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Rescheduling the regional coordinating committees

18/01/2018

The FAO/WHO Regional Coordinating Committees (RCC) are to be held between September and October 2019.

Tom Heilandt, Codex Secretary, announced the change in scheduling earlier this week.

Why have the RCC meetings been moved?

Tom: Following consultation with FAO and WHO, we feel there is an opportunity to enhance the RCC revitalization process by rescheduling these meetings more closely together in the Codex calendar. This will bring stronger alignment and sharper focus on regional matters and rationalize the Secretariat workload, which is complex for meetings held at 18-month intervals. The new schedule is also part of a wider long-term planning discussion underway to explore (as suggested by members) the possibility to hold committees working on related issues consecutively.

Where do you see committees working more closely together?

Tom: Examples being explored include Pesticide Residues with Residues of Veterinary Drugs, and Nutrition with Food Labelling.

Will the Regional Coordinators’ mandates not expire in the meantime?

Tom: No, this move will have no consequences on the mandates of the Coordinators, who will remain in office until the Commission session in 2020 when appointments or re-appointments will be made based on the recommendations of the RCCs.

When will planning begin for the rescheduled meetings?

Tom: We are in touch with the Coordinators to arrange the new dates, which will be communicated as soon as we have them. My proposal is to hold them from 2 September 2019 to the first week in October. Time is also needed to ensure the same quality of preparation as in the last round. If we had gone ahead and held the meetings this year, it would have been difficult to guarantee this quality while also delivering on the regular Committee schedule, core normative work and forward-looking projects the Commission has asked the Secretariat to undertake.

What regional activities is Codex planning for 2018?

Tom: We have organized a series of regional workshops to train colleagues on the technical tools that have been introduced into the standard-development process. These include our platform for electronic working groups and the online commenting system. These technical workshops will not be affected by the change to the schedule of the RCCs, thanks to the efforts made by my team here in Rome together with the regions themselves and I trust they will also contribute to an improved preparation of the RCC meetings themselves.

When will these events take place?

Tom: The workshops will start in the African region in Nairobi on 6-7 February; Dakar (in French) on 27-28 February. There will be a session for the Latin America and Caribbean region in Paraguay in May. Our Asian and North America and South West Pacific regions will hold workshops in September of this year and we expect to be in Kazakhstan in October. The Food Standards Officers also tell me that discussions are underway with the Near East region, which would complete our global coverage in 2018.

Is Codex also planning events in Ecuador and China?

Tom: Yes. We are delighted to be taking part in a Policy Convergence and Standard Implementation Workshop for the Andean sub-region in Quito in March this year and to commemorate the 50th session of the Pesticide Residues and Food Additives committees we are collaborating with the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment to hold a symposium on International and National Food Standards in Hangzhou, China on 3-4 April.

A busy year in Codex?

Tom: Indeed, both in the run up to our Commission in Rome (July 2018) and in the second half of this year we will be extremely active. I apologize for any inconvenience that the rescheduling news may cause and thank all members and observers for their understanding and cooperation.

If I may, I would also like to take this opportunity to wish the whole Codex community a happy, healthy and successful new year from Rome and I hope that we will have many successful and pleasant meetings in 2018!

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For further questions and information please contact the Codex Secretariat - codex@fao.org.