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SAE's Bill Gouse during his presentation to the NGO Committee's 19 member states at UN Headquarters in NYC. (UN video image)

SAE granted Special Consultative Status with the United Nations

After a nearly 18-month process to gain Special Consultative Status with the United Nations (UN) as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), SAE International was formally granted the status by the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) NGO Committee’s 19 member states during its July 25, 2017 Coordination and Management meeting.

Being granted Special Consultative Status enables SAE’s active participation in the forums in the ECOSOC—one of the four divisions of the UN. The designation will allow SAE to present papers and data for consideration and discussion and allow SAE to attend any meeting the ECOSOC holds.

SAE applied for this status with the UN in order to participate in a variety of work programs in the surface, air and multimodal transport, environmental and energy issues, as well as those related to cybersecurity and accessibility for the disabled.

Bill Gouse, SAE’s Director, Federal Program Development, has been working since early 2016 on the application process to achieve Special Consultative Status. While anyone can attend a UN meeting, or watch it on UN WEB TV, “without this status, we may only sit in the gallery and listen,” Gouse told Automotive Engineering.

The application process itself was lengthy and involved plenty of paperwork, Gouse said. The NGO Committee’s UN member state representatives vet applications submitted by NGOs. They recommend general, special or roster status, depending on the applicant’s criteria (mandate, governance and financial regime).

In late May 2017, there was an in-person presentation during the 22nd session of the ECOSOC NGO Committee at UN Headquarters in New York City (at 1:58:24 mark at

In the speech, Gouse highlighted SAE’s global contributions to advancing the safety, environmental conservation, and productivity of all modes of transportation along with construction and agricultural equipment. He also discussed SAE’s technology transfer and lifelong learning activities.

SAE was among the NGOs recommended that day; in June, the NGO Committee adopted their report. Then during the UN ECOSOC's July 25 Coordination and Management meeting the group formally approved SAE's Special Consultative Status.

With its new Special Consultative Status, SAE’s participation with the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) Sustainable Transport Division will initially be with the Global Forum for Road Traffic Safety in Working Party 1 (WP1) and the World Forum for the Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations in Working Party 29 (WP29). The working parties have two or three high-level main meetings each year in Geneva and New York, along with specialized meetings held in other locations.

“What’s important in Working Party 1 is this is where the complex driving automation and connectivity issues are discussed with highway operators, enforcement and other interests. A lot of discussions pertain to vehicles and their current and future relationship with the roadway environment,” Gouse explained. “Policy and criteria developed in WP1 will influence the specialized activities in WP29 that are focused on the vehicle.”

He added, “Working Party 29 is the World’s Harmonization of Motor Vehicle Regulations, and those that they’re working on incorporate SAE standards, while Working Party 1 is the Global Road Safety activities, which addresses the safety of cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles and non-motorized transport in use on the highways.” The group’s experts include those involved with infrastructure—traffic signals, markings and poles, as well as emergency response and hazardous materials transport and tunnel design, etc.

This status is important for SAE, as well as for the UN. According to Jack Pokrzywa, Director, Ground Vehicle Standards, SAE International, “the new set of advanced technologies require careful review and implementation.”

He explained that regulations, whether domestic or international, have a critical role in this process and should draw from the engineering expertise of vehicle developers and researchers. “This is where close liaison with the global regulators will ultimately result in more reliable and safer cars and trucks,” Pokrzywa told AE.

“SAE’s standards community represents unmatched repository of engineering knowledge which will now be able, through SAE’s presence at the regulatory table, to provide technological feedback to the regulatory Working Groups,” he said. At the same time, SAE committee members will receive an early glimpse into potential future rules.

“SAE members are doing a tremendous amount of valuable work,” Gouse noted. And its new UN status will enable key global organizations to access that work or consider it. Conversely, SAE will be better positioned to learn from these organizations and bring the learnings back to SAE members, helping to improve their international, global perspective.

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