Together we're stronger

Mentoring programme plays cohesive role in IEC community

By Claire Marchand

“L’union fait la force” or “unity makes strength” in English is the national motto of Belgium and Bulgaria and appears on the coat of arms of several countries and regions around the world.

Mentoring partnership between Austria and Zambia
From left: Christian Gabriel, Managing Director/Executive Secretary of OVE Austrian Electrotechnical Committee, Izaiah Mulenga, Chikoma Mwansa and Bernhard Spalt

Strength in number…

The motto fits the IEC philosophy to a T. There are 167 countries in the IEC Family, an all-time high. The past 20 years have made a difference. The number of countries that have become members of the Commission has grown to reach 83. Together with the 84 Affiliate Countries that are now participating in the Affiliate Country Programme, they are shaping the IEC of today to make it a strong entity that is reckoned with in the field of standardization and conformity assessment. 

…in diversity…

The 167 countries that form the IEC are as diverse as they come. Some are founding members of the Commission, true pioneers in electrotechnical standardization; some other members that joined the IEC more recently may still be learning the ropes. 

As for the Affiliate countries, participation in the Programme may be their first brush with international electrotechnical standardization and conformity assessment activities. 

…and in sharing experience and know-how

While all participants in the Affiliate Country Programme have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the IEC, those among them that have reached a certain level can benefit from additional assistance in the form of a Mentoring Programme that sets up partnerships between long-established National Committees (NCs) and Affiliate National Electrotechnical Committees (NECs). 

The mentoring programme provides help at the management and technical levels. Mentoring at the management level focuses on the reinforcement of the NEC structure and its mirror committees, as well as on the adoption of IEC International Standards as national ones. Technical mentoring enhances the participation of experts, focusing on the procedures for commenting on IEC International Standards during the development and providing guidance in understanding the requirements laid out in these Standards. 

Benefits for all

Both mentor and mentee, not to forget the IEC, can gain from the partnership they engage in. Stronger ties may provide mentoring countries with new business opportunities in developing or emerging markets. Mentees can enhance their participation in IEC standardization work and have their voice heard sooner rather than later, thus reinforcing the truly global and leading role played by the IEC in the electrotechnical field. 

Currently 10 partnerships have been established and are in varying degrees of completion:

  • Afghanistan-Malaysia
  • Bhutan-Sweden
  • Côte D’Ivoire-France
  • DR Congo-France
  • Ethiopia-Germany
  • Mongolia-Germany
  • Peru-Mexico
  • Rwanda-Austria
  • Uruguay-Norway
  • Zambia-Austria

The Zambia-Austria example

To illustrate the dynamics behind the programme, let’s have a closer look at a moment in time in the partnership between Austria and Zambia.

The two countries began their mentoring partnership in January. As per the agreement they signed, their aim is to reinforce the existing NEC, reach out to stakeholders, and master the working process for comments on technical documents. 

On 23-27 November 2015, two representatives of the Zambian Bureau of Standards (ZABS), Izaiah Mulenga and Chikoma Mwansa, visited the Austrian Electrotechnical Association (OVE) in Vienna. 

The main objective of the visit was for the Zambian delegation to learn about the Austrian NC processes and practices such as stakeholder engagement, Technical Committee (TC) management and the use of IEC Tools. 

A win-win situation

The programme concocted by the mentor included many workshop sessions which demonstrated the Austrian NC’s processes and laid out the national and European political/legal situation. Participation in the OVE standardization day, an IEC training session led by IEC Community Manager Jan-Henrik Tiedemann, and visits to the OVE Certification Department and the Federal Ministry of Science Research and Economy were also on the agenda. Several social events and networking opportunities strengthened the good spirit of the workshop. 

In conclusion, both parties expressed their deep satisfaction for what they consider a win-win situation. Several in-depth discussions and insights in both national systems provided understanding and ideas for both mentor and mentee. It was agreed that the collaboration has to be continued. The next steps will see Mulenga, as Secretary of the Zambian National Electrotechnical Committee (NEC), and his colleague Mwansa share what they have learnt with their colleagues at the national level, in particular concerning stakeholder participation. 

A follow-up discussion is planned for spring 2016.

Mentoring partnership between Austria and Zambia From left: Christian Gabriel, Managing Director/Executive Secretary of OVE Austrian Electrotechnical Committee, Izaiah Mulenga, Chikoma Mwansa and Bernhard Spalt
Wien - Regierungsgebäude,Stubenring The government building that houses the Federal Ministry of Science Research and Economy in Vienna Photo: Bwag/Wikimedia)
Stone bridge The Mentoring Programme helps build bridges and makes the IEC stronger