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Signaling a new milestone in the global Halal industry, the International Halal Accreditation Forum (IHAF) convened for its first General Assembly meeting in Dubai. This set in motion the official activation of the world’s first global Halal accreditation network.

The General Assembly has approved a number of resolutions including a recommendation for IHAF to forge a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Laboratory Accreditation Co-operation (ILAC) and International Accreditation Forum (IAF) in order to explore collaboration in maintaining global standards in Halal conformity assessments. This will play a vital role as the membership application of interested Halal accreditation bodies can be supported by their existing membership in ILAC and IAF.

Halal accreditation bodies monitor the entities involved in testing, certifying and verifying Halal products, ensuring that all standards are enforced to give assurance to the consumers that each Halal product is safe, of high quality and full compliance with the Islamic Sharia. IHAF, on the other hand, will ensure that these Halal accreditation bodies strictly and consistently adhere to the principles of Islamic law.

During the meeting, H.E. Mohammed Saleh Badri was officially appointed as the Secretary-General of IHAF. Badri was selected based on his extensive experience in the field of accreditation and conformity assessment including his previous role as the Director General of the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA).

At the General Assembly meeting, H.E. Dr. Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad, UAE Minister of State and Chairman of Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA), was appointed as Chairman of the IHAF while  Peter Unger, President Emeritus at American Association for Laboratory Accreditation, was appointed as Vice-Chairman. Representatives from Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology, American Association for Laboratory Accreditation, GCC Accreditation Centre, Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand, The National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards (Thailand), Pakistan National Accreditation Council, and Egyptian Accreditation Council, as well as a representative from Latin America and a representative from Europe form the IHAF Board of Directors.

H.E. Dr. Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad said: “The first-ever General Assembly meeting of IHAF is a historic event that would serve as a vital pillar of the Islamic economy. This Forum would contribute to further spur growth in the Halal industry as the latest official reports indicate that the global market for Halal products is growing rapidly.”

Speaking at the General Assembly meeting, H.E. Dr. Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad estimated the size of the market and trade in Halal products at more than USD1.9 trillion (AED6.97 trillion) in 2015, and is expected to rise to USD3 trillion in 2021 (AED11.01 trillion), with food and beverages accounting for more than 60 per cent.

H.E. Mohammed Saleh Badri, Secretary-General of IHAF, said: “We will continue to bring more and more international partners on board, ensuring exchange of expertise and creating a vivid standard for the Halal industry in various parts of the world. This would enhance co-operation amongst various stakeholders, and enable them to better understand and implement Halal standards for food and non-food products.”

During the meeting, a number of committee appointments were announced. Kylie Sheehan, General Manager Operations at Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand, was appointed as chairperson of the technical affairs committee. Brahim Houla, Accreditation Services Manager at GCC Accreditation Centre, will serve as chairperson of multi-lateral recognition arrangement committee. Amina Mohamed Hassan, Director at Emirates National Accreditation System (ENAS), was appointed as chairperson of marketing and media committee.

IHAF, headquartered in and hosted by the UAE, was established under the joint initiative of ESMA and Dubai Islamic Economy Development Center (DIEDC). This is aligned with the directives of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in transforming Dubai as the global capital for Islamic economy. Empowered by its aim to protect the growing number of Halal consumers and to facilitate international trade, IHAF establishes a solid ground for the global industry of Halal food and non-food products.

The IHAF was formed with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by representatives of several countries and regional blocs. This independent, non-government network of accreditation agencies is anchored on the belief that greater cooperation amongst regional and international organisations is key in creating a Halal industry that is strong, stable, reliable and responsive to the needs of consumers and businesses across the world.

IHAF had 10 members at the time of its formation and has since expanded to gain a total of 20 members including Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (Emirates National Accreditation System), Dubai Municipality (Dubai Accreditation Centre), American Association for Laboratory Accreditation, Pakistan National Accreditation Council, Entidad Nacional de Acreditacion (Spain), GCC Accreditation Centre, Saudi Accreditation Committee, United Kingdom Accreditation Service, Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand, Egyptian Accreditation Council, The National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards (Thailand), American National Standards Institute, Jordanian Accreditation System, Chamber of Commerce Argentine Emurati (Argentina), Entidad Mexicana de Acreditacion (Mexico), Nemzeti Akkreditáló Hatóság (Hungary), ACCREDIA (Italy), National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (India), The Islamic Alliance Accreditation (Brazil) and Philippine Accreditation Bureau.

The Forum’s main aims are ensuring that accreditation agencies strictly and consistently adhere to the principles of Islamic law and Sharia, continuously monitor and evaluate accreditation procedures and performance, build and maintain trust in the global Halal industry by reaching out to as many countries as possible, ensure that guidelines and standards are widely disseminated, keep Halal consumers informed of the latest industry developments, and engage the public in discussions that can strengthen the Halal industry.