FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

FAO session to address climate change impact on animal diseases

Animal diseases that spread across national borders are nothing new – but how those diseases behave under a changing climate and more erratic weather is cause for concern. With support from its member nations, FAO is ramping up efforts to keep transboundary animal diseases at bay, starting with a dedicated session of the European Commission on Agriculture, opening here today.

For two days, the fortieth session of the Commission brings together more than 150 participants from about 40 countries – representing government, civil society, farmers’ associations, and the expert community – to focus on this overarching topic. A review of FAO’s work on gender issues and social protection will be another important item on the agenda.

“The ECA has served as a forum for technical debate and exchange since its establishment in 1949,” said Reuben Sessa, Secretary of the Commission and FAO climate change and energy coordinator for Europe and Central Asia. “But this time, a focus topic was selected at the request of our member countries. This will allow more in-depth discussions and, for the first time, has enabled governments to send specific experts to attend the session.”

Livestock and climate change
The Europe and Central Asia region is defined by extremely heterogenic agro-ecological environments and animal production practices. Herds and flocks graze on the Central Asian steppe and the slopes of the Balkan Mountains. Livestock are also raised intensively, in Central and Western Europe. The most densely populated mid-latitudes – bridging Asia and Europe – provide an “epidemiological Silk Road” for the spread of transboundary animal diseases in both directions, according to one of the session’s background papers.

The most densely populated mid-latitudes – bridging Asia and
Europe – provide an ‘epidemiological Silk Road’
for the spread of animal diseases.

Avian influenza, African swine fever, and lately lumpy skin disease – to name only a few – are already present in the region, putting pressure on animal and public health systems. Climate change can alter the behavior of pathogens or their vectors (the insects that transmit them), accelerate the spread of diseases, or even lead to the introduction of new diseases.

“It is FAO’s recommendation that we take a regional approach,” said Sessa, “using modern technologies for monitoring and diagnostics, and adopting effective national policies could prevent or help control livestock epidemics.”

Another livestock-related phenomenon with rising economic and societal costs is antimicrobial resistance – an unfavorable situation where drugs meant to protect animals and humans against infectious diseases become less effective. Antimicrobial resistance can develop naturally through adaption to the environment, but today it is developing at an increased rate. This acceleration is due to excessive or inappropriate use of antimicrobial medications – for disease prevention or as growth promoters.

As with transboundary diseases, more extensive data collection and analysis are needed to form a basis for informed decision-making, better strategies, and action on antimicrobial resistance. FAO is ready to support coordinated surveillance, early warning, detection, risk analysis and response.

Leaving no one behind
Participants in the European Commission on Agriculture session will get an update on how FAO’s Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia has been progressing in the area of gender equality and social protection in rural areas. The regional gender equality strategy 2016-17, the first of its kind, will serve as a baseline document as the Commission discusses possible next steps and expected results.

As outlined by the FAO gender assessment series, produced for selected countries, gender inequalities are often rooted in social practices, and perpetuated by rural women’s hindered access to resources and assets. Raising awareness of the problem is seen as the first step, but one that should be combined with economic empowerment policies.

Development of FAO’s regional gender equality strategy for the 2018-2022 period will get under way soon. Discussion during the Commission’s session this week is guided in part by a Joint call for action from participants in a high-level FAO conference held earlier this year in Vilnius, on promoting socially inclusive rural development in Europe and Central Asia.

The European Commission on Agriculture meets every two years, between sessions of the FAO Regional Conference for Europe, and serves as a technical preparatory meeting for the Regional Conference. Membership is open to all Member Nations in FAO’s Europe and Central Asia region. Civil society and farmers’ associations may attend as observers.

27 September 2017, Budapest, Hungary