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Accreditation is the process whereby an authoritative body (government, trade body etc.) formally recognizes another body to carry out an activity. Follow this link to look at the International Accreditation Forum definition.[1]

What is accreditation?

Accreditation is the procedure by which an authoritative body gives formal recognition that a body or person is competent to carry out specific tasks. Accreditation by an IAF MLA member assures users that the accredited body is independent and competent, and delivers its services in the most time and cost effective way.

Accreditation bodies are established in many countries, often by government or with the encouragement of government, with the primary purpose of ensuring that certification/registration bodies in the country are subject to oversight by an authoritative body. Accreditation reduces risk for government, business and customers by ensuring, through regular surveillance, that certification/registration bodies are both independent and competent.

Users of certification/registration are protected from poor services when they are satisfied that the certification/registration body they use is accredited by an accreditation body which is an IAF or IAF MLA member. Accreditation bodies visit certification/registration bodies regularly, and witness their staff conducting audits, to ensure that both the body and its staff remain competent to undertake operations. Accreditation bodies require the bodies they accredit to be free of conflicts of interest or undue influence from interests that may benefit from a certification decision.

Users of certification / registration can have confidence in the credibility of the certification / registration body they use if it has submitted itself to scrutiny by an IAF accreditation body and has been assessed as competent.

Also see: Registration and Certification

Reference thread: What's the difference between Accreditation, Registration and Certification?