On 6 December last year, our colleague Alex Inklaar passed away unexpectedly in Berlin.
With Alex we have lost one of the most important experts for the promotion of standards in development cooperation. This obituary is also a way of dealing with the enormous loss in his circle of colleagues. It is an attempt to remember Alex as a person and as an expert.
Alex came to this topic as a career changer after studying linguistics. The basis for his professional focus was laid by his work as an assistant at the Chair of Standards of Prof. Wilfried Hesser at the Universität der Bundeswehr (since renamed Helmut-Schmidt-University) in Hamburg. In the course of this job he developed his interest in the world of standards, which is traditionally reserved for people with a technical or scientific background. He thus brought a new perspective and approach in a field whose great significance is not immediately apparent to most people.
Alex already proved his ability to communicate the meaning of standards to outsiders in an understandable and detailed way during his work at the university. He benefited from his extraordinary talent for languages. Alex, who was born in the Netherlands, spoke – besides his mother tongue – German and English with enormous expressiveness and precision. . His work was an excellent example of the great importance of language for successful communication and collaboration.
These characteristics qualified Alex for his work as an independent consultant, among others, on behalf of the International Cooperation Department of the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB). Over the years, he has repeatedly faced the challenge of adapting current knowledge and international standards to the very different national realities of the development cooperation countries. He has often worked in countries where legal and regulatory approaches dominate, where there is little experience in cooperation between state and private actors or where awareness of the importance of international good practice in standards is rather low.
Alex had a special sensitivity for people and cultures and was flexible in his response to local peculiarities. Instead of succumbing to the danger of pursuing the same concepts in all countries, he addressed the specific problems of the partner organizations and tried new approaches in order to advance the development of standards. He had high performance demands for his work. He understood standards as an integral part of quality infrastructure and was keen to familiarize himself in detail with both the international developments and the preconditions in the partner countries in order to be able to make well-founded recommendations. He was convinced of the importance of a functioning standards system for the partner countries and measured his personal success in achieving concrete effects for its implementation. He had the courage to withdraw from a project rather than do an ineffective job.
Together with a small group of internal and external employees of PTB, Alex contributed over the years to the international reputation of PTB as a competent partner for the promotion of quality infrastructure in development cooperation. He developed close relations with the important national and international organizations and worked in various projects outside of PTB – also with organizations such as the German Institute for Standardization (DIN), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the European Union. The colleagues of this organisation fondly remember his didactic abilities, with which he was able to bring complex technical content closer to people with very different cultural backgrounds.
As a person, Alex was very much appreciated because of his open and collegial nature. He was interested in the people he worked with. This made working with him very enjoyable and gave him the ability to respond to different perspectives and needs in his work. Alex has tried various forms of collaboration.
We will miss Alex Inklaar as a person and a colleague very much. His death is a great loss for his colleagues and cooperation partners in international cooperation. We will build on his contributions and continue our work in his spirit.