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77th Annual General Assembly of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) 24 – 29 May 2009

The Assembly strengthens Members’ obligations regarding animal health information to be submitted to the OIE

The Delegates of OIE Members marked the 85th anniversary of the creation of the OIE by renewing and strengthening their commitments, especially as regards transparency.

Paris, 29 May 2009 – The Delegates of the 174 OIE Member Countries and Territories celebrated the 85th anniversary of the creation of the OIE by reaffirming their confidence in the Organisation, and they unanimously adopted a Resolution confirming their legal obligations regarding transparency in their notifications of animal diseases, including zoonoses, to the OIE.

“This unanimous confirmation by the Delegates of the OIE’s 174 Members strengthens the effectiveness of our Organisation’s actions on behalf of animal disease prevention and surveillance and its support for the sanitary safety of international trade in animals and food of animal origin”, emphasised the Director General of the OIE, Dr Bernard Vallat.

Discussions also dealt with the growing problem of standards relating to risk analysis in animals and animal products used unilaterally by private firms without the direct involvement of governments, which can lead to new obligations that can be not science based and contradictory to existing OIE standards and that developing countries have difficulty in adapting to.

Novel influenza A/H1N1 virus
Members endorsed actions of the OIE on novel influenza H1N1, notably the organisation’s stance on the correct denomination of the new virus, on the decision of unjustified import restrictions decided by different countries and the call for respect of OIE international animal welfare standards when proceeding to the culling of animals;

The Assembly of 174 Member Countries and Territories also supported the organisation’s current work with its partner organisations on more scientific research on the virus currently circulating worldwide.

Climate change, emerging and re-emerging diseases
The impact of climate change on the emergence and re-emergence of animal diseases has been confirmed by a majority of OIE Member Countries and Territories in a worldwide study conducted by the OIE among all its national Delegates. The study presented during the session dedicated to the Technical Item showed the need for a new approach to prevent new threats linked to climate change and the globalisation of trade.

OIE Members have consequently given the Organisation a mandate to address this issue by using its scientific capabilities and networks, and to create specific groups of scientists in order to address these concerns as well as any question linked with livestock and environment.

Animal welfare
The OIE pursued its universal actions on animal welfare by supporting the recommendations issued by the World Conference held in Cairo, Egypt, in October 2008, especially as regards the implementation of OIE standards by developing countries, and by voting to adopt new international standards to improve rabies control through better management of stray dog populations.

Official recognition of OIE Members’ animal disease status
The Delegates of Member Countries and Territories approved the new list of countries zones that had applied for official OIE recognition of their status with respect to one or more of four priority diseases: bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), foot and mouth disease, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) and rinderpest.

With regard to BSE, the OIE recognised Japan, Colombia and Chile as having a “controlled BSE risk” status or “negligible risk” status.

Moldova and Colombia were newly recognised as being foot and mouth disease free, with or without vaccination, for all or a part of their territory.

The Organisation reiterated the aim that it shares with FAO, namely to be able to declare in the near future that rinderpest has been eradicated worldwide.

Transparency, scientific expertise and solidarity
The animal health situation worldwide with respect to 100 diseases of terrestrial or aquatic animals was examined in detail during the Assembly.

The Delegates approved the North-South twinning of 13 laboratories with the framework of the OIE’s Twinning Programme, underlining the resounding success of this initiative to encourage the exchange of competencies and experience between countries hosting OIE Reference Laboratories and Collaborating Centres and in-transition or developing countries, to enable the latter to develop their laboratories and centres of excellence, thereby strengthening their national veterinary scientific community.

In this respect, the Delegates accredited 7 new Collaborating Centres and 12 new Reference Centres Laboratories, bringing the number of official centres of scientific excellence within the OIE worldwide network to 225.

In line with OIE’s continuous engagement in supporting Veterinary Services to comply with OIE standards on quality, thirty-one new PVS (Performance of Veterinary Services) missions carried out since May 2008 using the OIE PVS Tool were presented to the Assembly . To date, 85 national PVS missions have been carried out worldwide, out of a planned total of 120 countries.

Administrative matters
The Assembly proceeded to elect a new President of the Assembly of OIE Delegates. Dr Correa Messuti from Uruguay was elected President for a three-year term of office . He succeeds Dr Barry O’Neil from New Zealand, who was warmly applauded for his highly positive contribution. The new members of the Council, the Regional Commissions and the Specialist Commissions were likewise elected by the World Assembly of Delegates for a three-year term of office .

A cooperation agreement was signed during the meeting between the OIE and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) aimed at strengthening collaboration on topics of mutual interest.

Other notable events marked the proceedings of the Assembly, including the presentation of the World Veterinary Day Award 2009 to the Nepal Veterinary Association.

Around 600 participants, representing OIE Members and intergovernmental (FAO, WHO, World Bank, WTO, etc.), regional and national organisations, took part in the event. High-ranking authorities, including a numerous Ministers of OIE Members, honoured the Assembly with their presence.