The network of national standards institutes constituting ISO, the world's largest developer of voluntary international standards, has agreed on the organization's path forward for the next five years.

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The ISO 27th General Assembly, held on 14-16 September 2004 in Geneva, Switzerland, approved the ISO Strategic Plan 2005-2010 which sets seven key objectives for the organization and defines the ensuing actions and results expected. The key objectives are:

  • Developing a consistent and multi-sector collection of globally relevant International Standards.
  • Ensuring the involvement of stakeholders.
  • Raising the awareness and capacity of developing countries.
  • Being open to partnerships for the efficient development of International Standards.
  • Promoting the use of voluntary standards as an alternative or as a support to technical regulations.
  • Being the recognized provider of International Standards and guides relating to conformity assessment.
  • Providing efficient procedures and tools for the development of a coherent and complete range of deliverables.

Increasing the participation of ISO's developing country members - who make up 110 of its total membership of 146 - and strengthening their standardization infrastructures is the focus of the ISO Five-year Plan for Developing Countries, which was also adopted. Among measures to be implemented is establishing twinning arrangements for holding secretariats of Technical Committees that develop ISO standards, or for taking part in their work, by associating an ISO member institute from a developed country and another from a developing country. One of the first twinned secretariats, to be allocated shortly, will be for the working group that is to develop an ISO standard giving guidelines for social responsibility.

Another important feature was the recently adopted ISO Code of Ethics, which the General Assembly gave an opportunity to promote. The code concisely defines the ethical behaviour ISO expects of its governance, members and staff, and their responsibilities in delivering and promoting globally relevant and recognized standards.

Among other highlights of the General Assembly was a situation report by the ISO High-Level Security Advisory Group on the organization's current and potential involvement in standards for international security against threats such as criminal activity, terrorism and natural disaster.

Participation in the ISO 27th General Assembly was the highest ever, prompting the organization's Secretary-General Mr. Alan Bryden to comment: "With such a significant agenda, including decisions to be taken that will influence ISO's orientations and actions over the next five years, it was essential for our worldwide membership to be strongly represented. In the event, ISO's members heeded the call and we welcomed 368 delegates from 110 of our 146 member countries. In addition, there were representatives present from 22 international organizations and their status and numbers illustrated the high degree of institutional recognition that ISO is achieving."

The VIP guests included: Mr. Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General, United Nations Office at Geneva: Mr. Roderick Abbot, Deputy Director General of the WTO, and high-ranking officials of the WHO, UNIDO, ITC, IEC and ITU.

Mr. Ordzhonikidze read a message to ISO from United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Kofi Annan who declared: "ISO makes a unique contribution in a range of vital areas - health, safety, security, the environment, transport and information technology. ISO standards are crucial to sustainable development, as they are a key source of technological know-how, especially for developing countries and economies in transition. They are invaluable in helping countries develop their economies and build capacities to compete on global markets. Producers and consumers everywhere benefit from your efforts."

The UN Secretary-General concluded: "The United Nations family looks forward to working ever more closely with the International Organization for Standardization for many years to come."