Message from Frans Vreeswijk, former IEC General Secretary and CEO

In today’s world, change is the only constant

On 3 February 2020, Frans Vreeswijk officially handed over the reins of the IEC to his successor Philippe Metzger.

We have asked Vreeswijk to outline what he sees as major achievements during the eight years of his mandate at the head of the IEC.

Frans Vreeswijk was General Secretary and CEO of the IEC from 2012 to February 2020

Remaining relevant in the future

Seven years ago, at the IEC General Meeting in Oslo, I shared my vision for the implementation of the 2011 Masterplan. The Masterplan charted the changes the IEC needed to put in place to remain relevant to the broad IEC community and an increasing number of external stakeholders.

Increasing visibility

Since 2012, IEC has participated in over 600 major stakeholder events to make the case for IEC work. We held multiple CEO and industry roundtables in 22 countries to increase understanding of the strategic contributions we deliver to companies, and to motivate even more of them to involve their experts in IEC standardization work.

Since then, over 10 000 experts from 38 countries were trained by IEC Central Office (IEC CO) and IEC regional offices and we launched the new IEC Academy & Capacity Building department.

Encourage greater representation at NC level

In order to encourage greater representation in national committees (NCs), we trained 64 NC secretaries from 31 countries and provided them with tools to enable them to reach out to regulators and other stakeholders. We also organized international regulators’ events and participated in regional meetings on all continents to encourage a more active dialogue with them.

Increasing visibility with UN and international organizations

In 2016, IEC obtained UN Ecosoc (Economic and Social Council) consultative status. This new status significantly increased our visibility within international and UN agencies as well as development agencies, giving us the opportunity to correct misconceptions and share more information including about the IEC Conformity Assessment (CA) Systems. We also organized several joint workshops and contributed to background papers with several UN and non-UN organizations and were able to start raising awareness for IEC contributions to societal challenges such as the SDGs.

Staying ahead of technology developments

With the help of the Market Strategy Board (MSB), the Standardization Management Board (SMB) and the Conformity Assessment Board (CAB) the IEC actively identifies new technologies that fall into its scope. The MSB helps us prioritize new technical work and shares trends with the SMB and CAB. Over the past eight years, the MSB published 15 white papers and one technology report with recommendations for industry, regulators and standardization activities. We share these publications with technical universities during stakeholder events and encourage our members to translate and share them further.

To support new technologies, we have put in place new technical committees, for example for solar thermal, printed electronics, e-transporters, wearable electronics and energy storage. We have also significantly increased our contributions to ISO/IEC JTC 1, the IEC and ISO joint technical committee.

Leading in smart developments

In 2013, the IEC organized the first World Smart Grid Forum in Berlin and, in 2016, the first World Smart City Forum in Singapore in partnership with ISO and ITU. The achieved objective was to show leadership in key areas, stimulate broad cooperation with many other standards organizations and limit duplication of work.

Open the IEC to increased collaboration

I am also proud about our pioneering role in the systems approach, which was approved in 2012 and is now fully implemented. This novel approach to standardization and conformity assessment has opened the door to a new era of collaboration both within the IEC and with organizations that didn’t traditionally participate in IEC work.

Making conformity assessment better known

During my tenure, the profile and awareness of IEC CA Systems has been significantly raised within and outside the IEC community and the new CA System, IECRE, was launched.

I am proud to say that the IEC is the only organization in the world to be able to offer a truly globally standardized approach to conformity assessment, resulting in the biggest working multinational agreement in the world.

IEC CA activities are an equal second pillar next to IEC standardization activities, gaining in importance in terms of the value they add, and revenue generated.

Stimulating international cooperation

Over the past eight years, I have been a defender and supporter of international cooperation with a view to stimulating the use and adoption of IEC Standards at the regional and national levels. We have signed 35 agreements and MoUs and now have 806 liaisons with 219 partner organizations.

Cooperation on IT tools

Over the past two years we have significantly increased our cooperation with ISO to provide common IT tools, whenever possible, for the benefit of our respective members. We have for example adopted the same single sign-in as ISO, harmonized APIs and use the same web conferencing platform. IEC and ISO are represented on each other’s IT Advisory Groups.

Increasing harmonization and ability to trade

In 2016, we signed the Frankfurt agreement with CENELEC. Its aim is to further increase the harmonization between European and IEC International Standards. Today, around 80% of European standards are identical or very similar to IEC International Standards and there is room for further improvement.

More transparency for IEC Members

Over the past three years, the IEC has put in place new governing bodies, including AudCom, FinCom (which replaced the former CDF), ITAG and NRG, and reactivated SAG to increase transparency of IEC operations. I provide regular written updates to all Members and we organize web forums and face-to-face meetings outside of the annual General Meeting to increase dialogue and cooperation with and between IEC Members.

Update and implementation of new Masterplan

In January 2016, we launched the development process for the next version of the Masterplan based on the most extensive and inclusive consultation of IEC Members and stakeholders in the history of the IEC.

In 2018, the Masterplan implementation plan was developed under the leadership of Past President Jacques Régis. It outlines the roles and responsibilities of the different parties that are invited to deliver the Masterplan.

Next generation of experts

One of the objectives we already identified in 2011 was the need to increase the involvement of the next generation of experts. In this context, we have broadened the Young Professionals (YP) Programme to secure the long-term participation of young experts and leaders and significantly increase IEC outreach to academia. To date, the YP Programme has brought together 544 experts from 51 countries at the global level and a record 23 national YP programmes have been created on the same blueprint.

On the way to more diversity

I became an International Gender Champion back in 2016 and the IEC was one of the first signatories of the UN initiative for gender-balanced standards. I am happy to say that, since then, awareness of the need for more diversity in the IEC has significantly increased. A new IEC Council Board (CB) task force has started to identify activities that need to be put in place to durably increase gender and geographical diversity.

Defending our intellectual property

To ensure the financial stability of our Members and that of the IEC, we have put in place mechanisms to protect our common intellectual property, copyright and business model. In this context, we are also strongly pursuing the misuse of copyrighted content, including national adoptions online and offline.

To better defend the IEC business model, we have accelerated the global registration of all IEC trademarks. And we have been encouraging all IEC Members and IEC CA Systems Members to actively display the IEC brands at the national level on their websites and promotional material to increase our chances of defending against misuse by third parties.

Securing the future

Last year, we started the development of a risk management framework which I hope will allow the IEC to better pre-empt risks but also identify untapped opportunities that will help the Commission to become even more flexible and proactive.

And since change is the only constant, we also started to explore new business ideas that can lead to new revenue sources.

A growing organization

During my time at the helm of the IEC, the organization has grown from 163 to 173 countries and we now have four IEC CA Systems, up from three in 2012.

We also added a regional centre in Africa in 2015, which serves the needs of 54 countries.

I would like to thank the entire membership, all experts and my staff for their support and trust and leave you in the good hands of Philippe Metzger.