FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

Regional Workshop of the "Building resilience against agro-terrorism and agro-crime affecting animal health"

Better mastery of standard operating procedures and simulation exercises as emergency preparedness tools.

Tunis 13 to 17 June 2022: In order to support North African countries to develop adequate sustainable  responses to suspicious agro-crime or agro-terrorism events affecting animal health, the consortium bringing together the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), with the support of Canada's Weapons Threat Reduction Program, is continuing to implement a project to strengthen collaboration between veterinary services and law enforcement authorities in the face of potential animal health threats.   

In his closing remarks, Dr.  Rachid Bouguedour, OIE sub-regional representative for North Africa, recalled that agro-crime and agro-terrorism are growing phenomena and require greater coordination between the various services with a view to responding effectively to any threats. Dr. Bouguedour clarified certain aspects of agro-crime in relation to the trafficking of animals and animal products, or the disruption of the natural environment of wild animals causing uncontrolled links with domestic animals or humans, can create cross-contamination, or even pandemics such as Covid-19, or Ebola. Terrorism concerns intentional ideological or political acts, which use animal pathogens to destabilize an animal production chain or even to harm human health in the event of zoonoses. 

The workshop brought together participants from Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia, project focal points, heads of the epidemiological surveillance network, heads of veterinary diagnostic laboratories, quarantine posts and health control workers at the borders. Also taking part in this work were various focal points of the security and law enforcement forces, through heads of scientific and technical police laboratories; military officers responsible for biological threats; National Guard and police responsible for biological threats and customs officials with experience in biological risk management. 

The work that took place over five days was the culmination of the second of multiple phases initiated by the project. A first phase of evaluation of the countries' surveillance systems followed by a phase of training conducted with the various stakeholders. 

The workshop raised awareness of the importance and usefulness of standard operating procedures and their design processes, as well as the use of simulation exercises as tools in alert preparedness and response to agro-criminal and agro-terrorist acts. 

The project also integrates the assessment of the individual capacities of national laboratories in the light of agro-terrorism and agro-crime needs. A simulation exercise will conclude the project to test the communication and cooperation systems between thecities.