In this era of globalisation, the development and growth of many countries, as well as the prevention and control of major biological disasters, depend on the performance of their agricultural and food policies and economies, and this, in turn, directly relates to the quality of their Veterinary Services (VS). Important roles for VS include veterinary public health – including food-borne diseases – and regional and international market access for animals and animal products. To meet current and future opportunities and challenges, VS should be independent and objective in their activities and decisions should be based on sound science and immune from political pressure.
Strengthening of VS to help them comply with OIE international standards for quality and evaluation requires active participation and investment by both the public and the private sector. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has refined an Evaluation Tool developed initially in collaboration with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to produce the OIE Tool for the Evaluation of Performance of Veterinary Services (OIE PVS Tool). The OIE PVS Tool is designed to assist VS to establish their current level of performance, to identify gaps and weaknesses in their ability to comply with OIE international standards, to form a shared vision with stakeholders (including the private sector) and to establish priorities and carry out strategic initiatives.
The production of and trade in aquatic animals and their products is of increasing importance and the aquaculture sector is growing fast in response to the strong and growing global demand for high quality protein. In some countries the VS are the competent authority for aquatic animal health services (AAHS) but in some countries other agencies of government hold this responsibility. Regardless of whether veterinarians are involved in the AAHS, it is clear that the general principles for quality would be similar to those that apply to VS. For example, appropriate legislation and good governance are required to support AAHS in complying with OIE requirements, including for disease detection, reporting and control. The application of the PVS Tool to the evaluation of AAHS commenced in 2009 when the OIE undertook a pilot mission in Vietnam. Following this mission and several subsequent missions, it was clear that a stand-alone tool for the evaluation of an AAHS was necessary due to differences between the terrestrial and aquatic sectors. The OIE has developed the OIE Tool for the Evaluation of Performance of Veterinary Services and/or Aquatic Animal Health Services (OIE PVS Tool: Aquatic) which is based on the sixth edition of the OIE PVS Tool and includes amendments to some critical competencies (CC) and Levels of Advancement so that the Tool is more appropriate for the evaluation of the performance of AAHS.
In the international trade of animals and animal products, the OIE promotes animal health and public health (as it relates to the prevention and control of zoonoses including food-borne diseases of animal origin) by issuing harmonised sanitary standards for international trade and disease control, by working to improve the resources and legal framework of VS / AAHS and by helping Members comply with the OIE standards, guidelines and recommendations, consistent with the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The traditional mission of VS was to protect domestic agriculture and most resources were directed towards the control of diseases that threatened primary production. The services began at the national borders and were focused domestically. The prevention and control of major aquatic animal diseases is similarly the basis of AAHS in many countries. The credibility of these services, as viewed by domestic stakeholders and other countries, largely depended on the effectiveness of these domestic programmes, and the response of VS and AAHS to animal disease emergencies.
In light of the growing technical requirements, consumer expectations and opportunities for international trade, the VS / AAHS should adopt an appropriate mandate and vision and provide services that respond to the needs and expectations of stakeholders. This will entail stronger alliances and closer cooperation with stakeholders, trading partners and other countries, national governmental counterparts and relevant intergovernmental organisations (in particular the OIE, the Codex Alimentarius Commission and the WTO SPS Committee).
Under the WTO SPS Agreement each WTO Member has the right to impose SPS measures to protect plant, animal and human life or health but measures should be based on science and risk analysis and implemented transparently. For animal health and zoonoses, the OIE is recognised as the reference organisation for measures relating to international trade in animals and animal products. The implementation of the OIE standards, including on quality and evaluation of VS / AAHS, is the best way to facilitate safe and fair international trade.
Effective VS / AAHS have four fundamental components:
The structure of the OIE PVS Tool and the OIE PVS Tool: Aquatic recognises these four fundamental components.
Applying the OIE PVS Tool and the OIE PVS Tool: Aquatic
To establish the current level of performance, form a shared vision, establish priorities and carry out strategic initiatives, six to thirteen critical competencies have been elaborated for each of the four fundamental components. For each critical competency, qualitative levels of advancement are described. A higher level of advancement assumes that the VS / AAHS are complying with the preceding (non 1) levels (i.e. level 3 assumes compliance with level 2 criteria; level 5 assumes compliance with level 4 and preceding criteria; etc.). Additional critical competencies might be added with the evolution of these tools.
The OIE has provided a Manual for Assessors, containing information and procedures relevant to the conduct of an OIE PVS Evaluation, including a list of suggested indicators used by PVS assessors.
In addition to the qualitative levels, provision has been made in each critical competency to expand upon or clarify responses, if so desired.
Chapter 3.1. of the Aquatic Animal Health Code (Aquatic Code) provides a legal base for the OIE quality requirements for AAHS where these are not covered by the Veterinary Services.
Relevant definitions from the Glossary of the TerrestrialCode and the Aquatic Code may be found in the Glossary of Terms of both Codes(Terrestrial and Aquatic). The most important Code references are quoted under each critical competency.
Using the results
More than a diagnostic instrument, the OIE PVS Tool and the OIE PVS Tool: Aquatic promote a culture of raising awareness and continual improvement, which can be used either passively or actively depending on the level of interest, priorities and commitment of the VS / AAHS and interested parties. In the passive mode, the OIE PVS Tool and the OIE PVS Tool: Aquatic help to raise awareness and improve the understanding of all sectors including other administrations regarding the fundamental components and critical competencies these services must have in order to function effectively.
The active mode is where the maximum outcomes are realised but this mode requires a sustained commitment on the part of both the public and private sectors, that is, all relevant interested parties. In this mode, performance is assessed, differences are explored and priorities are established. This mode is where strategic actions are outlined, investments are evaluated and agreed to, and commitments made and implemented. Continuity of this process requires a true partnership between the public and the private sectors. Leadership on the part of the public sector is a fundamental and critical determinant of success.
The benefits and outcomes of using the OIE PVS Tool and the OIE PVS Tool: Aquatic include:
All references in this document to WTO SPS obligations apply only to WTO Members.
OIE standards provide a framework for importing countries to conduct audits of exporting countries and in particular to check the compliance of exporting countries with OIE standards on quality and evaluation of VS / AAHS.
Click here to download the 2013 update of the OIE PVS Tool and the OIE PVS Tool: Aquatic (pdf file)