As the international organization responsible for improving animal health and welfare worldwide, the OIE is the standard-setting body for animal health regulatory activities as recognized by the WTO-SPS Agreement. The OIE Standards, adopted by the Delegates of its 181 Member Countries, provide the international animal health community with the guidance for the quality of veterinary services, for animal disease control, for animal welfare enhancement, and for the safe trade in animals and animal products.
“The opening of a liaison office is a first for the organisation”, explains Dr Dop, OIE Deputy Director General, who attended the official opening. “This new US-based office will open additional lines of communication between the OIE and US veterinary and public health parties – allowing for better collaboration when it comes to disaster preparedness, emergency planning and animal disease surveillance.”
Traditionally, permanent official relations with the OIE Member Countries as well as international and regional organizations are maintained through the official National Delegate and the 12 Regional and Sub-Regional Representations, covering every continent.
While the OIE Liaison office does not change any traditional communication channels, the office will provide new avenues for high-level engagement with U.S. government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private sector constituents. This strengthened relationship with US animal production stakeholders is expected to reinforce the understanding of the OIE international Standards at the national level, as well as an increased appreciation of the importance and challenges of global animal health transparency.
“The OIE Liaison Office will further solidify the extensive relationship the United States has developed since it joined the organization in 1976”, said Dr. John Clifford, official USA delegate to the OIE. “Providing broader access to our institutions and expertise will increase the breadth and depth of the OIE’s scientific tool box.”
The OIE US liaison office will be co-located with and hosted by the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD) – a member of the Texas A&M University System and an OIE Collaborating Center specializing in biological threat reduction.
“Our modern agricultural economy is highly dependent upon two factors: freedom from disease and trade,” said Melissa Berquist, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases. “The ability to efficiently implement science-based standards and demonstrate freedom from disease is imperative to ensuring safe trade. “Better understanding global animal health and zoonotic threats improves preparedness, prevention and response. Supporting the development of science-based standards, and providing effective tools and training for disease surveillance, control and eradication is at the core of IIAD’s mission.”
Designated as an OIE Collaborating Center in 2014, IIAD provides its expertise internationally to support and implement animal health initiatives, provide scientific and technical training, and conduct scientific research focused on global animal health.
“Both OIE and IIAD have a long-standing practice of working in partnership with existing organizations in academia, government and private industry – we each believe animal health is best advanced by assisting, coordinating and making use of the activities of existing resources and infrastructure when possible” Berquist said. “By co-locating their U.S. Liaison Office in College Station, OIE has not only built upon its previous relationship with IIAD, but also gained wider access to a premier research institution that complements OIE’s science-based standards. With proven partnerships, the establishment of this office is sure to bring new and exciting opportunities to all parties.”