I wish to convey the warmest greetings and welcome you all to the Regional Rinderpest Workshop, which marks our own history of achievement in this region.
As we prepare to recognize that rinderpest has finally been eradicated from live animals in every last country and territory so are we pressed to develop post eradication strategies which include surveillance, training and contingency planning.
Rinderpest has been one of the top priorities of FAO in its quest to defeat hunger and improve livelihoods through agriculture. As you are aware, rinderpest was taking an enormous toll on food security on three continents. It first swept across Europe in the 18th century and was reported in Southeast Asia and Africa in the 1880s and then appeared in 1980 in South Asia. The disease was killing livestock, impeding trade, and interfering with the preparation of fields and paddies for crop production, and the pumping of water to communities in need. In short, it was clear that agricultural development would not be possible while cattle plague remained uncontrolled.
Since 1994, FAO in partnership with its joint Division, namely the International Atomic Energy Agency and in close collaboration with the OIE has spearheaded the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme (GREP). FAO helped to develop improved vaccines that were inexpensive enough to allow for extensive rinderpest control operations. It went a step further by bringing together people, countries, institutions and donors, resulting in a winning combination of technical excellence, partnerships and collaboration. The programme provided technical guidance to better understand the nature of the disease and the actions needed to contain the virus, eliminate reservoirs of infection, and employ innovative strategies that included vaccination, and the establishment of local disease-surveillance networks and regional networks for diagnostic laboratories. Communities were fully involved in the overall programme objectives, and took part in adapted participatory rural appraisals to hunt for remaining areas of infection.
Many of the countries represented here today have benefitted directly from the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme (GREP) and the technical cooperation projects in which FAO was privileged to contribute in collaboration with partners. And all countries across the globe have benefited from the fact that rinderpest is no longer posing a daily threat to the survival of millions of head of cattle and wildlife, and people’s livelihoods.
Our collective efforts have yielded several important institutional and operational lessons which could be applied in defeating other animal diseases, such as peste des petits ruminants, foot and mouth disease and other zoonotic diseases like brucellosis and rabies. Open dialogue, good co-ordination and trust between partners – these were all indispensable to the success we celebrate today.
Partnerships had translated into networks of experts and country clusters working towards the same goal. FAO and OIE could never have achieved this alone. The partnerships with countries, scientists, individual community leaders, and that of donors, especially the European Union (and its Commission) were key for this success.
Another vital lesson was the value of political and financial support: In several countries, significant progress was possible only after political recognition that it was in everyone’s best interest to eradicate rinderpest as soon as possible.
Many, if not all of us, in this room today will agree that veterinary services are a public good that should be well funded, well prepared, and accountable.
Community involvement is a core component of any future programme and should be ensured from inception through to completion and evaluation. In order to get the fullest community support for future programmes it is recommended that there be maximum publicity and an ongoing exchange of ideas with communities about the success of rinderpest eradication and what this means to livestock owners and the broader society.
As part of effective implementation of a post-eradication strategy, is essential to secure the future, and it is best coordinated through global players such as the FAO and OIE.
The FAO Conference, the highest governing body of the organization, will adopt a resolution recognizing global eradication on 28 June 2011, in the presence of FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf and OIE Director General Dr Bernard Vallat. As we look forward to this historic event, regions all over the world such as the one we will have now in Asia, are preparing for a post eradication strategy that would ensure that the success achieved through our collective efforts so far will lead to lasting benefits.
I take this opportunity to congratulate all of you once again for this success which is a historic achievement of mankind, and proves our unlimited potential to overcome similar unprecedented challenges in the future, if we are united as a team and work together in synergy.
With these few words, I wish you a very successful workshop.