Standards Development.
In the Declaration for Gender Responsive Standards and Standards Development, signatories acknowledge SDG 5 and the pervasive and influential role of standards in society. Signatories further acknowledge that representation of women in standards development is “almost always below parity,” and outcomes for men and women are not explicitly addressed during standards development processes. Signatories therefore express their resolve to work towards gender-inclusive standards in development organizations, gender balance at all levels within wider infrastructure, and enhanced expertise to create and deliver gender inclusivity. Signatories pledge to make standards and standards development gender-responsive by affirming the Declaration, working towards gender balanced/representative and inclusive standards development environments, creating gender-responsive standards, and creating gender-responsive standards bodies. Signatories pledge to proactively implement a gender action plan for their organization and to track progress, collect and share data, success stories and good practices.
The Declaration features a “Living Annex,” maintained on the UNECE website, that outlines actions that national standards bodies and standards developing organizations can consider including in their gender action plan. On working towards gender balanced/representative and inclusive standards development environments, the Annex suggests, inter alia: ensuring that leadership supports striving for a gender-inclusive environment and gender-responsive standards, conducting annual research to learn about differences in experiences with standards development based on gender; reviewing the gender balance of chairs and senior roles within standards making and seeking to improve it where it is imbalanced; and supporting individuals who want to be gender advocates, including by providing them with tools and resources.
On creating gender-responsive standards, the Annex proposes striving to develop a network of gender experts to support standards development committees in their work, contributing to developing tools for conducting gender-based analysis of all standards in any form of development to ensure standards are gender responsive in content and implementation, providing training for any new tools developed, and striving to institutionalize successful and effective practices, procedures and policies to ensure sustainability of gender responsive standards development. On creating gender-responsive standards bodies, the Annex proposes actions related to collecting data on the gender ratio of employees at all levels, developing training tools to enhance employees’ gender awareness, and monitoring the participation in and impact of provided training.
UNECE held a “no fly” signing ceremony for Signatories to sign the Declaration. The ceremony’s format aimed to limit transportation-related emissions and reduce the carbon footprint of its activities. A UN live broadcast and WebEx online virtual meeting enabled signatories to participate in an “on-air signing” of the Declaration, and facilitated real-time engagement with the event. At the event, UNECE launched its study on mainstreaming gender in the development and implementation of standards.
To date, the following have signed the Declaration: Albania, Austria, Bolivia, Botswana, Canada, China, Colombia, Congo, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Gambia, Germany, Honduras, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Mozambique, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, UK and Uruguay. Organizations that signed the Declaration include the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the International Electrotechnical Commissions (IEC), ASTM International, European Committee for Standardization (CEN) & European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC), African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO), South Asian Regional Standards Organization (SARSO), European Environmental Citizens’ Organisation for Standardisation (ECOS), The Gold Standard, Verra, and AMFORI. [UN Press Release] [UNECE Press Release] [UNECE Webpage on Ceremony] [UNECE Webpage on Declaration] [Declaration for Gender Responsive Standards and Standards Development]