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Decentralisation and implementation of regional policies

The OIE, the World Organisation for Animal Health, currently has 164 Member Countries spread over the five continents. All the OIE's policies are democratically adopted by the International Committee, which is the General Assembly of the representatives of Member Country governments.

Under the guidance of the Director General, elected by the International Committee, the OIE Central Bureau is in charge of implementing the decisions of the International Committee. However, over-centralisation at the level of the Central Bureau may result in inadequate policy implementation, as well as insensitivity to the specific needs of each of the world's regions.

Thus, the International Committee, as early as 1990, decided to create Regional Representations in order to facilitate the field implementation of the International Committee's resolutions, while taking account of the specificities and needs of each of the five continents. The Regional Representations work under the aegis of the OIE Central Bureau. They are chaired by high-level experts from each Region, who are appointed by the Director General and given the title of OIE Regional Representatives.

The Regional Representations were in effect set up in 1991 for Asia and the Pacific, in 1992 for Europe, in 1997 for the Americas and for the Middle East, and in 2000 for Africa. Each of these was established on the basis of proposals made by the OIE Regional Commissions, which in turn are made up of a bureau composed of Delegates elected by the Member Countries of the region in question. The OIE Regional Representations owe their existence to the generous support provided by certain Member Countries that have agreed to host and to assist them.

Each Regional Representation programmes activities that take into account the increasing demand on the part of the regions and sub-regions for services and programmes that correspond to their needs and specificities – as underscored in the OIE's Third Strategic Plan. The five elected Regional Commissions, in which the viewpoints of the Member Countries of each region are expressed, play a decisive role in defining the OIE's general guidelines and the activities of the Regional Representations. However, in order to ensure that the policies of the OIE are consistent world-wide, the recommendations made by the Regional Commissions must be approved by the International Committee as a whole before they may be implemented.

The Central Bureau's steadfast support to the activities of the Regional Commissions and Representations has not always been fully effective, due to its limited human resources. For this reason, I proposed the creation, in the Central Bureau, of a specialised department devoted solely to regional activities.

The Department was officially established in January 2003. Its role is to support the regional activities of the OIE, in particular by mobilising the resources of the Central Bureau's other specialised technical departments, and to help ensure coherence between the activities of the Regional Commissions and those of the Regional Representations.

The new Department's priority areas are the following:

  • the activities of the Regional Commissions and the organisation of their bi-annual Conferences;
  • support to the Regional Representations for the drafting and the implementation of their programmes of activities, while ensuring their consistency with the overall strategy set out by the International Committee;
  • permanent negotiations regarding the modalities for external collaboration required for the success of these programmes, in particular with international, regional and sub-regional organisations that have working relations with the OIE, as well as with the OIE's Reference Laboratories and Collaborating Centres active in the regions concerned;
  • fund-raising for the OIE Regional Representations, and co-ordinating field programmes in collaboration with the international, regional and sub-regional organisations involved;
  • support to training and information activities for regional policy-makers, organised on the basis of the priorities expressed by the Regional Commissions;
  • helping the collection of disease information by the Member Countries in each region, as well as the dissemination of animal disease control measures in the field;
  • monitoring emergency assistance provided through the OIE channel.

The new position of Head of the Regional Activities Department has been filled by Professor Jean Boyazoglu, doctor in zootechnical sciences of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and Professor Agrégé of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. In the course of his career as a researcher, professor, diplomat and international civil servant, Jean Boyazoglu has tackled complex problems, and acquired broad experience in animal production and international relations. We wish him, and his team, every success.

Bernard Vallat

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