The International Cricket Council Board has approved the introduction of an International Women's Championship, wherein bilateral competition involving the top-eight ranked teams will determine qualification for the next Women's World Cup.
Competing countries will include Australia, West Indies, England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, South Africa, India and Pakistan with promotion and relegation at the end of the first cycle.
Each team will play the others in a series of matches between mid-2014 and the end of 2016, with the top teams qualifying automatically for the ICC Women's World Cup in 2017.
ICC Chief Executive David Richardson said: "This is a very positive step for the profile and competitiveness of women's cricket. "It guarantees a more regular and balanced programme of meaningful ODI cricket for a broader group of nations than ever before. The ICC Women's World Cup last year set a new benchmark in terms of quality and public interest and with this added context the pathway to the 2017 event in England looks really exciting."
The bottom countries at the end of the International Women's Championship will be joined by a number of teams from the ICC's regional qualification structures to play in the Women's World Cup Qualifier, which will determine the final World Cup participants.
Meanwhile, the ICC Board received an update on the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh that included a report from a recent security meeting in Dhaka and noted the positive progress that had been made.
The ICC Board consists of the chairman or president from each of the 10 Full Members plus three elected Associate Member representatives. Also present at ICC Board meetings is the ICC President, who chairs proceedings, the ICC Chief Executive and the ICC Vice-President.