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Virtual CAC43 in the hands of Codex Members


Today Codex Members were invited to endorse the first virtual session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of all physical meetings of Codex Committees for this year and the Codex Secretariat together with the Chairperson and Vice-chairpersons of the Commission, Committee chairpersons and host countries have worked actively to find ways to ensure work continuity. With the support of the Codex Members, electronic working groups of subsidiary bodies are continuing their work and a virtual session of the Executive Committee (CCEXEC79) concluded successfully in July. This experience together with the advice of the FAO and WHO legal offices paved the way for proposing that the 43rd Session of the Commission be held virtually.

However, given the Codex Rules of Procedure, convening a virtual session means suspending a number of rules relating to issues such as where the meeting should take place, the manner in which decisions should be taken, and whether or not elections can take place. Endorsing a virtual session of the Commission means Members are also agreeing to the suspension of certain rules. According to Tom Heilandt, Codex Secretary “Some of these rules must be suspended to ensure the Commission can convene virtually such as those indicating that the session must take place in Rome or Geneva where the headquarters of FAO and WHO are located, while others are proposed for suspension due to the challenges of implementing them in a virtual session, such as elections of the Chairperson and Vice-chairpersons”. However, Heilandt also acknowledges that should the pandemic continue, and physical meetings can still not be convened next year, solutions for voting in virtual sessions might also have to be found.

Suspension of rules requires confirmation from two thirds of the Codex membership. This means that in the next couple of weeks at least 126 Codex Members will need to respond positively to the request to endorse a virtual session of CAC43. Guilherme da Costa, Chairperson of the Commission considers that “this is indeed a challenge, but I have every faith that it is one the Codex Membership will rise to in order to ensure that the important standard setting work of Codex can continue despite the ongoing pandemic”.

A Codex webinar held on 28th July 2020, confirmed the general interest in a virtual CAC, but also highlighted the need for clear guidance on how to participate effectively in such a meeting. The Codex Secretariat is in the process of developing such guidance, but in the meantime has also published answers to the many questions raised in the recent webinar.

To register their endorsement for holding CAC43 virtually, Codex Members must log into the Codex website and follow the instructions. Members who have not received the relevant letter from the Codex Secretariat, have forgotten their credentials to access the password protected part of the Codex website or face any other problems are urged to contact the Codex Secretariat ([email protected]) as soon as possible. “The Members must now act to ensure the Commission can meet virtually and to demonstrate that Codex has the flexibility and motivation to adapt to evolving and challenging situations” confirmed Tom Heilandt, recalling his Call to Action to all Members during the recent Codex webinar.

Learn more

CAC43 Webpage

Codex plans for a virtual Commission

Q & A from Codex Webinar on Progressing Global Standards during a Global Pandemic

Top tips for participation in virtual meetings