Rafik Feki/Bastien Chesnoy
Making sure goods and services from Arab markets get accepted worldwide is crucial to the development of the Arab region and key to facilitating trade, alleviating poverty and boosting economic growth.
For the past 10 years, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has been providing technical assistance in that direction to support the Arab Industrial Development and Mining Organization (AIDMO) and its Member States in setting up an effective and sustainable model of regional cooperation in the area of accreditation.
With the technical assistance of UNIDO and funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Arab Accreditation Cooperation (ARAC) was launched in 2011 as a platform upon which Arab countries can build and develop their accreditation infrastructure.
“Whoever is placing a product on the market must demonstrate that the product is safe. In order to guarantee the end-to-end chain of tests and controls, ARAC has been recognized by AIDMO as the sole regional cooperation body in the area of accreditation in the Arab region. As such, the work of ARAC supports Arab countries to facilitate trade, enhance health and safety, protect the environment, and provide consumer protection.”– Ms. Amina Ahmed Mohammed, Chair, Arab Accreditation Cooperation (ARAC)
Since then, AIDMO, UNIDO and Sida have been developing a long-term project aiming at supporting ARAC to be sustained, effective and internationally recognized. And the results are impressive: ARAC now follows international best practices and Arab states can receive support from their own regional body without having to seek recognition from outside the region. Moreover, the ARAC Multilateral Recognition Arrangements (MLA) became internationally recognized in 2017 by the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and the International Accreditation Forum (IAF). As a result, the ARAC MLA now acts as an international passport to trade. These encouraging achievements were made possible by the intensive and thorough work of ARAC members with the support of the project.
“Gaining international recognition was a major achievement; it will facilitate trade exchanges and give confidence in the products and services from the Arab region.”– Ms. Lana Marashdeh, ARAC MLA Chair, Arab Accreditation Cooperation (ARAC)
“UNIDO’s proven track record in developing accreditations systems all around the world has contributed significantly to supporting the Arab region in building effective and efficient productive capacity in line with market needs, as well as in complying with standards and regulatory requirements in national, regional and international markets.“– Mr. Bernardo Calzadilla Sarmiento, Director, Department of Trade, Investment and Innovation, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)
Building on achievements to date, ARAC and its partners are continuing their efforts to build capacities of ARAC members, achieve sustainability, enhance effectiveness and maintain international recognition of the MLA. As part of the ongoing technical support project, four ARAC members are being supported to become ARAC MLA signatories through advice, guidance and capacity building of accreditation bodies.
The main results of these activities, which are aimed especially at building up an efficient ARAC MLA system, are the following:
- Declaring 14 ARAC Peer Evaluators competent in 9 accreditation schemes
- Extending the ARAC MLA scope to include the accreditation of Product Certification and Certification of Persons
- Supporting further development of the ARAC pool of ARAC peer evaluators by training more than 25 potential peer evaluators
Given ILAC and IAF requirements, UNIDO also supports the ARAC Executive Committee in registering ARAC as a legal entity and establishing the hosting of the ARAC secretariat. A business model is currently being developed to ensure the financial sustainability of ARAC through membership fees and other services.
The project is also supporting ARAC to set up its gender and anti-corruption policies and will implement specific interventions to promote gender and good governance for ARAC and its members.
“The AIDMO-SIDA-UNIDO project is considered a success in the sense that it has managed to make countries of the region work together and share expertise and experience. Today, our objective is to make sure that ARAC becomes fully autonomous financially and legally and will be auto-sustained without any technical and financial support in the future.”– Mr. Rafik Feki, Industrial Development Officer, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)
 As of 2020, ARAC has 4 members MLA signatories: the Egyptian Accreditation Council (EGAC), the Jordanian Accreditation System (JAS-AU), the GCC Accreditation Center (GAC) and the Emirates International Accreditation Center (EIAC).
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