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One Health legislation: Contributing to pandemic prevention through law

It is increasingly recognized that human, plant and animal health, environmental health and food security are inter-linked and that the degradation of ecological systems has significantly increased the overall risk of zoonotic disease outbreaks, in addition to having other complex effects on human health. The devastating human, social and economic effects of COVID-19 should force the global community to ensure prevention of another similar event.

The One Health approach provides a platform to work on the interface between human, animal and plant health and their shared environment. Working on the synergies among these areas is key to preventing the outbreak, or mitigating the impact of new diseases. Under a One health approach, economic development and agriculture production pay attention to the impact of anthropogenic activities on the environment, animal health and welfare. Attention is also paid to wild animals and fauna, the protection of forests and biodiversity and mitigation of climate change. A well preserved environment, together with healthy animals, plants and ecosystems are more resilient and better prepared to react against new pathogens or mitigate their impact.

Legislation is a powerful means by which countries and regional organizations translate the One Health objectives into concrete, sustainable and enforceable rights, obligations and responsibilities, paving the way for inter-sectoral collaboration. Legislation forms the backbone of appropriate frameworks aimed at preventing the introduction and spread of pests and diseases. It can contain the key regulatory controls within a sector, establish linkages among the various areas relevant for One Health and facilitate a coordinated implementation by different authorities, all of which are important to achieving the goals of One Health.

See the full list of policy briefs related to COVID-19.