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CCCF14 / Taking part virtually in Codex meetings


“No long-haul flights, no jet lag and a chance for team participation are some of the advantages of virtual meetings,” said Pisan Pongsapitch, Thailand one of over 350 delegates currently present at the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Food (CCCF) hosted by The Netherlands from 3 to 7 May 2021.

The virtual environment means a greater opportunity for more interested delegates to participate, who would otherwise not be able to take part in a physical meeting due to travel restrictions or available resources.  Frans Verstraete, European Union, said “experts interested in only one or few agenda items can participate when these agenda items are discussed, while otherwise the burden and cost of the travel would prevent them in such case from participating physically in the CCCF.”

Delegates also agree participation from their home country and the limited hours of meeting per day - usually three - allows them to better combine participation with other professional and personal commitments. “No matter where you are, no matter when it is, you can join the discussion and express your view, with a computer, a microphone, and stable internet connection,” said Lauren Robin, United States.

The comfort of working where the wind is blowing.

Nar Diene, Senegal, also feels the virtual meeting is ensuring there is greater respect for the time delegates speak. “I have the comfort of working where the wind is blowing and no hassle with visa applications,” he said. “With zoom, I have more freedom of activity, less stress and in addition I have all the necessary documentation on hand to consult to give the best of myself in the search for a solution.”

“When you are in a face-to-face meeting, you find it easier to communicate with other participants, and within the delegation”, without having to reply on other social applications, believes Wu Yongning, China. Zoom meetings require more focused participation than face-to-face meetings. “The face-to-face meeting is crucial for networking with delegates from different countries and regions.”

Martin Slayne represents the International Confectionery Association, a Codex Observer. He described how the meeting provides greater visibility for Codex with higher registration levels in virtual sessions such as CCCF. “What do I do differently? I have more space for documents in my office and access to reference materials. I network online but have limited chances to speak with people in a huddle or bring together delegations to try and resolve issues between plenary discussions,” he said.

Less time is wasted.

“Working online allows for broad participation and people who would never participate in a physical meeting have the opportunity to get to know the work of Codex”, working virtually said Ligia Lindner Schreiner, Brazil. “We really have to be efficient, so less time is wasted.”

Planning a virtual meeting

A very large meeting like CCCF can only be run smoothly if discussions are well structured on specific items and when all participants follow online etiquette, ensuring no interference from stray audio and with the secretariat showing key text on screen where required. “On the basis of the experience of the first two days, it is very remarkable that this is the case ensuring a very smooth running of the meeting,” said Verstraete.

“When delegates show respect for others and communication is frank and open there is something positive for everyone,” said Diene.


Learn more

Video interview with Sally Hoffer

Meeting webpage including all working documents

Main photo:

left to right, top row: Frans Verstraete, Lauren Robin, Ligia Lindner Schreiner, Martin Slayne

bottom: Pisan Pongsapitch, Nar Diene, Wu Yongning