How can these standards be applied to the UN, its programmes or its procedures ?
Between 1947 and the present day, ISO has published more than 14 300 International Standards. ISO’s work programme ranges from standards for traditional activities, such as agriculture and construction, through mechanical engineering, to medical devices, to the newest information technology developments. The UN and the staff who work in its agencies no doubt use or benefit from many ISO standards in both their professional and private lives. However, I presume your question concerns the ISO 9000 standards for quality management.
These can certainly be applied to the UN, as they are «generic management systems standards». This means that the same standards can be applied to any organization, large or small, whatever its product or service, in any sector of activity, and whether it is a business enterprise, a public administration, a government department, an NGO – or a UN agency.
«Management system» refers to what the organization does to manage its processes, or activities, in order that the products or services that it produces meet the objectives it has set itself, such as satisfying the quality requirements of its customers, and complying to regulations.
Implementing a management system is a way to ensure that nothing important is left out and that everyone is clear about who is responsible for doing what, when, how, why and where.
The ISO 9000 standards provide the organization with a model to follow in setting up and operating the quality management system. This model incorporates the features on which experts in the field have reached a consensus as representing the international state of the art.
The requirements for a quality system have been standardized – but most of us like to think our organization is unique. So how does the ISO 9000 approach allow for the diversity of say, on the one hand, a « Mr. and Mrs. » enterprise, and on the other, to a multinational manufacturing company with service components, or a public utility, or a government administration – or to the UN system?
The answer is that the ISO 9000 approach lays down what requirements your quality system must meet, but does not dictate how they should be met in your organization – which leaves great scope and flexibility for implementation in different business sectors and organizational cultures.