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New technology for Codex working groups


For the first time Codex members and observers can participate remotely in the plenary discussion of a meeting, providing comments and inputs in real time thanks to the use of webinar technology. This is a milestone in the Codex approach to developing standards by ensuring broader and simultaneous participation. The new tool is in use this week in Santiago, Chile, where Codex members and observers are attending the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CCFICS) physical working group (PWG) on the development of guidance on: (i) Regulatory approaches to third party assurance schemes in food safety and fair practices in food trade; and (ii) Use of systems equivalence

We have asked the Chair of CCFICS, the Chairs of the two Working Groups, Chile, who assisted Australia in organizing the meetings, and remote participants to tell us their first impressions of the webinar technology now being used to increase inclusiveness and strengthen transparency in the Codex standard-setting process.

Fran Freeman

Ms Fran Freeman, Chair of CCFICS

“Progressing our work using this technology has the potential to be a game changer for CCFICS. While there is nothing better than working through important issues face to face, sometimes this is simply not possible for everyone. The use of WebEx means that there is the option for some to participate remotely as opposed to not at all. It is also an opportunity for countries to follow the discussion and debate ‘in real time’ even if they are not able to be there themselves. Our meeting here in Santiago has been our first test of using this technology. It has been a credit to our colleagues in those participating online at very odd hours of the day. Thank you for your commitment!”

Mike O'Neill

Mr Mike O’Neill, Chair of the Working Group on regulatory approaches to third party assurance schemes in food safety and fair practices in food trade

“I was pleased to be at the top table chairing a Codex first – ‘The use of technology to expand participation in a physical working group meeting’. What was unique about this pilot was the ability of those connected remotely to see, hear and contribute in real time. And they did, meaning we emerged from this meeting with a document containing comments/changes from a wider group of countries/members. This was ground breaking and I think we have exceeded everyone’s expectations so would like to congratulate Australia for proposing at CCFICS23 that we run the meeting this way, and Chile for delivering a platform that worked. Finally, a special mention to one of our WebEx contributors Thailand who stayed with us throughout despite it being the early hours of the morning for them.”

Bill Jolly

Mr Bill Jolly, Chair of the Working Group on the Use of Systems Equivalence

“While the dynamism of having members physically present and interacting is powerful, the ability for those are unable to travel to still actively participate is a great step forward. I was appreciative of those connecting with the webinar – even doing so from different time zones, which required them to work either very early in the morning of late into their evening.”

Costanza Vergara - Chile

Ms Constanza Vergara, Chilean Agency for Food Safety and Food Quality (ACHIPIA), Ministry of Agriculture (Chile)

“The new technologies aim to improve and make our lives easier and this is exactly what happened on this occasion, where with this tool the limitations in participation in physical working groups were eliminated and allowed greater participation of members and observers in the elaboration of both documents, since they could not only make comments, but actively participate in real time in the discussion taking place in the plenary. We can´t fail to recognize that the implementation posed a great challenge and we highly appreciate the constant support received from IICA, who also provided us with their video conference platform for this purpose.”

Vigdis S. Veum Møllersen

Ms Vigdis S. Veum Møllersen, Senior Adviser, Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Norway)

“Participating in a PWG via video link-up has been an unexpected positive experience. It has been easy to follow the discussions, both picture and sound worked well. I was also given the floor to comment. But also: The setting is different when participating “outside the room”, you are more in need of a participants list, a clear framework (follow the time schedule) and a good chair. This first PWG certainly had a very good chair, so all in all I am very pleased.”


Mr Pisan Pongsapitch, Deputy Secretary General and Ms Oratai Silapanapaporn, National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (Thailand)

“We appreciate this initiative on the use of webinar tool for Codex PWG. It was valuable for us to follow, and particularly, participate on a real time basis when we were unable to travel to the meeting physically. This can be very useful to Codex Members especially developing countries. We hope the use of this tool will be continued and possibly improved for a more stable and user-friendly participation in future meetings."


Mr Agustin Mattos, Coordinador CCFICS Uruguay, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fishery (Uruguay)

“We are very happy to have been able to participate in this working group with this modality, since for Uruguay, it is often difficult to attend in person. It would have been very useful for us to have simultaneous interpretation into Spanish, since it is always better to work in the mother tongue for the detailed study of the documents. The sound quality of the second day was much better than that of the first day. The experience was very positive and we hope that these instances will continue to be given for greater participation by all countries. Thank you very much for the organization and the good disposition to Chile and to all the organizers.”