In this interview with ILAC Chair, Etty Feller for the UKAS Annual Report, Etty shares her views on the importance of the ILAC MRA and UKAS’ collaboration with ILAC.
- How important is the ILAC MRA for the laboratory and inspection communities, regulators and users of accredited services?
Operating on a “tested/inspected once, accepted everywhere” philosophy, the ILAC MRA provides a quick an easy way for laboratories and inspection bodies to demonstrate their competence across economic borders. Regulators around the world recognise that this reduces the need to duplicate tests of the same item and inspections of the same system when goods and services are imported into their economy, which benefits the bottom line and provides assurance to consumers.
- The World Trade Organisation is committed to lowering technical barriers to trade (TBTs). What role does the MRA play in helping achieve this?
The WTO and ILAC are key partners in the INetQI consortium, which is committed to promoting the use of metrology, standardisation, accreditation and conformity assessment as tools to aid sustainable economic development throughout the world. The guiding principle of mutual recognition very much aligns with this goal and the MRA forms a key part in INetQI’s efforts to reduce technical barriers to trade, in both member and developing countries.
- How does UKAS contribute to ILAC’s policies and activities?
UKAS is one of the founding members of ILAC, so both the UKAS brand and its team is highly respected, recognised and valued throughout the ILAC community. Harmonising the interests of over 100 members is challenging work, and UKAS makes a significant contribution to ILAC policy in this area. UKAS also leads several important ILAC committees, including those that are developing the potential of accreditation and mutual recognition in new and innovative areas such as Biobanking.
- It has been announced that ILAC and IAF are planning to create a single international accreditation body. What will this mean for the future of accreditation underpinned by global mutual recognition agreements?
Combining the extensive collective resources of ILAC and IAF into one international accreditation body will greatly benefit members of both organisations, as well as regulators and end users of accredited services throughout the world. In keeping with the underlying principle of the MRA, it will reduce duplication and enhance harmonisation and cooperation between all signatories. It will also allow the creation of a single MRA, which will move the approach from “tested/certificated/calibrated once, accepted everywhere” to “accredited once, accepted everywhere”. Speaking with one voice in this way will be crucial to ensuring that the MRA is even more effective at gaining recognition and increasing its influence in the international arena.
- The ILAC MRA already encompasses over 100 economies worldwide. What work is being undertaken to expand its reach and effectiveness further?
2020/2021 has been a very unique period and presented a number of challenges to ILAC members. It has also demonstrated the effectiveness of the flexible way we work, allowing us to turn these challenges into opportunities. Amongst the many advantages that accreditation has over regulation is that accreditation is more flexible and able to respond more quickly to change, in an apolitical way. To be effective in developing new areas for accreditation, such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we must demonstrate this flexibility and we must LEAD: Listen and Learn, Educate and Engage, be Agile and Dare to take assessed risks.
From regulators and conformity assessment bodies to industry and end users of services, engaging with a range of stakeholders and really listening to them will allow us to develop a greater understanding of their needs. Armed with this knowledge, we can adapt and update the ways in which we conduct assessments and evaluations to meet those needs, demonstrating accreditation’s potential to deliver a recognised and reliable system of global expertise and acceptance on a local basis, in any economy. This will ensure that accreditation and the MRA will continue to have a significant positive effect on daily economic life across a wider range of industries in an increasingly diverse global economy.