OIE liaison office opens at Texas A&M

A photograph of a keen-eyed Wallace’s flying frog hangs alongside other National Geographic photos Monday as dignitaries mingle in the main room at the Agrilife Center on the Texas A&M University campus while attending the formal ribbon-cutting of the World Organisation For Animal Health’s new liaison office.

Dave McDermand/The Eagle

College Station is now home to the World Organisation for Animal Health's first liaison office outside of its headquarters in Paris.

Representatives from the nearly century-old international organization gathered Monday morning at the AgriLife Center on the Texas A&M University campus to celebrate the official opening of the office, which will be located with and hosted by the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases, with which the organization has collaborated for the past three years.

The World Organisation for Animal Health -- or OIE, an abbreviation of the organization's French name -- is an intergovernmental organization with 181 member countries in its network. It was founded in 1924 and is responsible for improving animal health and welfare through the regulation of international markets. 

Attendees to the event included university, state and federal officials who shared their excitement for what the collaboration could produce.

"We are honored to host the office here within the Texas A&M University System," said Melissa Berquist, director of the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases. "Our modern agricultural economy is dependent on two things: Freedom from disease and trade." 

She said she believes OIE's decision to locate its new office in College Station "has built upon not only its previous relationship with [the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases] but also gained access to a premier research institution that complement's OIE's science-based standards."

"With these proven partnerships, the establishment of this office is sure to bring new and exciting opportunities to all parties," Berquist said.

The organization has three main objectives under its strategic plan as it looks toward 2020: controlling animal health risk; ensuring transparency in communication; and reinforcing the resilience of animal health systems. 

Craig Nessler, director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, said these priorities are well-matched with the resources and expertise offered by Texas A&M -- imbuing the partnership with an even greater potential for international impact.

"The breadth of the [Texas A&M System] provides the perfect home from which to foster new collaborations, exciting research and future partnerships to support OIE's mission of improving animal health worldwide," Nessler said. 

OIE deputy director general Jean-Phillippe Dop said during Monday's ceremony that College Station was the best choice to locate the U.S. office due to the "synergies and great opportunities that we can find here."

He said with the opening of the new office, he is hopeful to see an enhanced partnership develop with the U.S. and all the resources and expertise it has to offer.

"The opening of a liaison office is a first for the organization," Dop said in a statement. "This new U.S.-based office will open additional lines of communication between the OIE and U.S. veterinary and public health parties, allowing for better collaboration when it comes to disaster preparedness, emergency planning and animal disease surveillance."

John Clifford, chief trade officer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. delegate to OIE since 2006, said OIE bringing its first liaison office to the U.S. is an important step in helping the U.S. prepare for the future.

"I think it's important to Texas, to the United States and to the world," Clifford said. "To have it here on this campus, I couldn't think of a better place. ... With Texas A&M here, it brings a unique opportunity to bring [the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases], the veterinary school and the agricultural school together as a whole and to help USDA and OIE internationally to continue to be developed and move forward in issues of animal health."

To learn more about the World Organisation for Animal Health, visit www.oie.int.

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