ISO’s Action Plan for developing countries 2021-2025

Standards and Development

International Standards Organization

ISO’s Action Plan for developing countries 2021-2025

Designed with members, for members.

May 2021

   The ISO Action Plan for developing countries is the overall framework for technical assistance and training to support developing country members. Its objective is to empower members to contribute actively to the ISO system and fully realize the benefits of using ISO standards, particularly those addressing social, economic and environmental challenges. Achieving this objective will also make an important contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and ISO’s vision of “making lives easier, safer and better” by 2030.

Strategic context

   The global community is faced with an increasing set of social, economic and environmental challenges. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide an ambitious frame-work for global collective action to address these challenges and achieve a more sustainable future, by supporting inclusive economic growth, the wellbeing of people and the protection of the planet. They present an opportunity and an aspiration to build greener, more inclusive economies and stronger, more resilient societies.

   ISO standards have an essential role to play in making these development goals a reality by enabling free and fair international trade, encouraging innovation and technology development, and fostering trust through the provision of world-class, consensus-based specifications.

   Developing countries can benefit significantly from using ISO standards. At a government level, standards can be used to support public policy and good regulatory practice. At a private-sector level, businesses can use standards to ensure that their processes, products and services are fit for purpose, interchangeable and compatible. Consumers benefit greatly from goods and services developed in line with standards because they can be confident that these are of good quality, safe and environmentally sound. To realize these benefits, it is important that developing countries have the skills and resources to propose new work items and participate in all stages of ISO standards development. ISO recognizes that many of its developing country members need capacity building support to benefit fully from the use of ISO standards in contributing to their countries’ development objectives and advancing the SDGs.

ISO Strategy 2021-2030

Making lives easier, safer and better

   ISO’s ten-year strategy sets out the organization’s vision, mission, goals and priorities to 2030, a time frame that aligns with the SDGs. The strategy aims to ensure that ISO is well positioned within a rapidly changing global context and that ISO standards fulfil their potential in delivering ISO’s vision of “ making lives easier, safer and better ”.

   To realize this vision, and maximize the impact of standards and standardization, ISO has identified three clear goals: ISO standards used everywhere; meeting global needs; and all voices heard. These goals are underpinned by six strategic priorities and an associated set of performance indicators. Recognizing that ISO is only as strong as its members, and that strong national standards bodies (NSBs) are key to its success, one of these strategic priorities is “ to strengthen ISO members through capacity building ”. The ISO Strategy serves as the basis for the ISO Action Plan for developing countries: the overall framework of technical assistance and training support that ISO delivers to its developing country members.


   Developing countries are empowered to actively contribute to the ISO system, and to benefit fully from the use of ISO standards addressing social, economic and environmental challenges. The ultimate long-term objective of this Action Plan is to empower ISO’s developing country members to contribute actively to the ISO system and fully realize the benefits of using ISO standards that address social, economic and environmental challenges. Meaningful participation of developing countries in international standardization is fundamental to ensuring the global relevance of ISO standards and establishing the right conditions for their effective implementation. Achieving this objective will make an important contribution towards the delivery of the SDGs and ISO’s vision of “ making lives easier, safer and better ” by 2030.


To deliver on the desired long-term impact, two main areas of improvement (outcomes) have been identified for ISO’s developing country members.

  Outcome 1: Increased use of ISO standards and their national adoptions in developing countries to support the UN SDGs, particularly those relating to trade and climate change.

   The Action Plan will build in-country awareness and expertise of ISO standards to encourage their use and adoption among all stakeholders and support the achievement of the UNSDGs. While the Action Plan will seek to promote the use and adoption of ISO standards relating to all 17 SDGs (see Box on page 1), the priority focus is on international trade and climate change.

   International trade is a key catalyst for economic development and poverty reduction, and one of the most important drivers of prosperity, particularly in developing countries. The application of ISO standards reduces technical barriers to trade and increases developing countries’ trade opportunities. The Plan will enable developing countries to use ISO standards effectively to benefit from trade and contribute to their economic development.

   Given the profound threat of climate change, the Plan has also prioritized providing support to developing countries so that they can develop, adopt and apply ISO standards relating to all aspects of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

   Outcome 2: Increased effective participation of ISO’s developing country members at governance and technical levels to enhance the global relevance of ISO standards.

   ISO standards will only be globally relevant and effectively adopted and used if they suffi-ciently represent the views and interests of as many countries as possible. To ensure that developing countries’ interests are fairly represented and provided for, the Action Plan will assist developing countries in participating more effectively at both the governance and technical levels within the ISO system.