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 realize their full potential.

Video: ISO and developing countries

What does ISO do for developing countries?

With, over three quarters of our 163 members from developing countries, we are committed to helping them get the most out of International Standards.

As part of our Action Plan for Developing Countries, we offer a number of programmes to increase their capacity and involvement in standardization, improve awareness of the benefits and to help strengthen regional cooperation.

Recent examples of our work include:

We also offer training and educational opportunities through the ISO Academy.

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.

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

ISO standards-related initiatives

Many published ISO standards, standards projects and initiatives related to them - such as workshops aiming at sharing information and transferring knowledge - are of particular interest for developing countries.

Examples include:

Related publications

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.

Case studies from the ISO project to increase use and uptake of ISO 26000 in the SR MENA region.

Award for young standardizers in developing countries

Sponsored by DIN, the German Institute for Standardization, ISO's award for young professionals in developing countries working for national standards bodies 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.

Entries are now being accepted. This year's theme focuses on the role of international standards in improving quality of life in urban areas, with applicants required to address the issue with research and personal analysis related to their own country.

For further details and how to apply, see the ISO/DIN essay contest brochure (pdf).

ISO/DIN essay contest

International Standards and the urban environment

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.