In a constantly changing world, several external factors, such as climate change or conflicts, have an impact on Veterinary Services, threatening to affect their contributions to sustainable development. Being able to assess and plan, thus, becomes essential for reducing the future impacts of these external factors. The 87th OIE General Session was a unique opportunity for OIE national Delegates to discuss how to anticipate these challenges and as decision makers, influence the future of their countries and the world.
A list of 17 different external factors, which were selected according to their likelihood of occurrence and impact on Veterinary Services by a group of international experts, was presented to countries who identified the following top five priorities:
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1. Emerging diseases
(i.e. five or more new emerging infectious diseases per country by 2030);
2. Emerging antimicrobial resistance
3. Livestock pandemics
4. Human zoonotic epidemic
5. Animal welfare increasingly valued
Countries affirmed they are well prepared to deal with these top five priorities, except for animal welfare. Other external factors were also considered important by countries, even if not part of their top five priorities. Most of them are non-health related, for instance, extreme weather events causing major catastrophes or an increase in the intensive livestock production (10% or more from current levels). For these factors, members affirmed that their Veterinary Services are not ready to deal with them, suggesting that non-health factors are currently being neglected.
As stressed in the report, more attention should also be given to those events that have been classified as of low probability and high impact by experts since they typically arise unexpectedly and behave in ways that are difficult to anticipate. These events, referred to as “mega-disasters” or “black swan events”, include failure of antimicrobials without substitutes and an animal mega-pandemic (like rinderpest or worse).
The vulnerability of Veterinary Services can be reduced through adaptation and mitigation strategies based on planning and reactive adjustments to change. Although most OIE Member Countries are concerned about several external factors, less than two thirds assess them. To mitigate the risks that external factors pose and take advantages of the opportunities they offer, Veterinary Services were encouraged to increase their level of awareness and get prepared for external factors effects through:
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Development of a risk register
By developing a risk register, countries will be able to identify and monitor potential threats associated with external factors, which can affect the operations and performance of their Veterinary Services in the near to mid-future;
Planning becomes more important in times of uncertainty. Foresight exercises, such as risk matrices or scenario planning, are defined as a set of systematic, participatory and multi-disciplinary activities that can be used to improve countries level of preparedness towards external factors. However, from the responding countries who assess external factors, only 44% have already carried out this kind of exercises. Consequently, countries were called to promote the use of foresight tools among their Veterinary Services to get them prepared for an uncertain future.
Use of institutional risk assessment
According to the report, just over half of the responding countries that assess external factors conduct institutional risk assessments (59%). This kind of activity needs to be considered by countries as a way to evaluate how external factors may affect future performance of their Veterinary Services in key areas, such as finance or human resources, and to take measures accordingly to reduce institutional risks.
Improving countries capacities thanks to the OIE PVS Pathway
One of the three main objectives of the 6th OIE Strategic Plan is to strengthen the capacity and sustainability of national Veterinary Services, including their resilience against internal and external factors. In this regard, the OIE will continue to use the Performance of Veterinary Services Pathway (PVS) to increase management, planning and leadership skills as a way to support its members in improving their capacities to cope with changing world situations. Watch this spotlight with Jimmy Smith, Director General of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), on how research and the PVS Pathway can help countries adapt to the challenges of the future.
To endorse the conclusions emerging from the Technical Item, a Resolution will be put forward for adoption by the World Assembly of OIE Delegates on Thursday.