15. July 2020

Report on Quality & Standards and their role in responding to Covid-19

In April 2020, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) published a report on the implications and challenges related to quality management and the promulgation of standards.

The report provides an initial analysis of quality and standards in mitigating the negative effects of the global crisis arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. [1]

The report emphasizes the Urgency to Act. It states that “COVID-19 is a virus which has paralysed human interaction worldwide; it does not respect borders and has proliferated in every country despite efforts by many governments”, and that international cooperation is essential “to mitigate the further spread of the corona virus and to reconstruct our societies”.  It also points out that “the coronavirus pandemic presents an opportunity for the human family to act in solidarity … to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals” - a key observation about the importance of informed decisions in navigating a path towards greater resiliency.

The section on “COVID-19 and World Trade” discusses food and medical supply chains and the issue of trade restrictions. It points out that World Trade Organization (WTO) members are free to adopt trade measures deemed necessary to protect public health and welfare. Two WTO agreements address measures adopted by members to protect public health or public safety – the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement[2]) and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement[3]). Both the SPS and TBT agreements require WTO members to notify others of any new or changed requirements which affect trade, and to respond to requests for information on new or existing measures.

[1] The report does not claim to be exhaustive, directing readers to the UNIDO website for more detailed information on the overall UNIDO response to COVID-19: https://www.unido.org/unidos-comprehensive-response-covid-19

[2] “The SPS Agreement establishes that members have the right to restrict trade by taking SPS measures necessary for the protection of human, animal or plant life or health. These measures should only be applied to the extent necessary to achieve their objectives, be based on scientific principles and be supported by scientific evidence. In situations where relevant scientific evidence is insufficient, members may provisionally adopt SPS measures on the basis of available pertinent information.”

[3] “The TBT Agreement aims to ensure that technical regulations, standards and conformity assessment procedures are non-discriminatory and do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade. At the same time, it recognises WTO members' right to implement measures to achieve legitimate policy objectives, such as the protection of human health and safety.”

The section on “Quality Infrastructure in the Context of COVID-19” examines the role of quality infrastructure in promoting inclusive and sustainable industrial development. Quality infrastructure preparedness is imperative in the fight against the global pandemic, to prevent the health system from being strained and laboratory services from collapsing. “Ensuring the quality and accuracy of laboratory-developed tests will increasingly provide an essential contribution to the diagnostic reasoning, managed care and therapeutic monitoring of the vast majority of human diseases”.

What does this tell us about addressing the integrity of ecosystems and societal well-being across our fragile planet? It reminds us that the system comprising the organizations, policies, regulatory framework, and practices needed to support and enhance the quality, safety and environmental soundness of goods and services and processes relies on metrology, standardization, accreditation, conformity assessment and market surveillance.

To download the report, go to: https://www.unido.org/sites/default/files/files/2020-04/Quality%20and%20Standards%20and%20their%20Role%20in%20Responding%20to%20COVID-19.pdf 


The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) plays an important role in promoting inclusive and sustainable industrial development that creates shared prosperity through training and skills development, accelerated capacity building and risk mitigation.

UNIDO’s approach to quality infrastructure development is systemic and holistic, from building awareness to helping initiate, develop and strengthen a fit-for-purpose quality infrastructure that runs efficiently and is cost-effective. UNIDO promotes good practices, capacity building and training, and fosters global cooperation in the development of standards setting, measurement and compliance along value chains. UNIDO works with partners from the public and private sectors, academia, national and international organizations engaged in standards development, and global metrology, standards and conformity assessment practice.