With 60 percent of human pathogens originating in animals, the veterinary profession throughout the world has an increasingly vital role to play in protecting both animals and humans. Societal demands on the profession are therefore high and they can only be met by delivering very high quality services. This qualitative target cannot be achieved unless there are well organised networks of public and private sector veterinarians at national level, supported by well-trained, properly supervised professionals.
The activities of the Veterinary Services are recognised as a global public good because of their role in protecting animal health and welfare, and as key players in the primary production of animals, safeguarding public health and ensuring food safety (milk, eggs, meat, etc.) and the sanitary safety of international trade. The Veterinary Services also contribute to reducing poverty among rural populations in developing countries by helping them to preserve their precious livestock capital, so crucial to their survival.
To fulfil these missions effectively, the whole profession has a duty to deliver good quality services, which implies exemplary veterinary education and a strengthening of the Veterinary Statutory Bodies regulating the profession, all of which must be supported by good governance.
With this objective in mind, the OIE develops specific tools based on the PVS Pathway (PVS = Performance of Veterinary Services), created by the OIE in 2006. At the request of countries, the OIE conducts missions to evaluate and support the performance of their Veterinary Services. By the end of 2013, more than 250 missions, involving over 120 countries, had already been carried out within the framework of the PVS Pathway.
These missions revealed wide disparities in the quality of veterinary education and the validity of procedures for registration, licensing and supervision of veterinarians, due to inappropriate legislation regarding the Veterinary Statutory Body. It was also found that many countries had no such body or equivalent institution complying with the relevant OIE standards (Chapter 3.2.12 of the Terrestrial Code).
A link between poor quality veterinary education and the absence, or inappropriate functioning, of the Veterinary Statutory Body was also frequently observed. The role of a Veterinary Statutory Body is to oversee the professional quality, competence and ethics of veterinarians, all of which are essential for good national veterinary governance.
In the situations described above, the veterinary profession has serious difficulty in meeting societal expectations, particularly with respect to veterinary public health and food safety.
On the strength of these observations and deductions, the 178 OIE Member Countries considered it a priority to promote the harmonisation and improvement of veterinary education worldwide, and to encourage the creation or strengthening of Veterinary Statutory Bodies in all Member Countries.
Towards harmonization of veterinary education worldwide and strengthening of Veterinary Statutory Bodies
Since 2009, a series of OIE global conferences and the creation of an ad hoc Group of experts drawn from all five continents have enabled progress to be made on these topics.
Last December, at Foz de Iguazu (Brazil), the 3rd Global Conference on Veterinary Education and the Role of the Veterinary Statutory Body was attended by over 1000 participants from 110 countries, and brought together representatives of Veterinary Statutory Bodies, deans of veterinary education establishments and Chief Veterinary Officers of OIE Member Countries from all over the world.
To date, the work of the OIE has resulted firstly in the adoption, by the World Assembly of national Delegates of OIE Member Countries, of a chapter for the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code (Terrestrial Code) on the quality of Veterinary Statutory Bodies (Chapter 3.2.12.), and secondly by the Assembly’s support for guidelines on:
- Competencies of graduating veterinarians (‘Day 1 graduates’) to assure National Veterinary Services of quality (2012).
- Veterinary education core curriculum (2013).
These standards and recommendations are relevant to all Member Countries regardless of the prevailing societal, economic and political circumstances.
Towards the development of mutual assistance and sharing of knowledge
As the level of progress required varies among the regions of the world, and in order to improve the support given to countries seeking assistance, the OIE has developed ‘twinning programmes to promote mutual assistance between Member Countries.
So far, two types of twinning projects have been defined on these topics:
- Twinning projects between veterinary education establishments (North-South or South-South) (2013).
- Twinning projects between Veterinary Statutory Bodies (2013).
Building synergistic links between high-level veterinary education and a well organised veterinary profession regulated by stable Veterinary Statutory Bodies will be a priority for all OIE Member Countries.
High quality veterinary education and strengthened Veterinary Statutory Bodies are major pillars of good governance and quality of Veterinary Services worldwide. The commitment of Member Countries in supporting the application of standards and guidelines developed by the OIE is therefore crucial. By protecting animals, we preserve our future.