18 February 2021, Rome – The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, today took over the rotating chairmanship of the Tripartite Secretariat from the World Organisation for Animal Health’s (OIE) Director-General, Monique Eloit.
“FAO is pleased to take over the chair of the Tripartite from OIE for the next 12 months,” the Director-General said at the virtual 27th Tripartite Executive Annual meeting.
The Tripartite consists of FAO, the World Health Organization (WHO) and OIE. The collaboration concentrates on “sharing responsibilities and coordinating global activities to address health risks at the human-animal-ecosystems interfaces”.
During the last decade, the Tripartite partners worked successfully together on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), Avian Influenza, Rabies, food safety and preparedness as well as the response to emerging and neglected infectious diseases.
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the “intimate” linkages between the health of humans, animals and ecosystems as zoonotic diseases spread between animals and people.
One Health is an integrated approach that recognizes the fundamental relationship and ensures that specialists in multiple sectors work together to tackle health threats to animals, humans, plants and the environment.
“Our work is guided by a strategic vision with the goal of achieving the Four Betters: Better Production, Better Nutrition, a Better Environment and a Better Life. One Health is essential to all these as it links human health, animal health and environmental health,” the Director-General stressed.
What’s ahead for the Tripartite?
“The world is looking to us for a One Health architecture. Flexibility and agility are key to achieving the transformations and the effectiveness that we seek,” said Qu.
The FAO Director-General proposed the initiative of developing a Global Action Plan for One Health, prioritizing those at risk of being left behind, where extreme hunger and poverty are increasing. FAO, with its partners, will lead the way through mutually beneficial collaboration at global, regional and country level to better support Members in preventing the next pandemic.
Qu emphasized that the Tripartite had a unique opportunity to drive real change, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that One Health will be the focus of upcoming high-level international meetings.
Expectations for the Tripartite, and the need for effective collaboration, have never been higher.
“Let us walk the talk and present the true multilateral value of One Health to the world!” urged Qu.
In addition to the focus on preventing future pandemic outbreaks, FAO’s Director-General emphasized that the world should not lose sight of the many endemic diseases that jeopardized the lives of millions of people, usually the poorest, every day.
UNEP to join the Tripartite
Around two thirds of known human infectious diseases originate in wild and domesticated animals. The issues associated with biodiversity loss, deforestation are connected to the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases- and therefore the work at the interface of One Health and Ecosystem restoration, to prevent the next pandemic needs to be strengthened.
To do so, the integrated approach, which recognizes the fundamental and interconnected relationship between the health of people, animals and environment needs to be scaled-up.
During the chairmanship of FAO, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is expected to join the Tripartite.
An effective implementation of the One Health approach requires promoting multi-sectoral responses and understanding the role of ecosystems in the regulation of diseases.
This highlights the expected synergy from including UNEP in the work of One Health.
To cover the full range of root causes of diseases and the processes within which they emerge, an active and effective contribution of UNEP to the application of environmental health and addressing the degradation of ecosystems worldwide, is crucial.
UNEP will also bring its expertise on ecosystems and its role as part of the secretariat for many critical multilateral environmental agreements and research bodies.