IAF updates

The Importance of the International, Regional and National Quality Infrastructure

Emanuele Riva
Chair, IAF
Vice General Manager and Director of the Department of Certification and Inspection, Accredia

We all buy something every day.

Something to eat, to warm us up, to wear, to have fun with, to move around or to show our affection for someone, our parents, our children or friends, or our partner.

We make these purchases without realizing the long journey these goods (or services) have made before reaching our hands.

How many tests have they passed, how many checks, how many commercial exchanges?

The quality infrastructure plays an integral role in this journey.

First of all there are rules, which act as the foundation and guarantee in contracts between parties, while conformity assessment activities promote the orderly handling of goods based on trust in the controls and their outcomes. And the fact that the results of these checks do not have to be repeated at every stage of the supply chain greatly facilitates the speed of the entire market.

Imagine what the world would be like if the checks carried out in a certain economy or state were not recognized as valid in a different economy or state. The characteristics of the product, its performance, compliance with the law – everything would need to be double-checked each time a component of a product passes from one company to another for its processing. Consider the act of trust that we place in this entire chain of controls when we get on a car, a ship or an airplane.


However, more can be done.

In almost every country in the world[1] there are standardization bodies, metrological institutes, certification bodies, inspection bodies and accredited laboratories. These pillars are one of the links that build confidence in trade by reducing the necessity for duplication of controls in trade[2].

According to definitions used by various parties such as the OECD and WTO, the Quality Infrastructure, understood as a reference framework for the definition and development of rules necessary to ensure and demonstrate the quality of products and services to markets, is the institutional reference framework for any form of economic integration.

For the purpose of achieving economic integration processes, the promotion of national quality infrastructure places obvious limits in a framework which, on the contrary, must be shared and inclusive. Regional cooperation appears preferable, and in the context of technical cooperation, an extended approach involving all stakeholders for the construction of the reference Quality Infrastructure.

There are also cases of legislation including incorrect or old regulatory and technical references, providing obstacles to the sectors of standardization, metrology and accredited conformity assessment. Or, more frequently, references to standardization, metrology and accredited conformity assessment are missing. In this area, therefore, there would be a lot to do.

Moreover, legislators can use the quality infrastructure to promote targeted initiatives, such as environmental protection, gender equality, food hygiene or worker safety. The value of these strategies has already been demonstrated in many studies and analyses.

Only in rare cases has politics understood and appreciated the potential of these technical tools, which are a gentle push towards the adoption of civic or commercial development and growth policies. The quality infrastructure should be closely linked and interconnected with the Ministry of Economic Development of each economy or state.

For this reason, I strongly hope that regional and even national networks will be formalized with renewed commitment. Only a few economies or states have a recognized and operational quality infrastructure.

I therefore hope, in the near future, for the formalization of regional networks (on a continental level, or for vast geographical areas), and then the birth and formalization of national networks.

In this way, dialogue between institutions and quality infrastructure actors will be easier at international, regional and national levels.

Positive collaboration between networks would be possible, including starting common projects and working together for the objectives of the UN 2030 Agenda and to meet the challenges that the world, unfortunately increasingly divided, will place in front of us.

[1] See:

  • Global Quality Infrastructure Index (GQII) – it  brings together official data from national and international accreditation, standardisation and metrology bodies and shows the status of development of quality infrastructure (QI) in 184 economies
  • QI4SD Index – developed with partners from the International Network on Quality Infrastructure (INetQI) and currently covers 137 economies

[2] The following recognitions are the most important at the international level for recognition of Conformity Assessment Procedures and Results:

  • The TBT agreement – WTO: 6.1.1 refers to adequate and enduring technical competence of the relevant conformity assessment bodies in the exporting Member…  in this regard, verified compliance, for instance through accreditation, with relevant guides or recommendations issued by international standardizing bodies shall be taken into account as an indication of adequate technical competence
  • UNECE/WP6. Recommendation G : Recognition of Conformity Assessment Procedures and Results. Governments should promote the use of existing international multilateral mutual recognition arrangements among national accreditation bodies (e.g. IAF MLA and ILAC MRA).

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