Innovative water technologies, globally aligned standards can help address water scarcity, say experts

Almost two-thirds of the world’s population experience severe water shortage for at least one month each year


Ismail Sebugwaawo

Published: Thu 22 Sep 2022, 7:16 PM

Globally aligned standards will be crucial in helping societies to tackle the rapidly increasing severity of water scarcity, as well as challenges associated with an ageing population, according to global experts in the field of standardisation.

During a panel session titled ‘Innovative solutions for water scarcity’, at the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) Annual Meeting 2022 taking place in Abu Dhabi, representatives from leading standards organisations heard how almost two-thirds of the world’s population experience severe water scarcity for at least one month each year, and over two billion people live in countries where water supply is inadequate.

Hosted by the UAE’s Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology (MoIAT), the ISO Annual Meeting 2022 is convening more than 5,000 delegates, physically and virtually, from September 19 to 23.

The session explored how innovative water technologies, supported by international standards, can help address water scarcity, especially in developing countries.

In a virtual session titled ‘Addressing sustainability challenges arising from the demographic transition’, participants heard how by 2050, one in six people in the world will be over the age of 65, leading to implications for healthcare, workforces, and social environments. Panelists debated the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population from a standards perspective.

The discussions taking place at the meeting are in line with MoIAT’s and ISO’s efforts to increase collaboration and explore how a robust global quality infrastructure can support Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), net zero targets, and international trade. This is the second time the UAE has hosted ISO’s Annual Meeting, reflecting the country’s leading global status in the field of standardization.

Road to net zero

A session titled ‘Road to net zero: How international standards can help implement credible climate plans’, explored how international standards could set the metrics for businesses and regulators to adopt a credible roadmap to prepare for a net zero future, while also highlighting the challenges. Participants heard how to achieve COP26’s promise of a cleaner and more sustainable world and help companies, cities and governments uphold their net zero pledges, there needs to be a regulatory framework that holds everyone accountable.

Ulrika Francke, ISO President, told the audience: “Standards provide the definitions, the measurements and the indicators needed to offer clear and comparable advice on how net zero can be achieved. With standards we can also offer guidance on how net zero should be incorporated into initiatives, strategies, and policies.”

Trade, tech, and standards

The impact of digital technologies on trade was highlighted in a session titled ‘Trade in the age of digitalization’, where the speakers explained how the digitalization of trade could exacerbate the digital divide, creating new obstacles for developing countries looking to expand into new markets. Participants discussed how the digitalization of trade could impact standardization and conformity assessment, particularly in developing countries.

Clean energy was also a focus during a panel that examined energy transition case studies in Africa, where countries have bypassed traditional fuels and infrastructure and gone straight to building sustainable energy systems. The session provided in-depth insights into the continent’s unique complexities and explored ways to strengthen global collaboration for a faster and more sustainable energy transition across Africa.

Highlighting the urgency to establish new mechanisms for corporate governance to keep pace with the changing world, a session titled ‘Shaping corporate governance for the 21st Century” called for robust leadership not just from governments and international organizations, but also within the private sector.


Quality infrastructure

MoIAT, which is the UAE’s standardization body, is mandated to enhance the country’s quality infrastructure. The country’s standardization ecosystem is an important part of its unique value proposition and the Make it in the Emirates initiative, as it stimulates exports and enhances the competitiveness of local products. Under the UAE’s national strategy for industry and advanced technology, quality infrastructure is a focus for creating a conducive and attractive business environment for local and international investors.

The UAE has finalised around 27,000 standards and technical regulations across areas related to industry, advanced technology and future industries, alongside other sectors including healthcare, education, construction, food, agriculture, and management systems. A robust quality infrastructure protects consumers and the environment while supporting the local economy and boosting the UAE’s industrial competitiveness.

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