ISO and developing countries

International Standards bring technological, economic and societal benefits. They help to harmonize technical specifications of products and services making industry more efficient and breaking down barriers to international trade.

For developing countries, International Standards are an important source of technological know-how. Developing countries can use International Standards to access knowledge in areas where they may lack expertise and/or resources.

In addition, International Standards can improve access to global markets. As they define the characteristics that products and services have to meet on export markets, International Standards help developing countries take part fairly in international trade.

Getting involved in standard development

Developing countries can also benefit from actively taking part in the development of International Standards. Standards are developed in an open process and reflect the views of many stakeholders including technical experts, government representatives, academics and consumers. Being actively involved in this process brings widespread benefits, including:

Playing an active role in the ISO community, promoting the national use of International Standards and taking part in their development, helps developing countries realise their full potential.

Video: ISO and developing countries

Learn more about the training and technical assistance ISO offers for developing countries

Access information on resources, training courses and workshops.

What does ISO do for developing countries?

ISO tries to be as inclusive as possible when it comes to its membership. There are three member categories, each with a different level of access and influence over the ISO system. This means that countries with limited resources or without a fully developed national standards system can still observe and keep up to date with international standardization in ISO.

Today, over three quarters of our 163 members come from developing countries. (Find out more about our developing country members.) We want to help these members make the most out of the benefits that International Standards offer and to help them play an active role in their development. In order to achieve this, we work with members to increase the capacity of the national standards bodies, to help improve awareness of the benefits of international standards and to help strengthen regional cooperation. (More information can be found in our Action Plan for developing countries.)

Twinning relationships is one of the actions ISO has taken to support participation from developing country members. A twinning relationship means that members can work together to build capacity of a developing country. For more information please read this Guidance on Twinning (PDF) or contact the Technical Management Board at tmb@iso.org.

Training and technical assistance for members is also available.

Leading ISO’s work on developing countries is DEVCO, ISO’s Committee on developing country issues. Find out more about DEVCO.

Related publications

ISO Action Plan 2011-2015

ISO's Action Plan maps out how ISO aims to contribute to improving developing countries' economic growth and access to world markets and helping to achieve sustainable development.

Award for young professionals in developing countries

Sponsored by DIN, the German Institute for Standardization, ISO's award for young professionals in developing countries is awarded every two years and aims to encourage engagement by young people in international standardization and raise awareness of the importance of standards in promoting safe and sustainable economic development.

This year's theme is 'Sustainable energy future: How can standards help meet the challenge?', with applicants required to address the issue with research and personal anaysis related to their own country.

The winner will be offered a one-week, all expenses paid attachment at the DIN head office in Berlin, Germany and the opportunity to spend several days at the ISO General Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, giving them training and exposure to a wide range of standards-related management activities.

This 2014 award is now closed.

ISO/DIN essay contest

Sustainable energy future - How can standards help meet the challenge?

Related Publications

Building linkages for export success

For national standards bodies, trade promotion organizations and government agencies to show how close collaboration can assist exporters.

Fast forward

This publication will help developing countries and countries with economies in transition make optimal use of national standardization infrastructure.

Financing NSBs

Information on activities, services and financing approaches for National Standards Bodies.