An International Standard is the result of an agreement that is formed between the member bodies of ISO Certification Authority. It may either be used as such, or it may be implemented through an incorporation in the national standards of different countries.

When a large majority of the products or the services in a particular business or an industry sector conforms to the International Standards, a state of industry-wide standardization is said to exist. This is achieved through a consensus agreement between the national delegations that represents all the economic stakeholders that are concerned – suppliers, users and, often, the governments. They agree on certain specifications and the criteria that are to be applied consistently in the classification of materials, the manufacture of products and the provision of services. In this way, the  International Standards provide a reference framework or a common technological language, that is between the suppliers and their customers – which facilitates trade and the transfer of technology.

International Standard is developed by the  ISO technical committees (TC) and subcommittees (SC) by following  a six-step process:

  • Stage 1: The Proposal stage
  • Stage 2: The  Preparatory stage
  • Stage 3: The Committee stage
  • Stage 4: The  Enquiry stage
  • Stage 5: The  Approval stage
  • Stage 6: The  Publication stage

Stage 1: Proposal stage
The first step in the development of an International Standard is to confirm that there is a need for a particular International Standard. A new work item proposal (NP) is however submitted for a vote by the members of the relevant TC/SC so that they determine the inclusion of the work item in the programme of work.

The proposal is only accepted if a majority of the P-members of the TC/SC votes in its favor and at least five P-members declare that they have a  commitment to participate actively in the project. At this stage, a project leader is responsible for the work item that is normally appointed.

Stage 2: Preparatory stage
Usually, a working group of experts, that is the chairman (convener) who is generally referred to as the project leader, is set up by the TC/SC for the preparation of a working draft. Successive working drafts are however considered until the working group is satisfied that it has developed the best technical solution to the problem that is being addressed. At this stage, the draft is then forwarded to the working group’s parent committee for the process of consensus-building phase.

Stage 3: Committee stage
As soon as the first committee draft is available, the ISO Central Secretariat registers it. It is distributed for comments and, if required, it is also distributed for voting, by the P-members of the TC/SC. Successive committee drafts are considered until the consensus is reached on the technical content. Once the consensus has been attained, the text is then finalized for submission as a draft of an International Standard (DIS).

Stage 4: Enquiry stage 
The draft of the  International Standard (DIS) is circulated to all the ISO Certification Authority member bodies by the ISO Central Secretariat for the requirement of voting and for a comment that is to be done within a period of five months. If a two-thirds majority of the P-members of the TC/SC are in favor and not more than one-quarter of the total number of votes cast are negative the draft gets approved for submission as a final draft international standard. If the approval criteria are not met, then the text is returned to the originating TC/SC for further study and a revised document is again circulated for voting and comment as a draft of International Standard.

Stage 5: Approval stage
The final draft International Standard (FDIS) is then circulated to all the ISO member bodies by the ISO Central Secretariat for a final Yes/No vote within a period of two months. If the technical comments are received during this period, then they are no longer considered at this stage but are registered for consideration during a future revision of the International Standard.

In case the two-thirds majority of the P-members of the TC/SC are in favor and of the total number of negative votes cast are not more than one-quarter, the text then gets approved as an International Standard. Assuming that approval criteria are not met, then the standard is referred back to the originating TC/SC for reconsideration in the light of the technical reasons that are submitted in support of the negative votes that are received.

Stage 6: Publication stage
Once the final draft International Standard has been approved, only minor editorial changes, if and where they are necessary, are introduced into the final text. The final text is then sent to the ISO Central Secretariat which publishes the International Standard. Review of the International Standards (Confirmation, Revision, Withdrawal) All International Standards are reviewed at least once in every five years by the responsible TCs/SCs. However, a majority of the P-members of the TC/SC decides whether an International Standard should either be confirmed, revised or withdrawn.

Standardisation thus creates the precondition for an economic success and an innovation by standardizing the basic elements of technology and management. Real economic success and an innovation arise from the creative combination of these elements. Standardisation thus reaches its natural limits when it begins to curtail the freedom which helps to fuel the innovation. However, The original purpose and strength of standardization are still to create the preconditions for the freedom which is the driving force of an innovation.

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