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ECOWAS Online Training on Codex EWG Platform and Online Commenting System, 12th, 14th – 15th October 2021


Hakim Mufumbiro, Uganda
Regional Coordinator CCAFRICA

A total of 14 Member States within the Economic Community of West African States (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cote D’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo) participated in an online training on Codex Electronic Working (EWG) Platform and Online Commenting System (OCS) as one of the capacity building activities to enhance the skill and knowledge of stakeholders in the region in order to better engage and participate in the Codex activities. Considering the impacts that have been occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic on every sphere of life, Codex stakeholders in the ECOWAS region had to adapt quickly to the new environment, implementing the use of online tools to actively participate in Codex work and ensure consumer health.

The Codex Secretariat has held training sessions in different regions and regularly showcases Codex online tools at the Commission and during technical committees. Webinars for individual countries tailored to users’ requests have also proved popular and invaluable for those delegations who are not always able to attend Codex events.

Up to 45 stakeholders drawn from Government, Private sector and Consumer Associations participated in the three-day training event that was facilitated by the Codex Secretariat and Regional Consultants and supported by FAO and WHO Regional Offices for Africa.

The training provided deeper insights into Codex and its work mechanisms highlighting the procedures and processes for development of Codex Standards, scientific advice as the basis for setting of standards and the direction of international standards development as espoused in the Codex Strategic Plan (2020-2025). Detailed practical application of the EWG Platform and OCS was the central focus of the training with the objective to spur regional engagement in the Codex process through the established structures. The Parent Organizations (FAO and WHO) also provided highlights of the interventions being undertaken in the region with specific focus on capacity building initiatives related to Food Safety and Codex. Key areas of focus within the context of the African Union were shared in the training by AU-IBAR more especially the ongoing process for development of the first Food Safety Strategy for Africa as well as the opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area and the importance of Codex Standards in enhancing intra-Africa trade. The training also presented an opportunity to share the priorities of CCAFRICA (2020-2022) most especially activities identified in the work plan for implementation of the Codex Strategic Plan.

The Codex Secretariat emphasized that the Codex website is the starting point towards participation in the work of Codex. The website contains diverse information on Codex including general and historical information, Codex standards and procedures for participation. Also deployed on Codex website are dynamic tools, which enable the Codex Community to participate in the ongoing work of Codex, and these include Circular Letters (CLs); Online Commenting System (OCS); Electronic Working Group (EWG) platform; Online registration system (ORS). Indeed, the website is constructed to fulfil the pillars of global standardization - openness, voluntary participation, and use of the latest available information (in this case scientific information).

The trainees, several who were interfacing with the tools for the first time found the online training very educative and eye opening. There was interest to cascade such training activities to other wider stakeholder categories within the respective Member States as well as through the Regional Economic Communities in Africa. One of the lessons learnt was that there exists massive opportunities of engaging actors in the region by leveraging available technologies.

It is important to effectively participate in Codex activities and have the ability to significantly contribute to the discussions and ultimately impact and influence the outcomes. It is through participation that the needs of developing countries like those in the ECOWAS are listened to and possibly considered during the development of Codex documents and related deliverables. The representatives of the 14 Member States committed to further engage stakeholders at the national level with a view to widely disseminate the use and application of the Codex online tools.

The CCAFRICA Coordinator underscored in the training the important need for all the Member States in the ECOWAS Region to take advantage of the planned capacity building events in the region in order to increase their visibility and engagement in the Codex processes. He finally emphasized that the training activity held contributes to Goal 4 in the Codex Strategic Plan that relates to facilitation of the participation of all Codex members throughout the standard setting process.

Requests for webinars are always welcome by the Codex Secretariat. Send an email to [email protected].