International standard (IS)

An international standard is a document that has been developed through the consensus of experts from many countries and is approved and published by a globally recognized body. It comprises rules, guidelines, processes, or characteristics that allow users to achieve the same outcome time and time again.

The definition given in all IEC standards reads: "A normative document, developed according to consensus procedures, which has been approved by the IEC National Committee members of the responsible committee in accordance with Part 1 of the ISO/IEC Directives."

The IEC is one of the bodies recognized by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and entrusted by it for monitoring the national and regional organizations agreeing to use IEC International Standards as the basis for national or regional standards as part of the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement.  


In the IEC, consensus means:

  • all views have been taken into account
  • all major issues have been addressed
  • all major opposition has been overcome
  • a 2/3 majority of all participating experts have agreed with the solution put forward in the standard
  • a 2/3 majority of  participating IEC Members (National Committees) have approved the standard, and less than 25% of all IEC Members have voted negatively

Public enquiry

Another vital feature of a truly international standard is the fact that it can be submitted to public enquiry in any of the IEC Member countries. Additionally, public commenting allows experts who don't participate in the IEC to comment any IEC Standard at the CDV stage. Thus, through the democratic tools of consensus, public enquiry, and public commenting, any interested party is able to speak up and have their say in the development and publication of an international standard.


An international standard is approved if:

  • a) a two-thirds majority of the votes cast by the P-members of the technical committee or subcommittee are in favour, and
  • b) not more than 25% of the total number of votes cast are negative

Voluntary adoption

Adoption and use of IEC International Standards is entirely voluntary, whether the country is an IEC Member or not.


An amendment alters and/or adds to previously agreed technical provisions in an existing IEC International Standard.

It is a normative document developed according to consensus procedures.

It is approved by IEC Members and changes the technical normative elements of a particular international standard.