The global trade of organic products and the growth of the organic sector in many regions of the world are constrained by a labyrinth of multitude standards and regulations. FAO, IFOAM and UNCTAD have done intensive work, starting their cooperation in 2003, to find solutions for this problem and to improve harmonization and equivalence of standards.
These activities started with the International Task Force on Harmonization and Equivalence in Organic Agriculture (ITF), comprised of representatives from governments, intergovernmental organizations and the private sector. The result of the task force was the development of two practical tools: The Guide for Assessing Equivalence of Standards and Technical Regulations (EquiTool) and the International Requirements for Organic Certification Bodies (IROCB) which can be used by any government or private sector organic label scheme for recognizing other organic standards and certification performance requirements as equivalent to their own.
After the ITF successfully developed these useful instruments for the organic sector, it was necessary to also work on the effective usage and implementation of them. Therefore, as a follow-up on the work of the ITF, the Global Organic Market Access (GOMA) project was launched in 2009. In addition to providing technical assistance and training to governments and other actors in the implementation of the tools, the project also put a lot of effort into the establishment of networks and of cooperation between the various actors. The main focus was to promote harmonization, equivalence and cooperation among governments, while involving public-private participation and cooperation.
GOMA officially ended in 2012. The activities now continue in the new framework of the United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS), which was officially launched in March 2013.