Standards development stages

An overview of the development process of a new IEC International Standard

Global consensus

An IEC International Standard is only developed when several IEC Member countries are willing to send experts to work together and agree on a broadly relevant technical solution to increase the safety, efficiency or reliability of a given electrical/electronic product or system. Any country may adopt and use any IEC Standard without modifying it or incorporate it into a national standard.

The preparation of a new IEC Standard takes place in the following principal stages (for further details, see the ISO/IEC Directives, Part 1):

Standards development stages

1 - Preliminary stage (PWI)

The preliminary stage comprises projects envisaged for the future but not yet ripe for immediate development.

This stage can be used for the elaboration of a new work item proposal and the development of an initial draft. These work items are subject to approval in accordance with the normal procedures before progressing to the preparatory stage.

2 - Proposal stage

New work item proposal (NP) (FormNP)

A proposal for new work is generally rooted in a specific need by a stakeholder group in one or several countries. It is brought to the attention of the relevant IEC technical committee/subcommittee (TC/SC) via a  National Committee (NC) by using a special form.

NPs are issued for:

  • a new standard
  • a new part of an existing standard
  • a technical specification

A new work item proposal may be submitted by:

  • an NC
  • the secretariat of a TC/SC
  • a TC/SC
  • an organization in liaison
  • the SMB or one of its advisory groups
  • the IEC Secretary-General & CEO

A new work item proposal is approved if:

  • a 2/3 majority of the TC/SC *P-members approve the new work item and if
  • these P-members are willing to send the minimum number of experts needed to start the work:
    TC/SCs with 16 or less P-members: minimum 4 experts from different countries
    TC/SCs with 17 or more P-members: minimum 5 experts from different countries

*P-member = IEC Member country who sends experts to participate actively in technical work
 O-member = IEC Member country who has observer status only

3 - Preparatory stage

Working draft (WD)

During the preparatory stage, a working draft is developed in a TC/SC, generally by a project leader within a project team.

The preparatory stage ends when a first committee draft (CD)  is ready for circulation to the members of the TC/SC for comments and approval. The draft is registered by the office of the IEC CEO.

At this point, the TC/SC may also decide to publish the approved draft as a publicly available specification (PAS) to respond rapidly to particular market needs.

4 - Committee stage

Committee draft for comments (CD) (FormCD)

The committee draft (CD) is submitted to all IEC Members:  those who participate actively in IEC work, and those who have observer status only (P- and O-members) for comment and approval.

This is the most important commenting stage. At this point, NCs are able to submit all their comments with a view of reaching a consensus on the technical content. Depending on each TC/SC, NCs have between 8 and 16 weeks to submit their comments. 

5 - Enquiry stage

Committee draft for vote (CDV) (FormCDV)

This is the last stage at which technical comments for an international standard can be taken into consideration. The committee draft for vote (CDV) is submitted to all NCs for a 12 week voting period.

The CDV of an international standard is considered approved if:

  • a majority of 2/3 of votes cast by P-members is in favour, and if
  • the number of negative votes cast by all NCs does not exceed 25% of total votes.

If there are no technical changes, then the CDV can be published directly.

If technical changes have been requested, the revised version is sent to the IEC Secretariat in Geneva for processing and a final draft international standard (FDIS) is published within 16 weeks.

The CDV of a technical specification (TS) is considered approved if 2/3 of all votes cast by P-members is in favour. A TS is generally published when there is a lack of sufficient technical consensus to achieve the status of an international standard.

6 - Final approval stage

Final draft international standard (FDIS) (FormFDIS)

After technical changes requested at the CDV stage have been incorporated, an FDIS is prepared and sent to all NCs for a 6 week voting period.

The FDIS is approved if:

  • 2/3 of P-members approve, and if
  • less than 25% of all submitted votes are negative.

Any negative vote must be accompanied by a technical comment. No comments are allowed with a positive vote.

If the document is approved, it is published as an IEC International Standard.

If the document is not approved, it is sent back to the TC/SC to be reconsidered.

7 - Publication stage

Following the approval of the FDIS (or CDV - if no technical changes were requested) the IEC International Standard is published by the IEC Secretariat in Geneva, normally within 6 weeks after approval.

Stability date of publications

Every IEC publication is reviewed at regular intervals to ensure that it remains relevant. These intervals are set by the TC/SC in line with stakeholder needs; some technologies move fast and others much slower. During the review, the maintenance team (MT) evaluates if the publication needs to be revised. In some cases, a publication needs to be retired and a new one prepared. 

See here an example of a stability date.

Stage codes

Work programme


More information

A standard is an agreed way of doing something in a consistent and repeatable way. Standards set minimum requirements in terms of safety, reliability, efficiency, and so forth. 

IEC TC/SCs (Technical committees and subcommittees) develop international standards and other types of publications for a specific area of electrotechnology.

An overview of the development process of a new IEC International Standard.

A systems approach focuses on the whole system rather than each individual part.

Standards describe the processes and methods to ensure the safety, reliability, and performance of electrical systems and information technologies. Conformity assessment verifies that the written word is applied in the real world.

Why comment? Help shape international standards in your field. Take this opportunity to provide your expert comments on draft IEC Standards (CDVs) before they are published. 

The key benefits of membership come from participating in the development of the standardization and conformity assessment work of the IEC.

In this section, you can find more information about how the IEC is organized.