Accreditation authorities throughout the world have established regional and global groupings of cooperation.
The objectives of the cooperation are to:
- Develop and harmonise accreditation practices
- Promote accreditation to industry, governments, regulators and consumers
- Foster and promote competent conformity assessment bodies (laboratories, inspection bodies and the like)
- Gain universal acceptance of accredited certificates and reports
- Facilitate mutual recognition of accredited test, measurement, inspection and other conformity assessment results (see Mutual Recognition Arrangements)
- Exchange technical knowledge among members.
These objectives are consistent with the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement). This agreement encourages WTO members to recognise each other’s conformity assessment results, provided they are confident the procedures are equivalent. In most economies, Governments recognise and encourage the use of accredited reports to facilitate trade and for ensuring the safety of goods and services being imported.
The forum for the global cooperation between the various laboratory and inspection body accreditation schemes operated throughout the world is the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC). First started as a conference in 1977, with IANZ as a founding member, ILAC was formalised as cooperation in 1996. Its aim is to facilitate trade by promoting the acceptance of accredited test, calibration and inspection reports that can be relied on to provide accurate data. See ‘About ILAC’ in the link above to view full information about ILAC and its activities. Full members of ILAC, including IANZ, are signatories to ILAC Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA), which allow for global acceptance of accredited test and inspection reports. The full list of ILAC MRA Signatories (ILAC Full members), with links to lists of accredited organisations can be found on the ILAC website linked above.
ILAC members are also members of formally established regional accreditation cooperation organisations. These organisations have objectives similar to and compatible with ILAC, and are committed to the obligations of the ILAC Mutual Recognition Arrangement.
There are currently six regional accreditation cooperation organisations:
- Asia Pacific Accreditation Cooperation (APAC) – of which IANZ is a foundation signatory
- European cooperation for Accreditation (EA)
- Inter-American Accreditation Cooperation (IAAC)
- Southern African Development Community Cooperation in Accreditation (SADCA)
- African Accreditation Cooperation (AFRAC)
- Arab Accreditation Cooperation (ARAC)
Information about each of these regional accreditation cooperation organisations can be found on their websites.
Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRAs)
The aim of the international accreditation cooperation – to facilitate trade and ensure safety for consumers – is realised through Mutual Recognition Arrangements between accreditation authority members of ILAC, carried out in accordance with ILAC rules and procedures. Each signatory to the MRA agrees to (among other things):
- Maintain conformance with ISO/IEC 17011 Conformity assessment – Requirements for accreditation bodies accrediting conformity assessment bodies, and
- Ensure all accredited laboratories comply with ISO/IEC 17025 – or ISO 15189 for medical testing laboratories – and inspection bodies comply with ISO/IEC 17020.
All signatories are regularly peer-reviewed to show they continually meet the ILAC criteria for recognition under the ILAC MRA.
Full details of the ILAC Arrangement are to be found on https://ilac.org/.