An International Standard is the result of an agreement between the member bodies of ISO. It may be used as such, or may be implemented through incorporation in national standards of different countries.
International Standards are developed by ISO technical committees (TC) and subcommittees (SC) by a six step process.
If a document with a certain degree of maturity is available at the start of a standardization project, for example a standard developed by another organization, it is possible to omit certain stages. In the so-called "Fast-track procedure", a document is submitted directly for approval as a draft International Standard (DIS) to the ISO member bodies (stage 4) or, if the document has been developed by an international standardizing body recognized by the ISO Council, as a final draft International Standard (FDIS, stage 5), without passing through the previous stages.
The following is a summary of each of the six stages:
For greater detail on how an International Standard is developed, refer to the publication ISO/IEC Directives, Part 1: Procedures for the technical work.
- Stage 1: Proposal stage The first step in the development of an International Standard is to confirm that a particular International Standard is needed. A new work item proposal (NP) is submitted for vote by the members of the relevant TC/SC to determine the inclusion of the work item in the programme of work.
The proposal is accepted if a majority of the P-members of the TC/SC votes in favour and at least five P-members declare their commitment to participate actively in the project. At this stage a project leader responsible for the work item is normally appointed.
- Stage 2: Preparatory stage Usually, a working group of experts, the chairman (convener) of which is the project leader, is set up by the TC/SC for the preparation of a working draft. Successive working drafts may be considered until the working group is satisfied that it has developed the best technical solution to the problem being addressed. At this stage, the draft is forwarded to the working group's parent committee for the consensus-building phase.
- Stage 3: Committee stage As soon as a first committee draft is available, it is registered by the ISO Central Secretariat. It is distributed for comments and, if required, voting, by the P-members of the TC/SC. Successive committee drafts may be considered until consensus is reached on the technical content. Once consensus has been attained, the text is finalized for submission as a draft International Standard (DIS).
- Stage 4: Enquiry stage
The draft International Standard (DIS) is circulated to all ISO member bodies by the ISO Central Secretariat for voting and comment within a period of five months. It is approved for submission as a final draft International Standard (FDIS) if a two-thirds majority of the P-members of the TC/SC are in favour and not more than one-quarter of the total number of votes cast are negative. If the approval criteria are not met, the text is returned to the originating TC/SC for further study and a revised document will again be circulated for voting and comment as a draft International Standard.
- Stage 5: Approval stage
The final draft International Standard (FDIS) is circulated to all ISO member bodies by the ISO Central Secretariat for a final Yes/No vote within a period of two months. If technical comments are received during this period, they are no longer considered at this stage, but registered for consideration during a future revision of the International Standard. The text is approved as an International Standard if a two-thirds majority of the P-members of the TC/SC are in favour and not more than one-quarter of the total number of votes cast are negative. If these approval criteria are not met, the standard is referred back to the originating TC/SC for reconsideration in the light of the technical reasons submitted in support of the negative votes received.
- Stage 6: Publication stage
Once a final draft International Standard has been approved, only minor editorial changes, if and where necessary, are introduced into the final text. The final text is sent to the ISO Central Secretariat which publishes the International Standard.