FIG Task Force on Mutual Recognition of Qualifications


FIG Task Force on Mutual Recognition of Qualifications/Reciprocity

Report for the 22nd General Assembly

Sun City 30 May - 4 June 1999

The Task Force has a difficult start due to uncertainty over the TC211 proposal for a standard for competency in Geomatics. Much effort therefore has gone into discussions with Iain Greenway (chair of the Task Force on Standards) on how best to co-ordinate the activities of the two Task Forces. However, things look much clearer now, and some good progress has been made through the latest months. The profile of Task Force is starting to shape and the Chair looks forward to discuss the key issues during the open session at the General Assembly in Sun City.

Terms of Reference

Recognising the international market pressures and the regulations towards liberation of trade driven by the WTO, FIG should review the area of mutual recognition of qualifications within the world-wide surveying community and develop a framework for introduction of standards of global professional competence in this area. In pursuing this aim the task force will:

  • Undertake regional studies to investigate existing agreements of mutual recognition and reciprocity.
  • Develop guidelines for assurance of competence for entering the surveying profession, e.g. educational requirements and requirements for professional practice.
  • Develop guidelines for the establishment of agreements of mutual recognition and reciprocity, including standards for quality assurance in surveying education and standards for adaptation criteria with regard to professional practice.
  • Develop a concept and a framework for implementation of threshold standards of global professional competence in surveying.

The task force will develop a framework for reviewing the benefits and barriers against introducing standards for global professional competence. This should be seen as only a first step in this direction, to reflect FIG's aim to drive these developments instead of being driven by them.

The output of the Task Force should be a report an global professional competence to be adopted by the General Assembly and produced in the FIG publication series for the benefit of member associations and in support of the on-going interaction between FIG and other NGOs such as the WTO and UNESCO.

Main Activities

  • Collection of existing agreements of mutual recognition. Examples from North America, Europe and Australia are currently being investigated.

  • Current activities of WTO have been studied to catch up with recent developments in the area of guidelines for mutual recognition agreements in the service sector. This includes particularly the Guidelines for mutual recognition and the disciplines on domestic regulations adopted for the accountancy sector Progress is currently being made in sectors of legal services as well as architectural and engineering services.
  • A visit late May together with Secretary General Roy Swanston to the WTO headquarters in Geneva was very useful to clarify the role WTO and their possible co-operation with professional organisations in the service sector. A complete update of material and papers on the work of WTO in the service sector was achieved. It was agreed that we will exchange materials and provide and exchange necessary and key information between WTO and the FIG Task Force on Mutual Recognition of Competence. Agreed that the chair of the Task Force will maintain direct contact with WTO officials involved.

  • Development of the aim and profile of Task Force. This includes two specific fields. Externally the Task Force will co-operate closely with WTO to ensure that FIG take part and possibly influence any developments in the area of the service sectors. The aim in this regard is to prepare member countries for liberalisation of trade in services. Internally the Task Force will work to raise the standards of professional competence by taking a client view and looking for identification of threshold standards in the educational base and within the member associations.

The role of WTO

WTO provides the framework for free trade in professional service. This is a general framework to be detailed and implemented by the national bodies in terms of Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA) or Bilateral Agreements (BLA). The ultimate stage for these professional bodies is to develop threshold standards for professional competence to facilitate a free market place within the specific professional area of service.

WTO anticipate that the next step (after the framework adopted for the accountancy sector) will be before the end of 2000 where the service sectors such as lawyer, engineers, architects, and (maybe also) surveyors will be investigated through sector working parties in order to develop framework regulations for mutual recognition. In this respect WTO is looking for co-operation and interaction with the international professional bodies in professional service, such as the FIG.

The framework established by WTO is mainly to establish the minimum contents of agreements to be implemented through BLA. The legal impact is that the national regulation can no contradict to base framework regulations, and national regulations should not be a barrier to the free trade of service.

WTO would like to see the international professional bodies (such as FIG) to develop the more specific and detailed standards to be followed by the national organisations when adopting BLA's.

The Role of the Task Force, Discussion

FIG should co-operate and interact with WTO to develop in time the more specific input to achieve the common goal. This means that the role of the Task Force could be identified as follows:

  • Closely to interact with WTO to provide input and to control the process towards development and implementation of a free market place in surveying through MRA's
  • Develop threshold standards for surveying in general and standards of competence within the individual sectors of surveying.

This should lead to an enhancement of professional competence for the world-wide surveying community and enhance surveyor's international recognition. In this respect the WTO agreed that once FIG had prepared the protocol and guidelines outlined above they would circulate these to the council of WTO with a view to surveying being recognised under the GATTS agreement

General standards for the surveying profession may be developed through threshold standards in the educational base, which may be fulfilled through procedures for quality control and self-assessment against these standards. The chair of the Task Force also interacts closely with the CLGE working party looking at developing a Core Syllabus for Qualifications in Geodetic Surveying.

Threshold standards for professional competence may be more difficult to identify. Different attitudes to professional competence may appear from the position of the professional organisations; the professionals; and the clients. Furthermore, the substance of professional competence may vary with regard to technical, managerial and ethical competence. Finally, the substance of professional competence may vary within the different areas of the surveying profession.

Therefore, what is missing in Mutual Recognition is a common language by which one can compare competence. In other words: recognition of what?, It should be professional competence and not just education and practice. Self-assessment against threshold standards may be way forward. To develop and implement such threshold standards the professional organisations play a key role. A number of issues involved such as indemnity, ethics etc. should he controlled by the professional organisations themselves. This is about development of mature structures of the national associations.

Development of threshold standards for professional competence is not a threat. It may be difficult, but it should be seen as a major challenge and is an opportunity to enhance the professionalism of the surveying profession.

To achieve this goal the timetable for Task Force should be adjusted. A progress report will be presented for discussion at the FIG working week in Prague, 2000; A draft report will be discussed during the FIG working week in Seoul, 2001; and the final report will be presented for adoption at the FIG Congress in Washington 2002 This timetable will also fit nicely to present schedule for the ongoing work in the service sector at the WTO.

May 1999

Prof. Stig Enemark
Department of Development and Planning,
Aalborg University
Fibigerstraede 11
9220 Aalborg
Tel +45 99 40 83 44
Fax +45 98 15 65 41