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72nd Annual General Session of the International Committee of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), 23 - 28 May 2004

The 72nd Annual General Session of the International Committee of the Office International des Epizooties (OIE), which is the World Organisation for Animal Health, was held in Paris from 23 to 28 May 2004, within the context of the Organisation's 80th anniversary. The General Session notably brings together representatives appointed by the Governments of the 167 OIE Member Countries.

Approximately 500 participants representing the Member Countries, intergovernmental organisations (FAO, WHO, World Bank, WTO etc.) and many non-governmental organisations took part in the event. The Session was honoured by the presence, alongside the President and the Director General, of political Authorities and numerous Ministers of Agriculture of OIE Member Countries. The main points dealt with during the Session were as follows:

  • Within the framework of its standard-setting work, the Committee adopted international standards aimed at providing better safeguards for the sanitary safety of world trade in terrestrial and aquatic animals and animal products. New criteria related to the consideration of new animal diseases and zoonoses by the OIE have also been proposed and discussed or adopted, as well as new standards among others about foot and mouth disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and diseases of bees;
  • Improvements in the effectiveness and quality of the Veterinary Services responsible for disease surveillance and control, and consideration for the role played by veterinary para-professionals;- The sanitary situation of all Member Countries has been examined in detail;
  • Special attention was given to simplifying the chapter on BSE in the Terrestrial Animal Health Code, notably regarding subsequent changes to the different categories of BSE status of Member Countries and the safety of animal products without risks for consumers;
  • Discussions have also taken place on the preparation of the OIE IVth Strategic Plan (for the period of 2005-2010) which will be adopted in 2005;
  • Discussions also dealt with the updating of international standards on avian influenza so as to improve control of the disease and provide greater protection for importing countries while eliminating unjustified barriers to trade;
  • Member Countries also adopted the guiding principles of the animal welfare policies that the OIE will conduct as part of its new mandate as the international reference organisation for animal welfare issues;
  • The Committee decided to establish a world animal health and welfare fund. This should be fed by public and private support funds aimed at sustaining the OIE projects;
  • On the fringe of the Session, the OIE and the FAO signed a new agreement aimed at coordinating the efforts of the two organisations to control animal diseases and zoonoses throughout the world within the framework of their respective mandates. The Agreement was signed on behalf of the OIE by its Director General, Dr Bernard Vallat;
  • The General Session welcomed the accession of three new Member Countries, namely Brunei, Gambia and Guinea-Bissau. As of May 2004, the OIE has 167 Member Countries;
  • Two technical items were debated during the Session and gave rise to Resolutions passed by the International Committee:
  • Emerging and re-emerging zoonotic diseases: challenges and opportunities
  • Animal identification and traceability

The high level of scientific expertise of the speakers and the quality of the debates that followed the presentation of each technical item will have served to promote the global application of concepts that are essential for improved control of animal diseases and zoonoses.