The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a non-governmental international organization with its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. It is a membership network of 165 national standards bodies comprising both public and private entities. Some members are part of their country’s relevant national ministry while others exist as stand-alone institutions; still others are hybrid entities working with public funding.
Through its members, ISO develops voluntary, consensus-based, market-relevant international standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges. What makes ISO unique is the fact that it is a decentralized, member-driven organization, where ISO members are the key actors for all its core activities.
In the same way, the technical committees developing the standards are composed of representatives put forward by ISO members. These top-level experts come together to share knowledge that is then worked into an internationally agreed standard. With over 300 technical committees, and many more subcommittees, ISO has published over 23 000 international standards to date covering a wide range of sectors, such as building and construction, health, food and security, safety and risk, among others.
This extensive portfolio of standards is useful to local and regional governments (LRGs) as an input to technical regulations and in support of public policy. LRGs are the closest sphere of government to attend to people’s primary needs, delivering urban basic services such as housing, water, sanitation, transport, employment opportunities and a safe environment to live in. Hence, they are well placed to serve as accelerators of change at the local level through the provision of a sustainable economy, social equity and environmental protection.
ISO has deliverables in all fields to help LRGs maintain a high level of service while improving sustainability. In the area of energy efficiency, for instance, there are many ISO standards dedicated to renewable energy solutions, including the ISO 9459 series for solar power in domestic water heating systems and the ISO 17225 series for solid biofuels, which can both be adopted at local level directly.
Another example which can be implemented at local level is transportation. All of this starts at the local level with a public infrastructure that ensures a safe and reliable transit system. ISO has a number of standards that support intelligent transport systems, hybrid and electric vehicles, the functional safety of vehicles, and hydrogen vehicle stations.
As a part of citizens’ well-being, community resilience is commonly held to be critical for coping with adversity and disturbance. LRGs are the logical convenors of community-resilience planning initiatives, which are made easier by using ISO standards as their knowledge base. These include, for example, ISO 22395 for supporting vulnerable persons in an emergency and ISO 22327, which provides guidelines for the implementation of a community-based landslide early warning system.
With experience of working at the grassroots level, LRGs are widely recognized as essential actors in standards development. Their presence in the national standardization arena allows them to provide input into the standards being developed, making them more responsive to current and future challenges LRGs may face. This empowerment of LRGs and their networks of stakeholders also helps ISO reach its goal of getting “all voices heard”, which is similar to the Geneva Cities Hub’s mission aiming at fostering inclusion and diversity in the decision-making process.
The entire standardization system is built on collaboration. This was the spirit in which the World Standards Cooperation (WSC) was created, bringing together three of the world’s leading standards organizations: ISO, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Set up in 2001, this high-level alliance helps to advance the voluntary consensus-based international standards system and promote the adoption and implementation of their standards worldwide.
More recently, the WSC discussed the feasibility of piloting a project that supports the regional and local application of ISO, IEC and ITU standards in key sectors. One possible initiative involves making packages of standards in the areas of energy efficiency, infrastructure, cybersecurity or digital transformation available to LRG partners, who will also be offered guidance and support for their effective implementation.
• Ms Andrea Barrios Villarreal, External Relations Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org
• For more information about standards and the standardization system, local and regional governments can also contact the ISO Central Secretariat in Geneva or their national standards body.