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Halal Industry

Explained: The Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries' new ten-year plan

The Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries (SMIIC) in late June published a ten-year plan that aims for uniformity in standardization, metrology and accreditation activities.

As an institute of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), SMIIC develops standards on many subjects but special focus is given to halal standards, including for food, tourism, and supply chain management systems.

This Q&A with SMIIC's Istanbul-based General Secretariat breaks down some key components of the new plan, and highlights some of its concerns about halal standards.

Key takeaways:

  • SMIIC points out that most halal certifiers use guidelines or rules that cannot be considered as “standards” since they don’t fulfil the basic requirements of standards development process.
  • Halal is more than a mark or a logo. "Halalness is like a science and it requires standards and expertise."
  • SMIIC will promote its standards and will help its member states implement them through trainings and other activities. SMIIC currently has 41 member states, according to its website. 
  • SMIIC General Secretariat will launch 13 strategic initiatives including 27 projects for the execution of the new plan that will be monitored through two-yearly implementation plans.

(This Q&A was edited for language.)

1.   SMIIC has introduced a new ten-year strategic plan.  Was there a previous ten-year plan before this 2021-2030 one?

Yes, there was a previous Strategic Plan but it was a five-year plan for the period from 2016 to 2020. The previous plan was significant in setting the foundations for the new one by taking into account the feedback and experiences of our Member States in its implementation period.

In this regard, SMIIC General Secretariat circulated a survey to its Member States asking for their feedback on the previous SMIIC Strategic Plan 2016-2020, and the received comments were studied by the Strategy Working Group which was established by the Board of Directors Strategy Committee for the preparation of the new SMIIC Strategic Plan. In this process, like in other international counterpart organizations, it was decided to prepare a 10-year plan and in this regard, the Board of Directors Strategy Committee was established to regularly evaluate all the works being conducted.

2. The 2021-2030 plan has 20 KPIs. Is there a timeline for when each one must be achieved throughout the 10 years?

SMIIC General Secretariat has prepared the SMIIC Strategic Plan 2021-2030 Balanced Scorecard to track and manage its plan. The balanced scorecard provides the timeline for achieving the 20 KPIs, and it will be used to measure and monitor our progress towards the strategic targets. The balanced scorecard includes the baselines and the targets for the KPIs in addition to the initiatives that will be launched to achieve them.

As it is known, the SMIIC Strategic Plan 2021-2030 gives the general framework and will be supported with two-yearly implementation plans that will outline the actual actions we will take to achieve our goals. In this perspective, SMIIC General Secretariat also prepared Implementation Plan for the Term 2021-2022 including the targets and the actual projects that will be carried out during these two years.

All in all, SMIIC General Secretariat will launch 13 strategic initiatives including 27 projects for the execution of its new strategic plan which will be monitored through two-yearly implementation plans.

3. Of the 20 KPIs, KPI 2: Encourage adoption and/or implementation of OIC/SMIIC standards by members, is a very important one as there are still different standards used worldwide. Can you comment about this KPI 2, specifically: What are SMIIC's plans to encourage greater adoption of SMIIC standards?

SMIIC General Secretariat has set a special strategic initiative for this KPI, which is “Promoting OIC/SMIIC standards and aiding their use”. Through this initiative, SMIIC will promote its standards and will help its Member States in implementing them through trainings and so on. SMIIC aims to increase the number of adopted and/or implemented standards by its Member States. Therefore, SMIIC will launch three special projects for executing this strategic initiative, as follows:

  1. Standards and standardization documents trainings
  2. Engagement of OIC/SMIIC standards in TPS-OIC
  3. Awareness program

Standards change the world for the better and we are very well aware of the power and necessity of standards in every step we take in our daily lives. However, standardization by its nature is voluntary and commitment of users are very distinctive in this regard.

As is known, SMIIC develops standards on many subjects including saffron, petroleum, gold, textile etc. but special focus is given to halal standards considering the emerging demands and trends all around the world.

In the Islamic world there is a certain confusion on the concept of standards and standardization which is evident especially in halal certification practices. Most of the halal certifiers use guidelines or rules which certainly cannot be considered as “standards” since they don’t fulfil the basic requirements of standards development process. These documents which reflect the needs and fatwas of only one country or a region are developed by the halal certification body itself or a group/alliance of halal certifiers or a national standardization body. And this only causes the existence of many standards that block trade activities among countries. On the contrary, SMIIC has been and will be providing added value and trust to halal products and services with its high-quality halal standards developed for production, certification and accreditation.

Within SMIIC, we apply international standardization system in developing OIC/SMIIC standards and we consider standards as technical guides but not fiqh documents. Hence, with our new Strategic Plan, we will accelerate our efforts for the promotion of OIC/SMIIC standards through our projects in order to widen their use and adoption.

As an affiliated OIC institution, SMIIC has been mandated for all halal issues at OIC level, and the OIC, every time, is inviting and encouraging all member states to use or adopt OIC/SMIIC Halal Standards only.

4. KPI 11 asks SMIIC to improve the standardization process by increasing the percentage of women involved in standards projects. What is the % of women involved in standards projects now and what is the goal for the next 10 years? How will SMIIC go about getting more women on standards projects?

SMIIC General Secretariat has set the targets for the key performance indicators of its new SMIIC Strategic Plan 2021-2030 depending on a baseline measured according to data collected from the last 5 years which is the period for the previous SMIIC Strategic Plan 2016-2020. According to this data, the percentage of women involved in the standards projects is 31% and our main target is to raise this number to 41% gradually throughout the upcoming 10 years by increasing it 1% per year.

Actually, we wish to involve more women experts in our technical work and more importantly, it is aimed to benefit from capabilities, qualifications and experiences of women experts whom may be deprived of opportunities for participation due to gender inequality. SMIIC will launch a special project in this regard for women empowerment and will encourage its members to assign more women experts to the technical works.

5. Strategic Objective 5 aims to provide a common and internationally recognized platform of halal accreditation based on OIC/SMIIC standards, and the corresponding KPI 7 addresses the number of recognized halal accreditation bodies. What is the timeline to establish a new platform? What is the number of recognized halal accreditation bodies that SMIIC is aiming for, and by when?

The OIC Global Halal Quality Infrastructure (OHAQ) as a document based on OIC/SMIIC standards was initiated and studied in a very long period that eventually, a comprehensive system was established in which all parts of the quality infrastructure are brought together to serve all Muslims around the world. After several meetings, the OHAQ document has been revised and consensus was reached within SMIIC Accreditation Council (AC) and finally it was approved by the SMIIC Board of Directors in its 21st meeting in June 2021.

As a next step, OIC Global Halal Quality Infrastructure will be officially submitted to OIC General Secretariat for its further endorsement at OIC level and also a new designated structure for mutual recognition will be established to complement the OHAQ.

Acknowledging the continuing process to complete the whole system and to take real action, strategic initiatives, targets and projects related to this objective are decided to be postponed to the upcoming years. At the moment, it is not possible to provide certain KPIs for such an initiative which will be determined in the following period in accordance with the implementation status of OIC Global Halal Quality Infrastructure document.

As an important note, accreditation is very essential in order to complement the integrity of the quality infrastructure system. Unfortunately, years were spent with national recognition systems which only serve the needs of a few countries and it is now very clear that it did not work out well for everyone. Most of SMIIC's Member States realize the importance of halal accreditation and now, accreditation according to OIC/SMIIC standards is given by the national accreditation bodies of SMIIC Member States. After the operationalization of the designated structure, halal accreditation bodies will speed up their work and benefit from mutual recognition. This whole system will be based on OIC/SMIIC standards and we will then be able to follow and keep track of the number of recognized halal accreditation bodies.

6. Any other comments?

SMIIC is getting stronger and stronger each and every year with its professional working principles and specialized experts in developing standards for everyone’s use.

While dealing with the concept of halal, it is inevitable to follow quality infrastructure system and to establish necessary mechanisms which are essential in quality infrastructure.

Within SMIIC, we bring “halal” and “standardization” together to have a professional system for halal by applying what has been done for ages in the field of standardization. In our new strategy, we will continue to take all necessary actions to show what is right and professional for the Muslim Ummah as well as what is causing confusion and barrier to the trade relations among Muslim countries.

However, it is very disappointing to see that some people only care about halal food certificates but don't question or focus on halal as a technical matter. For that reason, at every platform, we try to demonstrate that halal is more than a mark or a logo. Halalness is like a science and it requires standards and expertise. Its consistency depends on the accuracy of the test methods. If we fail to recognize this aspect, we can never move forward.

In this regard, since 2010, SMIIC as an intergovernmental organization as well as an OIC institution has been given the task of developing standards and achieving uniformity in metrology, laboratory testing, accreditation and conformity assessment activities among member states. Developing halal standards is not the only work of SMIIC but it is important to focus more on the technical aspects of halal.

Over the last decade, the halal industry has gone global and we all watched and experienced how it occurred. And by witnessing its expansion, we became more accountable for our roles and tasks as the actors of the halal industry.

SMIIC’s new vision is “Creating a quality infrastructure that improves economy, welfare and protects our Member States”. This vision also points that halal is part of quality infrastructure. Within SMIIC, halal is perceived as a technical issue thereof, halal standards are developed within Technical Committees by the experts of members and the industry as well as specialists from International Islamic Fiqh Academy of the OIC which is our partner and an important liaison to the relevant Technical Committees for Islamic Rules in developing standards.

As of 2021, we have 17 Technical Committees and Committee on Standards for Conformity Assessment established under SMIIC and what SMIIC has done to unify halal standards is reflected on the outputs of these technical committees which have their own title, scope, business plan and work programme and continuously work and publish standards on various subjects.

As of today, we have 16 published halal standards on halal product, certification, accreditation, cosmetics, gelatine, supply chain, tourism, food additives, conformity assessment, management systems and service site. There are also ongoing projects on halal animal feeding stuff, pharmaceuticals as well as test methods which is soon to be published for all users.

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