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Codex begins intense series of regional consultations


After a break of almost three years the six Regional Coordinating Committees (RCCs) will meet again this year. From the beginning of September until mid-November, the intense period of regional meetings kicks off the post CAC42 meeting calendar.

In recent years concrete efforts to revitalize the RCCs have been made to position them as key forums for discussion on food safety issues. The RCCs provide an opportunity to work together and improve coordination at regional level on Codex standards and strengthen engagement in the overall standard-setting work as well as share information and experiences on running food control systems. The nature of these exchanges makes the RCCs unique. 

Unlike those of other Codex committees, the hosts of the RCCs change every two meetings. The designated regional coordinators not only chair the RCCs but play an important role between sessions in promoting Codex in the region and leading the development of many of the items on the RCC agenda. The regional coordinators also serve on the Executive Committee (CCEXEC), and have a role to advise on the views of countries and recognized observers in their regions making them a conduit for regional issues and concerns to be brought to the attention of the Codex Alimentarius Commission -through the RCC reports as well as the executive arm. While the responsibilities are noteworthy, the rotating nature of the regional coordinator role means that it is a time limited commitment.

RCs 2019

Regional Coordinators, left to right Kenya, India, Kazakhstan, Chile, Vanuatu, Iran

This year, five of the RCCs - Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Near East and North America and South West Pacific (NASWP) will be proposing new regional coordinators for confirmation by the Codex Alimentarius Commission in July 2020. Regional coordinators can really shine a spotlight on food safety and Codex in the region. Commitment to take on the role of regional coordinator means that a country already has engaged national policy makers on the importance of food safety and international standard setting. Building on this means that at the end of their term as RC, the country has worked to bring the region closer together on food safety and Codex standard setting, resulting in safer food and greater market access that benefit everyone.

Implementation of a common agenda

At its 74th session the CCEXEC agreed to a harmonized agenda for the RCCs. The 2019 round of meetings will be the first time that this is implemented. While the agenda can still be tailored to the needs and priorities of each region, the harmonization of the RCC agenda also serves to illustrate areas of common interest among the regions and highlights opportunities for sharing experience and information. Each meeting will kick off with a keynote presentation of a critical food safety issue for the region, before tackling emerging issues, following up on The First FAO/WHO/AU International Food Safety Conference and the International Forum on Food Safety and Trade and addressing the use of Codex Standards. The agendas will also look to the future of Codex and in particular the Strategic Plan 2020-2025 and its implementation. Codex is a member-based and member-driven organization so the future direction of Codex and how it wants to evolve in the next five years really depends on the input and active engagement and actions of countries. Therefore, discussions on this cannot be purely wishful thinking but must focus on the pragmatic while still retaining some aspiration.

Regional standards a critical part of RCC agenda in some regions

The standard setting work of Codex also remains an important topic on the agenda of the RCCs. For some regions, namely Africa, Asia, Near East and NASWP this means developing regional standards.  In fact, this year NASWP will attempt to complete its first regional standard. For other regions, identification and discussion of the standards under development in other Codex Committees that are particularly relevant for that region is a critical part of the RCC agenda, and aims to promote more active engagement of countries in the broader work of Codex.

At the end of the day the RCCs serve to highlight that setting standards and managing food safety is a team effort. From the preparations, which are led by the regional coordinator with the support of the Codex Secretariat, FAO and WHO, through to the hosting and running of the meeting and subsequent follow-up involving all countries, the regional meetings, like Food Safety, are everyone’s business.


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