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World Organisation for Animal Health

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The OIE, science and international solidarity

The past thirty years have seen a rapid acceleration in the impact of scientific and technological progress on the lives of men and women all over the world. This science-based situation, which is unprecedented in the history of mankind, also goes hand in hand with the globalisation process affecting communications, international trade and the economies of the different countries and regions of the world.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the international scientific organisation notably concerned with matters relating to the health of land and aquatic animals, has fully embraced these changes. The OIE constantly incorporates the latest scientific advances so as to improve animal health world-wide and to promote and preserve the safety of the international trade in animals and animal products.

One of the key missions of the OIE is to collect, analyse and disseminate relevant information on the diagnosis, control and surveillance of animal diseases. Today, thanks to computer technology, we have a practical and effective means of reaching, virtually the whole world in real time. Progress in this field is vitally important since it means we can have a world-wide early warning system that will allow decisions to be taken to reduce the risks involved in international trade in animals and animal products.

Through its four Specialist Commissions, 156 Reference Laboratories and Collaborating Centres for 69 diseases of land and aquatic animals, located in 30 countries, and thanks to the collaboration of more than 150 internationally renowned experts, the OIE reaches its decisions on solid scientific grounds, and regularly incorporates them into its codes and manuals of standards (relating to land and aquatic animals). These codes and standards constitute the official reference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which uses only reference rules that are based exclusively on scientifically proven facts. The OIE is the only international organisation to have been invested with such a mission within its field of competence.

In consequence, the Reference Laboratories, Collaborating Centres and experts from Member Countries involved in the development of scientific standards clearly play an essential role in enabling the OIE to carry out its principal functions. Without them the OIE would no longer be in a position to fulfil its mission. The challenge facing the OIE is to strengthen the activities of the Reference Laboratories and the participation of their experts so as to maintain a suitable level of effectiveness and to capitalise on scientific and technological progress. Within the framework of this process, the OIE also encourages the integration of laboratories and scientists of developing countries alongside those of industrialised countries.

The world-wide network of OIE Collaborating Centres and Reference Laboratories provides Member Countries with access to the best human resources in the field of animal health and welfare and the safety of animal products, the best diagnostic technologies, standard reagents, and training systems in the form of workshops, seminars and conferences organised in all five continents. These activities allow close collaboration and interaction between technicians and scientists from countries of the northern hemisphere and those of the southern hemisphere. All countries may thus benefit more effectively from the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, notably on the basis of the declaration issued at the WTO Ministerial Conference held at Doha in 2001 (signed by the senior officials of the WTO, the FAO, the WHO, the World Bank and the OIE).

The current policy of the OIE is notably to seek methods of international, regional and national finance, to strengthen as a priority the scientific activities of laboratories in the least developed countries while at the same time consolidating the activities of laboratories in the most highly developed countries. An example of this is the concerted action taken by various international organisations within the framework of the �Challenge Program', financed by the CGIAR, a project aimed at providing regional laboratories and collaborating centres in the poorest regions of the world with the means to access the latest scientific and technological resources, so as to improve the health of their animal populations and provide access to international markets. In line with the Doha Declaration, this action will also contribute to capacity building for the veterinary scientific community in developing countries particularly through support from Reference Laboratories in the North, and will encourage greater participation by this community in negotiating the sanitary standards governing world trade and integrating the latest scientific research.

Several other regional projects are already operational (PACE - Pan-African Programme for the Control of Epizootics  in Africa, SEAFMD - South-East Asia Foot and Mouth Disease Campaign> in Asia). These projects benefit greatly from OIE expertise and are just some of the examples of scientific and technological applications on behalf of the poorest countries.

All these actions of international veterinary solidarity will be strengthened since they are vital for the effective control of animal health and the safety of animal products world-wide.

Bernard Vallat

Contact : media@oie.int