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Message from the IAF Chair
by Randy Dougherty
 
I missed the opportunity to report directly to all IAF members at the IAF General Assembly that was to be held in Bangkok. So I will take this opportunity to use the IAF website to do this.

When we all left Shanghai following the meetings in 2010, I am sure none of us expected events that have had such a significant effect upon our world, but also upon our organization.

Our hearts go out to the people in Japan for the devastation resulting from the earthquake and tsunami that occurred in March. Many of our colleagues from Japan were with us, at the IAF and ILAC meetings in the UK, while together we watched the news unfolding about this.

Our hearts go out to the people of Thailand, because of the flooding that has caused so much death and destruction.

The first event that affected IAF (and ILAC) directly was the movement in Tunisia that has culminated in the new democracy there. As most of you will recall, we had to cancel the meetings scheduled to be held in Tunisia in March. Fortunately, with the very valuable assistance of Roger Bennett, we were able to move the venue from Tunisia to Epsom in the UK, and were able to have a successful series of meetings. It has had a positive effect on IAF and ILAC in that we had the unexpected opportunity to trial having meetings managed directly by the Secretariats rather than relying upon hosts. The trial proved to be a success and we are planning to build on this success for the meetings being planned for 28 April-5 May 2012 in Frankfurt. Further, as we resolved at the JEC, by moving this meeting from March until May, we can avoid the need to have another series of executive committee meetings in June. So we have, in essence, reduced three meetings a year to two, resulting in a saving in time and money for both organizations.

The next event of significance to us as IAF members was the announcement in June by John Owen that he was retiring after nine years as IAF Secretary. We worked diligently to change this challenge into an opportunity. I personally feel that we have achieved significant progress in the evolution of IAF by going into 2012 with a new Secretariat led by Elva Nilsen, with the other members of her team: Rick, Joan, and John.

And of course, the most recent event of significance to all of us was the cancellation of the IAF-ILAC Joint General Assembly in Bangkok. Relocating the meetings to a new venue within the calendar year was simply not feasible. Thankfully the IAF Bylaws allow any decision to be made by written ballot so we weren’t compelled to squeeze a meeting into the little time left in 2011.

The cancellation of the IAF-ILAC Joint General Assembly was unprecedented; and we learned that our documented processes are inadequate for this kind of event. So Peter Unger and I have worked closely with the IAF and ILAC Secretariats, as well as the members of our respective Boards and Executive Committees, to determine what to do. Even though our understanding has always been that the host takes the financial risk for the meetings and therefore decides on the registration fees and retains any gains or suffers any losses, in this instance we decided that it was appropriate for IAF and ILAC to reimburse the hosts for some expenses. The alternative was that the host was going to withhold about $75.00 from the reimbursement of everyone that prepaid their registration fees. We felt this was an unfair cost burden to a small number of IAF or ILAC members, so we have decided to share this cost amongst all IAF and ILAC members.  We expect the total cost, to be shared by IAF and ILAC, to be less than $16,000. Further, this unexpected and unbudgeted cost is a portion of the budgeted funds that will now not be expensed due to the fact that the Bangkok meetings were cancelled. One new action item for the Joint Executive is to revise and update the manual on meetings to specifically document what to do in the event of the cancellation of meetings, and to also document more precisely what expenses a host can and cannot recover through registration fees.

On a personal note, I was scheduled to have surgery to repair the rotator cuff in my right shoulder on 14 November after returning from the Bangkok meetings. When the meetings were cancelled I was able to reschedule my surgery for 31 October. The surgery was successful, but one consequence of the surgery is that I cannot use my left arm for well over a month. This has seriously restricted my ability to communicate as I have to type everything one-handed…and with my left hand at that, quite difficult considering that I am right-handed.

As I come to a close on this article, there is one very positive event in 2011 that I do not think we have communicated to members. In June 2011, Peter Unger on behalf of ILAC, and I on behalf of IAF, made a joint presentation to the World Trade Organisation's Techical Barriers to Trade Committee (WTO TBT).  The presentation was well received. The 20 minute presentation was followed by about 40 minutes of questions; evidence of the high interest that TBT committee members have about the IAF MLA and ILAC MRA with regard to facilitating trade. Following this presentation and positive response, the JEC has recommended that IAF and ILAC, together, apply for a common observer membership to the WTO-TBT. Even though we are not sure yet that we are even eligible (being that IAF and ILAC are NGOs) we are submitting an application.

So in closing, 2011 was full of tragedies, challenges and opportunities. I think we have not only weathered the storm, but have advanced the cause of accreditation and our mission and goal of facilitating world trade. I think we are going into 2012 with a better structure and resources to have even more success in the future

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