» UKAS’ role in the global accreditation system
In the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Secretary of State for Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and UKAS, it is declared that UKAS will be the UK member of specified and non-specified international accreditation organisations. BEIS also recognises UKAS as the UK body that will negotiate mutual recognition agreements with other national accreditation bodies.
The UKAS International Programme, to which BEIS makes a significant financial contribution, provides the means for the UK to participate in accreditation as it is organised internationally.
The global accreditation system operates through regional blocks. In Europe this is the European co-operation for Accreditation (EA). UKAS needs this organisation to be effective if it is to be effective itself.
At the global level, accreditation is divided into two groups, the International Laboratory Accreditation Co-operation (ILAC) and the International Accreditation Forum (IAF). The decisions of these organisations determine the nature of the accreditation that UKAS and its equivalent bodies in other countries offer. It is therefore essential that there is a strong UK voice in each of these organisations.
The infrastructure provided by international accreditation facilitates international acceptance of traded products. This acceptance is also brought into play where regulations operate. Through accredited sources, economic operators can demonstrate that their products meet market requirements, and market operators can use these products with confidence. This system also enables governments to regulate products in the knowledge that the market will have the means of meeting both voluntary and regulatory requirements in a transparent fashion.
Were accreditation to operate as a purely national system, it would reinforce barriers to trade. As an international system, it effectively becomes a passport for imports and exports. It is therefore the international accreditation system that serves government’s purpose in providing for the integrity of the home market and the competitiveness of the export market.
UKAS is recognised by Government as the UK member of these three organisations. UKAS employs approximately 220 people and plans its operations so as to be effective in its fulfilment of the membership requirements of the organisations.
The programme also covers input to the international standardisation that leads to the development of the accreditation criteria that the accreditation body members of ILAC, IAF and EA implement.