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Editorial from the Director General - September 2001

During the 69th Session of the OIE International Committee, the Delegates of the Member Countries approved the Work Programme of the Director General for implementing the recommendations of the Third Strategic Plan of the OIE for the period 2001 to 2005.

While respecting the fundamental objectives of the OIE, which remain the core of our actions, the new programme is intended to provide, for each objective, greater modernity, effectiveness and visibility.

Transparency and effectiveness of animal health information from Member Countries

A new department specifically devoted to this topic is being created at the end of this year. It will notably engage in actively gathering relevant animal health information, maintaining a permanent dialogue with the Delegates of Member Countries and pursuing and improving the computerisation of animal health databases. The methods used to provide Delegates with general information and animal health information (weekly Disease Information, the bimonthly Bulletin, World Animal Health, web site) will be redesigned to take advantage of new technology in information and communication.

Safety and fluidity of international trade in animals and animal products

A new department specifically devoted to these topics is also being created to provide permanent support for the International Animal Health Code Commission and its President.

These extra resources will allow faster updating of the International Animal Health Code (the Code) chapters and, from this year, the addition of new topics, such as food safety and animal welfare.

They will also help to speed up computerisation of the Code and strengthen the capacity of the OIE to discuss and collaborate with other relevant international organisations, such as the WTO, the WHO, the FAO and the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

Collection, analysis and dissemination of scientific information relevant to animal disease control

The Scientific and Technical Department, which is responsible for this subject, has now been strengthened by the recruitment of a new veterinary officer. The department will also play a greater role in co-ordinating the 152 Collaborating Centres and Reference Laboratories worldwide.

International funding will be actively sought to support the veterinary research conducted by these laboratories, particularly in subject areas accorded priority by the International Committee.

Efforts will be made to ensure that the Scientific and Technical Review, a scientific veterinary publication of international standing, achieves even wider circulation.

Lastly, the Scientific and Technical Department will tackle a new activity, namely examining the applications submitted by Member Countries who wish to have official OIE advice concerning the recognition of their status in terms of BSE.

Provision of expertise and assistance for countries requesting support from the OIE and the international community to improve the animal disease control on their territory

The OIE will continue to provide support in technical, scientific and administrative areas relating to animal disease control for countries requesting it, notably developing countries. This support will be given through regional actions co-ordinated by the five OIE Regional Co-ordinators and the Regional Commissions of the five continents in the form of regional animal disease control programmes, seminars, expert missions and approaches to the governments of the Member Countries concerned.

An Agreement was recently signed with the World Bank, and will help to raise the awareness of that important organisation of the need for investment aimed at animal disease control and the strengthening of the Veterinary Services of OIE Member Countries.

To improve the coordination of these actions, a new department for regional actions is due to be created at the OIE Central Bureau in 2002.

Obviously, these innovations also apply to aquatic animals and aquatic animal products.

Thus, the new Work Programme commits the OIE to innovative methods and activities, such as food safety, animal welfare, development of the Veterinary Services and research laboratories and the strengthening of synergies with international organisations responsible for standardisation and development.

The success of these actions also depends on better communication with the media and thus with the public at large. With this in mind, a communications specialist has been recruited. With a similar aim, the constant improvement of the Web site and OIE publications will from now on be considered a priority.

The additional expenditure related to these new activities has meant an increase in the annual contributions paid by OIE Members Countries. The International Committee has agreed to an exceptional increase with effect from 2002 but, in its wisdom, included in its decision a 50% reduction in contributions from the least developed countries, the list of which is regularly updated by the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

The Work Programme for the period 2001 to 2005 has thus been placed on a sound footing, but must now be implemented. Its success depends on the commitment of all those involved: the Central Bureau and its staff, the Regional Co-ordinators, the elected members of the Regional Commissions and Specialist Commissions, the Reference Laboratories, all the experts who provide the OIE with valuable assistance on a voluntary basis and, last but not least, all the Delegates of Member Countries who represent the OIE in each of their countries.

We must now roll up our sleeves, to ensure that society at large, public policy-makers and the private sector are lastingly satisfied with the actions of the OIE and the Veterinary Services world-wide aimed at bringing animal diseases under control and improving food safety.

Bernard Vallat

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