On 19 January 2019, the 74 Ministers’ delegations participating in the 11th Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA), expressed their support to the on-going renovation of the World Animal Health Information System, OIE-WAHIS. They also entrusted the OIE to pursue the implementation of global digital structures promoting an enhanced exchange of information, thereby contributing to strengthen the cross-border fight against animal diseases.
The benefits of the upgraded World Animal Health Information System OIE-WAHIS were highlighted at the Agriculture Ministers’ conference convened on 19 January 2019 in the framework of the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) in Berlin, Germany, on the theme ‘Agriculture Goes Digital – Smart Solutions for Future Farming’.
The GFFA addressed how digitalisation can be leveraged to make agriculture more efficient and more sustainable, and therefore contribute to meeting the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As stated in the Ministers communiqué, ‘Digitalization in agriculture will play an important role in achieving these goals’.
The 74 Ministers attending the conference called for the development of digital systems that improve data use and accessibility, through interoperability, harmonisation and improved geo-localisation. In the interest of livestock farming, the Ministers recognised OIE-WAHIS as ‘an important component for exchanging information and for supporting Veterinary Services in designing their animal-disease control and eradication programmes’. The above-mentioned features will be included in the new OIE-WAHIS interface, which will also allow for data to be viewed, analysed and extracted more rapidly and information on animal diseases to be displayed on dynamic maps.
Yet, innovation in the digital strategy of the OIE goes beyond the upgrading of OIE-WAHIS. During a preliminary workshop, Sustainable Livestock Goes Digital, Dr Jean-Philippe Dop, OIE Deputy Director General, presented a wider overview of current developments undertaken by the OIE to improve access to information in other fields. To give an example, in 2015, the OIE initiated a global database on antimicrobials intended for use in animals. Antimicrobial resistance represents a crucial common concern for several sectors involved in global health and the Ministers recognised the benefits of digitalisation as a way to reduce the use of antimicrobial agents in animal husbandry.
Lastly, in future steps, the Ministers called for the establishment of a Digital Council for Food and Agriculture under the auspices of the United Nations that would advise governments and other relevant actors, drive the exchange of ideas and experiences, and, as a result, help to harness the opportunities presented by digitalisation. This will be done in consultation with stakeholders, which will include the OIE taking the lead on animal health and welfare issues.