Upon taking office in January 1994, the Director-General of FAO decided that the Organization should be better focused in championing the goal of enhanced world food security and the fight against transboundary animal diseases and plant pests as outbreaks of such diseases or pests can result in food shortages, destabilise markets and trigger trade barriers. Thus he sought and obtained the mandate of the Governing Council and Conference to establish two new Special Programmes to address these fundamental issues. The first is the Special Programme on Food Security and the second is the Emergency Prevention System (EMPRES) against transboundary animal and plant pests and diseases. Thus, EMPRES is a programme with two components: the plant pest component focuses on the desert locust while the animal diseases component focuses primarily on rinderpest but also on 5 other epidemic diseases. For the Programme as a whole, the Director-General has established a high-level EMPRES Steering Committee which is chaired by himself and consists of heads of key Departments (Assistant Directors-General) and Divisional Directors. For the animal diseases component (hereafter referred to as EMPRES-Livestock Programme, for simplicity), FAO has established a management unit within its Animal Health Service (AGAH) - i.e. the Infectious Diseases-EMPRES Group - to be responsible for implementation of the programme including liaison with the Joint FAO-IAEA Division (AGE) in Vienna for some of the functions sub-allocated there.
The Expert Consultation, which met on 24–26 July 1996, was convened to advise the EMPRES-Livestock Programme on:
strategies and actions necessary to achieve and verify global rinderpest eradication by 2010,
goals, strategies and actions for the other EMPRES high-priority diseases that would allow these diseases to be brought under substantial control by 2010, and
goals, strategies and actions for the implementation of the EMPRES Global Early Warning and Early Reaction Systems.