Protecting The World From Emerging Diseases Linked To Globalisation

WORLD - As a result of globalisation and climate change we are currently facing an unprecedented worldwide impact of emerging and re-emerging animal diseases and zoonoses (animal diseases transmissible to humans). Improving the governance of animal health systems in both the public and private sector is the most effective response to this alarming situation.
calendar icon 4 June 2007
clock icon 6 minute read

The animal disease crises we have recently experienced have provided a clearer understanding of the benefits to the international community of applying the appropriate animal health policies and programmes in order to safeguard public health and ensure food safety.

It is now clearly established that the cost of preventing sanitary crises of animal origin by early detection of outbreaks and rapid response mechanisms included in national veterinary surveillance systems are insignificant compared to the social, economic and environmental cost of disasters resulting from epizootics, such as BSE, foot and mouth disease and highly pathogenic avian influenza.

When the world was hit by the avian influenza crisis, the OIE recommended strengthening veterinary governance worldwide, not just to fight avian influenza, but also to prevent and control any outbreaks of emerging or re-emerging animal diseases, including zoonoses, whether naturally occurring or deliberate. This message was aimed in particular at developing and in-transition countries. Indeed, a single country failing to control animal disease outbreaks could put the entire world at risk.

The OIE World Animal Health and Welfare Fund was created by a Resolution (1) of the OIE International Committee in May 2004 to provide a means of responding urgently to these new challenges and in particular to help Member Countries strengthen their capacities in terms of governance of animal health systems.

The Fund was created “for the purpose of projects of international public utility relating to the control of animal diseases, including those affecting humans, and the promotion of animal welfare and animal production food safety”. The main donors to date are the World Bank, the United States of America (USDA), Switzerland , Japan , France , Canada (CIDA) and Australia (AusAID). Negotiations are underway with several other potential donors.

Governance of the Fund is in accordance with the statutory procedures of the OIE: two Auditors elected by International Committee of Delegates of the 168 Member Countries, an internal auditor, as well as an External Auditor appointed by the International Committee, control the account activity and the use of the Fund. The OIE ' s general accounting system now provides for a special detailed account to be kept, enabling regular reports to be submitted to the Fund ' s Management Committee.

An Advisory Committee has also been set up, bringing together representatives of the main intergovernmental organisations sharing common goals with the OIE (WTO, FAO, WHO), and representatives of the main donors. The Committee met for the first time on 20 October 2006 and will meet each year to help the OIE to guide the Fund's policies.

The projects supported by the Fund are currently structured around proposals made in the OIE publication “Ensuring good governance to address emerging and re-emerging animal disease threats: supporting the Veterinary Services of developing countries to meet OIE international standards on quality” (2). This publication has been endorsed by the FAO on behalf of the United Nations. Further programmes have been added since the Pledging Conference in Beijing (January 2006) at which the initial programme was adopted, notably an Avian Influenza Vaccine Bank and twinning programmes between laboratories in the South and the North.

With the support of all its Member Countries and the World Bank, the OIE includes among its leading priorities the improvement of animal health governance, in particular by helping the developing and in-transition countries among its Members to bring their Veterinary Services into line with the OIE ' s standards on quality which have been democratically adopted by the 168 Member Countries.

All these activities and programmes fall within the concept of global public good.

The Fund ' s current priorities are to improve the institutional and technical capacities of OIE Delegates and their staff, to manage communication in times of crisis, to provide support for veterinary laboratories in developing countries and to finance OFFLU, the OIE/FAO network of scientific expertise.

In a previous editorial I mentioned the OIE's crucial role in helping the Veterinary Services meet their new challenges, through the development and use of the 'Performance, Vision and Strategy' (PVS) tool. The PVS tool now includes all the quality criteria contained in the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code . The PVS tool is not simply an evaluation tool, however. It is also a development tool since it can be used to identify failings and weaknesses and thus help in the preparation of national investment programmes to overcome these deficiencies. How a Member Country obtains the necessary resources will depend upon decisions by the national parliament or the Ministry of Finance or, where appropriate, international donors, including the World Bank or developed countries that have undertaken to help developing and in-transition countries to strengthen their animal health systems. The analysis of deficiencies carried out using the results of the PVS evaluation will help to identify priorities for investment and provide solid justification for the recommended reforms.

With the support of several donors and based on an initial pilot programme of 15 national PVS evaluations, the Fund has already made provision for a programme to evaluate 60 more countries in 2007-2008. These evaluations will be done following a very strict procedure, managed by the OIE Central Headquarters, and comprising, chronologically, an official request to the Director General of the OIE from a Member Country made on a voluntary basis, followed by the beneficiary country's acceptance of the team of certified experts proposed by the OIE Headquarters, an independent peer review of the experts' report and, where appropriate, the finally agreement of the country concerned for the PVS report to be officially taken into account.

To date, the OIE has trained and certified over 60 experts to conduct PVS missions in Member Countries. They will all use the same Evaluation Manual, prepared by the OIE, and the same indicators relating to the quality criteria contained in the PVS. This programme, being conducted worldwide, will allow the international community as a whole to strengthen its capacities under the auspices of the OIE to deal with the new risks arising from globalisation and climate change, thanks to the improvement of policies and resources of the national Veterinary Services.

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