Conformity assessment is the key element of demonstrated conformance to standards and thus plays a critical role in sustainable development and trade. In developing countries conformity assessment activities are generally less developed than their industrialized counterparts.
ISO/IEC 17000 describes conformity assessment as, “demonstration that specified requirements relating to a product, process, system, person or body are fulfilled”. Conformity assessment procedures, such as testing, inspection and certification, offer assurance that products fulfil the requirements specified in regulations and standards.
There are many forms of conformity assessment that are specific to the particular object being assessed (e.g. a product, a service or a management system), and to the body undertaking the assessment (e.g. it may be the 'first party', such as the manufacturer of a product who is making a supplier's declaration of conformity (SDoC) using their own internal testing system, or a 'third-party' certification, testing or inspection that is undertaken by a an independent service provider (that could be a part of a government or a private company).
The use of international standards in national requirements is recommended by the WTO as a best practice against technical barriers to trade. Where national requirements are based on international standards, demonstration of conformity to those international standards is needed in order to have access to the national market. Suppliers of foreign products and those of nationally sourced products must to show compliance with the national requirements. Depending on the national requirements a supplier’s declaration of conformity (SDoC) may be sufficient for some products, while third-party, independent certification may be required for others. Global conformity assessment schemes and systems, such as those operated by the IEC, assist, on an international basis, in demonstrating conformity to the national requirements and therefore facilitate access to foreign markets and to world trade in general.
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