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The standards established by the OIE are recognised by the WTO as international reference standards

15 April 1994 90 years of standards

15 April 1994: The signing of the Marrakesh agreement created the WTO, which, the following year, in its SPS Agreement, recognised OIE standards as the international reference rules relating to animal diseases, including zoonoses, that WTO members should use to protect themselves from the introduction of diseases and pathogens, while avoiding unjustified barriers to trade.

With the entry into force of the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) in 1995, the World Trade Organization (WTO) recognised the OIE as the international reference organisation for standards on animal health issues, including zoonoses. As the World Organisation for Animal Health, the OIE is the only international organisation with the scientific expertise and the authority to develop international standards in the field of animal health, including zoonoses.

This recognition is fundamental for the safety of international trade in animals and products of animal origin, because it defines the international legal framework governing the application of OIE standards, guidelines and recommendations.

These standards are prepared by Specialist Commissions, Working Groups and ad hoc groups of experts, bringing together internationally recognised experts on the subject. These standards are adopted by the World Assembly of Delegates (one country, one vote) and are compiled in the OIE’s Codes and Manuals.

The WTO SPS Agreement recognises the OIE as a competent standard-setting organisation and in so doing grants it legitimacy for the development of standards, guidelines and recommendations on animal health and zoonoses, thereby conferring the utmost importance on the standards issued by the OIE.

This agreement is fundamental for the sanitary safety of international trade in animals and products of animal origin and for arrangements to harmonise sanitary measures at a world level.

Where are OIE’s standards published?

The standards developed by the OIE are contained in several official documents: the Terrestrial Animal Health Code (the Terrestrial Code), which contains the standards applicable to diseases of mammals, birds and bees; the Manual of Standards for Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals (the Terrestrial Manual), which complements the Terrestrial Code); the Aquatic Animal Health Code (the Aquatic Code), which contains standards applicable to diseases of fish, molluscs, crustaceans and amphibians; and the Manual of Diagnostic Tests for Aquatic Animals (the Aquatic Manual), which complements the Aquatic Code.
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Who develops OIE standards?

The OIE Specialist Commissions responsible are: the Terrestrial Animal Health Standards Commission (the Code Commission), the Aquatic Animal Health Standards Commission (the Aquatic Animals Commission), and the Biological Standards Commission (the Laboratories Commission).

The Specialist Commissions have access to the latest scientific information and develop or revise OIE standards. They work with top scientists and systematically seek the views of the Delegates of OIE Member Countries on new or revised draft texts. Meeting at the annual General Session, the World Assembly of Delegates of the OIE adopts, by a two-thirds majority, draft texts and updated texts (i.e. texts that have been updated to take into account new scientific information). Each Member Country has one vote. Another Specialist Commission, the Scientific Commission for Animal Diseases (the Scientific Commission), is tasked with providing permanent scientific support for the Terrestrial Code Commission and with the procedure relating to official OIE recognition of Member Country status with regard to certain specific priority diseases.

The scientific credibility of the standards and guidelines prepared by the OIE is also founded on the permanent support that the OIE receives from its global network of 296 Reference Centres.

Transparency in the OIE standard-setting process

The OIE is constantly improving its standard-setting process to ensure that its standards are based on the soundest possible scientific evidence and receive the widest possible recognition worldwide. Thus, all the documents of the OIE Specialist Commissions are published on the OIE’s public website. Appended to these documents are reports of the Working Groups and ad hoc Groups of experts once they have been endorsed. By publishing these documents, the OIE consequently expects to receive comments from all its Member Countries and the organisations with which it has a cooperation agreement, as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other organisations (ONG) interested in its activities*.

The OIE has stepped up its efforts to achieve greater transparency by placing its documents in the public domain, thereby enabling anyone to express their opinion on them.

The OIE encourages the Delegates of its Member Countries to consult the private sector in their country before submitting their comments on the proposals or requests for amendments to existing standards.

Video: The OIE Standard-setting process

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Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and phytosanitary Measures
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