International Relations

International Relations Activity

At the end of the 20th century, the need arose to agree and harmonize rules so that countries with different cultures, economies and ways of doing things, could trade goods and services with the certainty of compliance with defined standards, regardless of the country where the conformity assessment is carried out. (The latter term refers to the evaluation of how well an object conforms to a standard.) Therefore, in order to standardize, and thus be able to globally accept conformity assessments, it is in turn necessary to standardize the accreditation process of Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs).

Consequently, Accreditation Bodies (AB) on behalf of their countries become members of international AB cooperation’s, responsible for managing international recognition agreements. These agreements seek to harmonize accreditation activity between countries, foster collaboration between ABs, create a control mechanism between peer AB, and finally ensure that a certificate issued by an accredited CAB is accepted in the countries belonging to the agreement, thus eliminating duplication and double efforts in certification.

To speak of accreditation is to speak of a recognition under international standards composed of two principles: competence and quality. When an CAB is accredited, it guarantees that it complies with certain requirements and capabilities to perform its tasks, or in other words, that it is competent to perform its function. On the other hand, international standards are there to consolidate a chain of trust, in which products, services, systems or even people comply with global parameters aligned with the wellbeing of society and the environment, or in other words, that quality standards are met.

There are regional and international cooperation agreements. In the case of the Americas, there is the Inter-American Accreditation Cooperation (IAAC), for Asia and the Pacific there is the Asia Pacific Accreditation Cooperation Incorporated (APAC), and so on and so forth. Similarly, there are two major multi-lateral agreements according to the activities they encompass: for management systems, products, services and people there is the Multilateral Recognition Agreement (MLA) managed by the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), and for laboratories, inspection bodies, proficiency testing providers and reference material producers the Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) managed by the International Laboratory Accreditation Corporation (ILAC).

ONAC is a member of three international cooperation agreements, on the regional side as a full member of IAAC, and on the international side as a full member of ILAC and IAF. Likewise, ONAC is part of the international agreements that manage these three cooperation agreements.

On regional cooperation:

These are associations of ABs that harmonize accreditation activity at the regional level, promoting cooperation among them. In the case of the Americas, the Inter-American Accreditation Cooperation (IAAC) is in charge of managing the Multilateral Recognition Arrangement (MRA). Among IAAC’s objectives are to establish a regional system of multilateral recognition agreements among accreditation bodies and to promote regional and international acceptance of the accreditations granted by its members. These regional cooperation agreements allow nations to become part of regional agreements, as well as to access the IAF and ILAC international cooperation agreements.

What has ONAC done or how has ONAC contributed to IAAC?

On international cooperation:

As mentioned above, ONAC is a full member of the two major international cooperation agreements and, in turn, is part of the agreements administered by them. These international partnerships are international bodies, which administer agreements for cooperation between member ABs worldwide.  This means that apart from the regional recognition, ONAC has a global recognition given by the IAF MLA and ILAC MRA agreements. For this reason, a certificate issued by an accredited OEC in Colombia will not only be valid in the region, but will also open doors to markets around the world. Likewise, these cooperation efforts and their agreements are intended to group and harmonize the accreditation activity worldwide on the basis of international standards.

And what is this for?

For example, China and Colombia are members of the IAF MRA agreement. A company in Colombia produces food certified as organic by an accredited CAB and the Colombian manufacturer wants to sell its products in China. Since both countries are members of the same agreement, this certificate will have the same validity in China, as in Colombia, as in any country that is a member of these agreements.

This gives the country’s businessmen the possibility of taking national products to global markets, thus promoting foreign exchange income to the country and boosting their competitiveness in global instances. Likewise, it ensures that products entering the country meet quality requirements that do not harm the population and its environment.

About CAN:

The Andean Community of Nations (CAN) is an international organization composed of four member countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru). The Andean Quality System (SAC) exists in this community, which articulates at regional level the activities of quality infrastructure, such as standardization, accreditation, technical regulations and metrology, for which the General Secretariat is responsible.

Within the SAC, ONAC participates in the Andean Quality Committee (CAC), the Andean Accreditation Network (RAA) and in some working groups responsible for developing Andean technical regulations in different sectors. In the case of the CAC, ONAC participated in important decisions such as the following; Decision 419: ACC Regulation; Decision 850: Objective, scope and guidelines of each of the 4 pillars of the SAC and Decision 850: where the results of conformity assessment issued by CABs accredited by ABs of member countries are recognized in the region.

In the case of the RAA, ONAC was part of the update of the following documents; Resolution 2116: RAA Regulations and Decision 817: Special customs treatment of standards, measuring instruments, reference materials and proficiency testing items between CAN Member Countries and third countries.

We are currently working on the restructuring of Resolution 1885 “Requirements for evaluators and technical experts who audit ISO/IEC 17025”. The restructuring proposal is framed in 3 variables: (1) Generate guidelines for cooperation between AOs of member countries, (2) Develop guidelines for the exchange of technical professionals in ABs to form the roster of evaluators and CAN experts, and (3) Harmonize the technical competency requirements of technical professionals of all accreditation schemes.

On the relationship with other OAs:

Between accreditors, there are Memorandums of Understanding (MoU), which are agreements reached between the two entities to carry out certain activities. The purpose of these agreements is to work together to strengthen existing accreditation services, as well as to develop new services. In the case of the U.S. American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA), a MoU has been established to work together for the development of the Reference Material Producer (RMP) scheme at ONAC. Similarly, there is a MoU with the accreditor Korea Laboratory Accreditation Scheme (KOLAS), which stipulates an exchange of best practices and experiences, participation in technical training, exchange of technical professionals and special support in Proficiency Testing Provider (PTP) and PMR schemes. Finally, there is an MoU with another U.S. accreditor, ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB), whose purpose is to maintain the scheme of Greenhouse Gas Validation and Verification Bodies (GHGVBs).

In addition, as part of its cooperation activities, ONAC has held face-to-face or virtual workshops where accreditation bodies from other countries learn first-hand about the different processes that ONAC has established within its management system. Some examples are:

  • Visit of the accreditation body of the Dominican Republic – ODAC (Organismo Dominicano de Acreditación)
  • Visit of the accreditation body of Guatemala – OGA (Oficina Guatemalteca de Acreditación)
  • Virtual meetings with the accreditation body of Argentina – OAA (Organismo Argentino de Acreditación)
  • Virtual meetings with the Costa Rican accreditation body – ECA (Entidad Costarricense de Acreditación)

On the relationship with INM:

ONAC signs a MoU with the National Metrology Institute of Colombia in 2013 in order to promote the exchange of technical professionals between both organizations and to promote metrology and accreditation activities in the country.

About UNIDO:

It is the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), established to promote industrial development for poverty alleviation, inclusive globalization and environmental sustainability of productive activities. ONAC participates jointly in the work of UNIDO because of the bridge that the technical regulations build between accreditation and the industrial sector, playing an important role in the pursuit of these inclusive and sustainable objectives. The following are the details of the joint projects between ONAC and UNIDO: 


SECO: Swiss Confederation – State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.

GQSP Colombia, or Quality Program for the Chemical Chain, is a country project that seeks to articulate the different actors of the SICAL in order to raise the level of quality standards, hand in hand with technical assistance to MSMEs participating in the chemical chain to promote compliance with international standards, thus improving their competitiveness and diversification of exports of the country.

To strengthen SICAL, GQSP will focus efforts on testing laboratories and OECS through technical support programs for the implementation of accreditation systems, such as ISO/IEC 17025 or OECD Good Laboratory Practices and training towards testing methods required by the chemical industry.


ONUDI is currently the sponsor of the PMR scheme, a new scheme developed by ONAC and jointly worked out through the MoU with A2LA.

UN - Environmental Alliance of America

The Environmental Alliance of America (AAA) is a voluntary environmental recognition with the purpose of identifying products, processes or services that meet certain environmental specifications, of which Colombia, Mexico and Costa Rica are part and that promotes sustainable consumption in Latin America through product design, environmental labeling and the information it provides to the consumer.

About PTB:

The Republic of Colombia and the Federal Republic of Germany signed a cooperation agreement developed in several quality projects in Latin America and the Caribbean, which are executed by the German National Metrology Institute, or PTB for its acronym in German (Physikalish-Technische Bundesanstalt). The following is a list of the most relevant projects in which PTB participates:


The PTB is working with the countries of Paraguay, Peru and Colombia to structure and launch the OVVGEI schemes in the region. Likewise, we are working on the maintenance of the scheme after the normative updates of the ISO/IEC 17029 standard.


The ARTICAL II project aims to strengthen the National Quality Subsystem through the coordinated articulation exercised by the MinCIT together with the support of the Regulatory Directorate in search of the development of the food safety sector, the strengthening of the Colombian laboratory network and the implementation of a circular economy.

About private seals:

As the name indicates, these are seals issued and administered by private entities or conglomerates. As in the case of the relationship with other ABs, the authority is given by an MoU with these private entities, to grant ONAC the power to authorize the use of these seals.

Global GAP:

It is a certification oriented to the promotion of good agricultural practices, structured under 16 standards and focused on the areas of farming, animal production and aquaculture. This seal includes food safety, traceability, environment, animal welfare, health, safety and welfare of workers, as well as integrated crop management, integrated pest management and quality management systems. The adoption and monitoring of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) contribute to the assurance of crop safety and the promotion of sustainable agriculture while complying with social development objectives.


It is the most widely used forest certification scheme in the world, ensuring that forests are managed responsibly and that their many functions are protected through the collaboration of forest owners and companies.

FSSC 22000:

It is a Food Safety Management System certification scheme recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) that provides a framework for effectively managing food safety and quality responsibilities. Among the most relevant benefits of this seal is the incorporation of existing ISO standards, the integration of the seal with other management systems and the implementation of a Food Safety Management System (FSMS) for small organizations that is recognized worldwide. Because FSSC 22000 is one of the most recognized standards by purchasing companies, ONAC announces in 2019 the launch of this sub-scheme of accreditation for Food Safety Management System Certification Bodies.


This is a seal that certifies the correct use of resources, adherence to religious practices and respect for Islamic symbols, for which ONAC has signed an MoU with the International Halal Accreditation Forum (IHAF). Although signed, ONAC does not currently have any scheme in place.


It is a global leader in helping private entities, countries and civil society to achieve sustainable and ambitious achievements in sustainability and environmental issues. In 2019, ONAC and Verra signed a MoU to collaborate in the development and maintenance of an accreditation program for OVVGEI in the framework of the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Program.

This Webinar is intended to involve all our stakeholders on the issues, discussions and decisions taken in international scenarios which impact the exercise of accreditation and conformity assessment activities, as part of the continuous improvement of our services and the dissemination of good practices of international accreditation for the development of the entity and the country.

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