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.

Video: ISO and developing countries
ISO and developing countries


Getting involved in standards 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:

  • influencing the technical content of standards to make sure they reflect specific needs
  • gaining hands on experience in standardization work that can help build up national infrastructures, and
  • giving early access to information and technological knowledge

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.

What does ISO do for developing countries?

With, over three quarters of our 162 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:

  • The MENA STAR project to strengthen institutional infrastructure on standards and regulations in the Middle East and North Africa
  • The SR MENA project on the use of ISO 26000 for social responsibility in the Middle East and North Africa regions
  • An institutional strengthening project in Myanmar
  • Involvement in a UNIDO project to boost capacity in trade

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 or contact the Technical Management Board at

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:

Drip Irrigation: Seminar organized in conjunction with the ISO Workshop Agreement (IWA) meeting in Stockholm, on 31 August 2016

Cover page: ISO Action Plan for developing countries 2016-2020
ISO Action Plan for developing countries 2016-2020
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.
Cover page: Benefits in applying ISO 26000 - Selected case studies as a result of the SR MENA Project
Benefits in applying ISO 26000 - Selected case studies as a result of the SR MENA Project
Case studies from the ISO project to increase use and uptake of ISO 26000 in the SR MENA region.
Cover page: Guidance on Twinning in ISO standards development activities
Guidance on Twinning in ISO standards development activities
Twinning is a partnership between a developing country ISO member and a developed country ISO member. It aims to improve the standardization infrastructure and capacities of the developing country member.

Award for young standardizers in developing countries

Sponsored by DIN, the German Institute for Standardization, ISO/DIN'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.

The 2016 award is now closed. The next competition will be held in 2018.


Cover page: Building linkages for export success
Building linkages for export success
For national standards bodies, trade promotion organizations and government agencies to show how close collaboration can assist exporters
Cover page: Fast forward
Fast forward
This publication will help developing countries and countries with economies in transition make optimal use of national standardization infrastructure
Cover page: Financing NSBs
Financing NSBs
Information on activities, services and financing approaches for National Standards Bodies

More publications on developing countries and international standardization »