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National Research Council (US) Committee on Achieving Sustainable Global Capacity for Surveillance and Response to Emerging Diseases of Zoonotic Origin; Keusch GT, Pappaioanou M, Gonzalez MC, et al., editors. Sustaining Global Surveillance and Response to Emerging Zoonotic Diseases. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2009.

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Sustaining Global Surveillance and Response to Emerging Zoonotic Diseases.

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7Governance Challenges for Zoonotic Disease Surveillance, Reporting, and Response

“… [I]nnovations in global health governance, rather than merely in creasing investments or incremental improvements in the old systems, are needed to meet the deadly crisis of the new age. These innovations will need to come in the realm of ideas, as the prevailing principles and norms that guide global health governance are redefined and reinvented for a comprehensively and instantaneously interconnected, complex world. They will be needed in the realm of institutions, where new rules, decision- making procedures, resources, and participants are required if the expecta tions and behaviour of the world’s countries and citizens are to converge on the reality, rather than just the ideal, of health for all.”

—Andrew F. Cooper, John J. Kirton, and Ted Schrecker

Governing Global Health

(May 2007)

As previous chapters have demonstrated, there are many challenges in achieving sustainable global capacities for zoonotic disease surveillance and response. One of the more formidable challenges is identifying governance strategies that will result in an effective global, integrated zoonotic disease surveillance and response system. This chapter addresses the challenges in identifying and implementing these strategies: in particular, how societies organize themselves in ways that are effective in preventing, preparing for, and responding to threats to human and animal health. It also discusses some potential options to address these challenges.

Governance tasks arise within each country and through the interactions countries have with one another. The complexity of multiple governance and scientific contexts at a global level is daunting for human and animal health specialists that are unfamiliar with world politics, intergovernmental organizations, and international law, and for policy and legal experts who lack scientific and technical knowledge about zoonotic diseases. Governance challenges can only be effectively met through strong partnerships among the diverse set of experts needed to craft feasible responses to emerging zoonotic diseases.

The drivers underlying the emergence of infectious diseases are in large part ecological, political, economic, and social forces operating at local, national, regional, and global levels. In diverse ways, they physically bring humans and animals closer together. However, these forces also create domestic and diplomatic problems for governments when changes in the disease drivers require new approaches—integrated approaches—across multiple relevant sectors. The integration of scientifically informed strategies to detect, prevent, and control zoonoses within existing governance structures is proving difficult for states, intergovernmental organizations, and nonstate actors.

Several of the committee’s recommendations (see Chapter 8) aim to develop integrated capacities for disease surveillance and response that link human and animal health. These capacities operate from the local to the global level, and need the support of political commitment, normative rules and principles, legal frameworks, and material capacities (e.g., human resources, laboratories) that operate at the same levels.


“Governance” refers to the structures, rules, and processes that societies use to organize and exercise political power to identify and achieve objectives. When we examine governance, we want to know what political objectives societies pursue, why societies select those objectives, and how societies attempt to reach those objectives. Governance includes, but is not synonymous with, government. Societies use governance mechanisms that are not part of the government, for example, when using the market to govern economic behavior. Conflating governance and government means that “global governance” would be impossible because no world government exists.

Typology of Governance

Literature on governance often identifies three governance realms: national, international, and global, which are described in Table 7-1.

TABLE 7-1. A Typology of Governance.


A Typology of Governance.

National Governance

National governance refers to the way in which a country organizes political power within its territory and controls interactions among local, subnational, and central governmental authorities. The allocation of jurisdiction is particularly important for disease surveillance, which is often a state or provincial function rather than the responsibility of the central or federal government. When it is decentralized, achieving harmonized, coordinated policies can be complex. Privatized human health and veterinary services also change the context in which a country’s governance takes place, particularly with respect to managing private economic incentives that may be in competition with the production of public goods. The demands that global disease threats generate make decentralization and privatization in national human and animal health governance even more challenging.

International Governance

The second level of governance is international, typically defined as the regulation of political interactions among countries. Unlike national governance, which is hierarchical, politics among nations is anarchical—meaning that sovereign states interact, but do not recognize any common, supreme authority. It is for this reason that regimes arise: to form the “persistent and connected sets of rules (formal or informal), that prescribe behavioral roles, constrain activity, and shape expectations” of sovereign states (Keohane, 1984, p. 781). Through regimes, such as international law and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), countries govern their relations. Many are able to negotiate to identify common interests, forgo the hierarchy of power that always exists, and cooperate in international governance.

In human and animal health, international governance is apparent in the functioning of IGOs, especially the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)—both specialized agencies of the United Nations (UN)—and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), an independent non-UN organization that is also a reference organization of the World Trade Organization (WTO) (see Box 1-2). International agreements and programs operated by WHO, FAO, and OIE are mechanisms of international governance because they regulate the interactions of states concerning human and animal health, travel by humans, and food-animal trade, among a number of other issues.

Global Governance

The third governance level is global, which refers to efforts by states and nonstate actors to shape the exercise of political power within and among countries. Global governance differs from international governance because it recognizes that nonstate actors are involved in managing and regulating political activities. In other words, sovereign states are not the only governance actors in world politics. For example, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that promote human rights might criticize multinational corporations by using international human rights law developed by states and persuade these corporations to adopt codes of conduct to improve safety and health standards for workers. These codes are instruments of global governance arranged through global political activities among nonstate actors that do not emanate from national governments or IGOs. Global governance strategies cut across traditional boundaries developed in national and international governance.

Governance and Hard and Soft Law

These forms of governance produce diverse normative strategies to channel political power and human behavior to work toward identified goals. Legal experts sometimes categorize these strategies as “hard law” or “soft law” approaches. Typically, hard law is formal, binding law (e.g., a statute in national governance or a treaty in international governance). Soft law, which political scientists include in their definition of “institutions,” consists of nonbinding rules, principles, guidelines, and norms that guide individual behavior (e.g., moral precepts), corporate entities (e.g., codes of conduct), and sovereign states (e.g., political understandings among countries concerning shared problems). Each governance realm contains hard law and soft law. National governments enforce hard law rules through criminal or civil sanctions. However, most hard law in international governance—the rules of international law—has no centralized enforcement. Consequently, whatever enforcement takes place happens in an ad hoc, decentralized manner, such as when a country takes countermeasures against another country for violating an international law. Soft law rules are sometimes more effective than hard law, even when the threat of enforcement is nonexistent. In addition, soft law allows political actors an option for developing collective responses without the high transaction costs of reaching binding agreements. Thus, calling a rule or principle “hard law” or “soft law” does not necessarily indicate which approach is likely to be more effective in any given governance context.

Zoonotic Disease Surveillance, Response Capacities, and Governance

Conducting zoonotic disease surveillance to detect threats to human and animal health that cross political borders and to intervene against those threats requires governance strategies and mechanisms that encourage countries to share information and collaborate on responses. For disease surveillance and response systems to be effective, countries must implement international and global governance approaches within their territories, from the local to the national level, and beyond to the international community, through both formal legal rules and informal modes of collaboration. What this governance enterprise contains, why political actors pursue and sustain the effort, and how strategies, mechanisms, and capabilities are built and sustained are critical questions to address, for the answers will determine whether or not a system can work effectively.

Trends in Human and Animal Health and in Governance: Convergence Amidst Fragmentation

The drivers of emerging zoonotic diseases are bringing human and animal health ever closer together. This convergence, and the increasingly diverse circumstances in which humans and animals interact across the world, creates the need for more centralized, harmonized, and rationalized governance across the multiple sectors within and among countries. One expression of this new understanding and appreciation is the greater collaboration among WHO, FAO, and OIE—which is to be applauded and supported. There remains, however, considerable uncertainty about the mechanisms for this collaboration, the definition of responsibility among the three agencies, and their connections to WTO. Convergence in and of itself does not automatically lead to collaboration and integration at national, international, and global governance levels—where unfortunately, fragmentation of sectors remains the dominant theme.

Decentralization and privatization in the human and animal health sectors are creating additional difficulties for national governance struggling with rising globalized disease threats at the local, subnational, and central government levels. This was highlighted when the Indonesian government refused to provide isolates of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 to WHO without guarantees of a return to the nation of resources, whether it was a portion of the intellectual property or the particular products developed using the strains (Padmawati and Nichter, 2008). This experience raised new questions, such as: “How does one implement a high-priority global health program in a decentralized political state? How does one encourage decentralized problem solving while supporting national disease control programs that demand centralized activities and infrastructure?” (Padmawati and Nichter, 2008, p. 46).

The situation has become even more confused, as the traditional position of WHO as the sole intergovernmental authority for human health has been undermined by the growing involvement of other bodies (e.g., the World Bank and WTO) and the creation of new initiatives (e.g., the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria). In addition, major powers in the international system, particularly the United States, have taken more active and often unilateral roles in global health, substantially affecting international health governance. Examples include the U.S. Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008 (the reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief [PEPFAR]), the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s initiative on Avian and Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response, the Group of 8 global health initiatives, and most recently, the Obama administration’s $63 billion Global Health Initiative, which expands support beyond PEPFAR to address maternal and child health, family planning, and neglected tropical diseases (The White House, 2009).

The landscape of global health governance has also changed with the explosion of new actors and programs, particularly involving nonstate actors (Garrett, 2007). This explosion includes the activities of philanthropic NGOs (e.g., Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,, advocacy and service-providing groups (e.g., Médecins sans Frontières,1 Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases or ProMED-mail), and private, multinational corporations (e.g., development of corporate-driven food safety standards).

Although the increasing involvement of states, IGOs, and nonstate actors has brought new energy, prominence, and funds to global health, the multiplication of actors and initiatives has led to concerns that global health governance is becoming so fragmented that it is dysfunctional, and in need of new “architecture” to align interests, programs, and funding more effectively (Fidler, 2007). The complexity of zoonotic diseases, with the multiple sectors and players involved, exacerbates this fragmentation even more. The extent to which international and global health governance are susceptible to centralization, harmonization, and rationalization remains an open question, especially in light of the world’s transition to a multipolar system (in which multiple states have relatively equal military, cultural, or economic influence)—a context in which multilateralism might become more difficult (National Intelligence Council, 2008). The committee concludes that the convergence apparent in the drivers of emerging zoonotic diseases means that each level of governance has become increasingly important and inter dependent. At the same time the fragmentation in governance, at these same levels, has complicated the development and implementation of strategies to advance governance within each level and to integrate initiatives across all three levels.


Traditional Governance “Silos” for Human and Animal Health

Historically, given their different missions and principal concerns, the approach taken by WHO to develop and adopt the International Health Regulations of 1969 (IHR 1969), which focused on reducing human morbidity and mortality, did not affect how OIE, attentive to reducing the impact of animal diseases on trade and economics, functioned in respect to animal diseases and vice versa. By 1969, experts at WHO recognized that the four legacy diseases subject to IHR 1969—cholera, plague, yellow fever, and smallpox—did not reflect the range of microbial threats at that time (Dorolle, 1969). Given the weaknesses of IHR 1969, the best available governance device to address human and animal health threats was international trade law, which allowed countries to restrict trade when animals or animal products posed a threat to human health (e.g., food safety) or animal health (e.g., contagious diseases threatening food-animal production in the importing country).

Historical obligations to notify WHO or OIE of diseases reflected concerns about the potential of infectious agents to spread through international commerce, causing adverse effects on trade. In fact, the primary purpose of international trade law was not primarily to protect human or animal health but rather to liberalize trade to generate economic growth and development and avoid trade sanctions. It is not surprising that traditional approaches to disease notification by OIE and WHO were neither closely intertwined nor crafted to be sensitive to the drivers of emerging zoonotic infectious diseases. As a consequence, they had little in the way of enforcement provisions. Much of the governance innovation taking place today with respect to human and animal health and emerging zoonotic diseases attempts to break out of traditional patterns and ways of thinking about disease surveillance, prevention, and control and their subsequent effect on human and animal health at the local, national, and international levels, and to provide greater imperatives to action. The International Health Regulations 2005 (IHR 2005) is a binding legal instrument that obligates the 194 countries that have signed the treaty to improve their surveillance and response capacity, and to report promptly to WHO any disease outbreaks representing an international public health emergency. The purpose is explicitly dual, to protect public health and to limit interference in international traffic and trade. Under IHR 2005 outbreaks of smallpox, wildtype polio, new strains of influenza virus and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) are public health emergencies of international concern.

Regime Contributions to Fragmentation and Weakness Concerning Governance of Drivers of Zoonoses

The fragmentation and weaknesses of regimes involving the drivers of zoonoses limit the ability of national governments, individually or through collective action with IGOs and nonstate actors, to prevent zoonotic threats. For example, the legal regime for international trade is also separate from environmental protection law and unconnected to issues regarding population growth. The committee concludes that, given the prevailing fragmented and weak governance, the goal of an integrated human and animal health approach is critically linked to efforts to develop and sustain governance mechanisms to promote integrated disease surveillance and response capa bilities in countries and is dependent on universal implementation of IHR 2005.

International Environmental Law: Governance and Environmental Degradation

Chapter 3 discussed examples of environmental degradation driving the emergence and spread of zoonoses—deforestation, encroachment on wildlife habitat, and climate change. Each is complex and has problematic governance regimes. Environmental governance at the international level, for example, does not have a central mechanism as international trade law has in WTO. International environmental law and other forms of global environmental governance have been largely ineffective in affecting the drivers of climate change, which, in turn, could exacerbate the impact of environmental degradation on the emergence of zoonotic diseases and become subject to the governance principles for human and animal health.

Part of the challenge, particularly at the international and global levels, is that environmental problems exhibit different features that require custom policy solutions for each setting, and involve huge economic considerations. Although deforestation and climate change are linked ecologically, they are different problems politically, the former being national and internal, while the latter is external and involves all nations. In part, this explains why governance activities regarding the environment are not well connected or integrated for the purpose of protecting human and animal health.

Deforestation and Encroachment on Wildlife Habitat

Deforestation and other activities related to exploitation of natural resources also facilitate the encroachment of humans on wildlife habitat and in this manner can promote the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases. Under international law, the state in which the forest or the wildlife habitat is located has sovereignty over such resources, and has the right to develop those resources according to its strategies for economic and social development. Without an agreement, other states potentially affected by the exploitation of that resource have no grounds to intervene in the domestic affairs of the “exploiting” state. Although countries have concluded treaties on the type of problems described above (e.g., desertification, protection of endangered animal species), deforestation has only been subject to soft law instruments, such as the Statement of Forest Principles (United Nations, 1992). In this instance, compliance with soft law has not proved compelling for countries interested in exploiting their forest resources. The same dynamic generally holds for efforts to protect wildlife habitat from human encroachment. Typically, countries potentially affected by the exploitation of environmental resources in another nation are unwilling to provide sufficient resources to offset the costs of not exploiting these resources.

Climate Change

Climate change is a fundamentally different issue than deforestation and encroachment on wildlife habitat. A single country can reduce deforestation or encroachment on wildlife habitat within its territory by pursuing and enforcing conservation policies, but any individual attempt to address climate change is bound to be futile because the threat arises from the actions of many countries. Pollution of the atmosphere, a resource subject to the sovereignty or jurisdiction of no state or group of states, also cannot be addressed by one nation. As the travails of the Kyoto Protocol and the impasse concerning post-Kyoto strategies demonstrate, hard and soft law instruments have not persuaded countries to make common sacrifices to reduce threats related to climate change. The same situation exists with respect to efforts to help developing countries handle the effects of climate change on their economies and societies.

The committee concludes that the weakness of regimes concerning environmental degradation, deforestation, and climate change suggests that pursuing governance strategies in these realms is unlikely to contrib ute much in the near term to preventing and protecting against emerging zoonotic diseases. This reality heightens the importance of having disease surveillance and response capacities in order to detect and intervene in a timely manner against outbreaks.

Other Drivers

Food Security

Chapter 3 also identified food security as a driver contributing to zoonotic diseases. The global food crisis in 2008 highlighted how vulnerable food security is even though, under human rights law, governments are required to take necessary actions to ensure that every individual has access to adequate food (High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, 2008). The impact of food insecurity, of course, is not just its legal implications, or even the specter of starving people. Malnutrition is a determinant of the resistance of an individual to infectious diseases, and starvation forces people to search for alternative food sources, some of which (e.g., bushmeat) increase the risk of emerging zoonotic diseases.

Although counterintuitive, efforts to achieve food security at affordable costs, and thus fulfill the right to health, could lead governments to increase food production at the expense of food safety, animal hygiene, and environmental protection. Ensuring food security at a reasonable cost, in the context of population growth, requires increasing food resources through increased production, harvesting of wildlife, or imports—each of which has implications for emergence and movement of new zoonotic diseases. Without economies of scale in agricultural production, countries are vulnerable to becoming more dependent on imported food and at risk of volatile world food prices, as happened in 2008.

Population Growth and Population Movements

Although states, IGOs, and NGOs have long attempted to craft regimes to control population growth and movement, these efforts have largely failed. The metrics of global population increases, especially in the developing world, illustrate the failure of schemes to limit world population growth. Internal migration from rural to urban areas or populating previously uninhabited areas to exploit natural resources are predominantly, if not exclusively, matters for national governance because of the international legal principles of sovereignty and nonintervention in domestic affairs of other states. Cross-border movements of populations affect international and global governance, but existing principles and mechanisms merely attempt to manage the consequences of population growth (e.g., poverty) rather than addressing the underlying causes of migration.


Four objectives for foreign policy and diplomacy were described as conceptually important innovations for surveillance and response capacities in Chapter 1. What has not been seen until recently are disease surveillance and response capacities relevant to all four of these objectives of foreign policy simultaneously. Governments, IGOs, and NGOs now talk of threats—such as SARS, HPAI H5N1, pandemic influenza due to any influenza virus (e.g., the new triple reassortment influenza A(H1N1) 2009 virus strain sweeping the world), HIV/AIDS, and bio- and agro-terrorism—to national and international security; national economic welfare and power; development objectives (e.g., as threats to the health-related Millennium Development Goals); and human rights and human dignity. The factors that motivate political interest in these realms connect to objectives that governments pursue in their foreign policies and diplomatic agendas. Without these changes, the potential of convincing governments to expend political, economic, and diplomatic capital to improve these capacities for human and animal health is limited.

Strategic Innovations: Priorities for Emerging Zoonotic Disease Surveillance and Response Systems

A second innovation in the past decade has involved a strategic rethinking of what government disease surveillance and response capacities should be. The traditional approach has been to focus on reporting specific diseases to IGOs for disease surveillance purposes, without requiring countries to improve their abilities to respond to disease events. For example, IHR 1969 had rules concerning human and animal health capabilities at ports of entry and exit, but did not reach beyond those contexts. Although IHR 1969 tried to ensure that health measures restricting trade to prevent the spread of the listed diseases had a scientific basis, these provisions did not obligate state parties to develop response capabilities.

Recent strategic thinking about what human and animal disease surveillance and response systems ought to monitor and address, through the application of hard and soft law, has pushed WHO and OIE to attempt to broaden national and global disease surveillance systems to capture more than a limited number of diseases. Disease surveillance experts have also realized that a more direct connection between human and animal disease surveillance capabilities would provide a more comprehensive picture of disease trends of known or unknown potential threats. In adopting IHR 2005, which requires notification of some specific diseases (e.g., SARS, novel influenza virus subtypes) and any event that is deemed to constitute a public health emergency of international concern, WHO member states have agreed that the international surveillance system should be able to address known and unknown diseases, including emerging zoonotic human diseases.

IHR 2005 may help close the governance gap to address human and animal health threats. According to Katz (2009) recent evidence of the unfolding accounts of the detection of and response to pandemic (H1N1) 2009 demonstrated that effective multilateral plans and agreements developed in recent years in response to provisions of IHR 2005 contributed to successful and timely communication, determination of an epidemic of international public health concern, and disease mitigation as the agreement had been designed to achieve. This success also exemplified the need for “sound international health agreements” and served as a clarion “call to action for all nations to implement these agreements to the best of their abilities” (Katz, 2009, p. 1).

OIE members have amended the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code to require notifications of not only listed diseases or infections, but also any “emerging disease with significant morbidity or mortality, or zoonotic potential” (OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code, Art. 1.1.3, §1e). The OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code defines “emerging disease” as “a new infec tion resulting from the evolution or change of an existing pathogenic agent, a known infection spreading to a new geographic area or population, or a previously unrecognized pathogenic agent or disease diagnosed for the first time and which has a significant impact on animal or public health” (OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code, glossary, p. 4).

Many barriers to transparency and transmission of information to effectively address disease threats require solutions. WHO and OIE, together with FAO, are establishing new collaborative disease surveillance strategies. The Global Early Warning System (GLEWS) is a major step for the three organizations to combine information from their respective individual efforts into a broader, more robust capability to identify emerging and reemerging zoonoses more rapidly. GLEWS is a hybrid governance mechanism in that it combines disease surveillance supported by hard law (e.g., IHR 2005, OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code) and soft law.

IHR 2005 also exemplifies strategic rethinking for response capabilities. For the first time in international law on infectious diseases, it contains requirements for state parties to develop and maintain minimum response capabilities in addition to disease surveillance activities (IHR 2005, Articles 5 [disease surveillance] and 13 [response] and Annex 1 [core capacities]). WHO has obligations to provide assistance to state parties to IHR 2005 on request (e.g., IHR 2005, Articles 10.3, 13.6, and 44.2) to address needs from the local to the national levels, providing a comprehensive foundation for improved disease surveillance and response capabilities within countries. Despite these obligations, progress to achieve the “minimum” capacities has been spotty and slow. Without their achievement, the global effort will fall, necessarily, short of the desired goals. This is not so much a limitation of intent, but rather of resources to build the necessary capacity. OIE’s new tool for the Evaluation of Performance of Veterinary Services (PVS tool) is intended to assist OIE members in assessing the quality of their national veterinary capabilities, including the ability to respond to animal disease threats and zoonoses. Use of the PVS tool is voluntary, in contrast to IHR 2005. Nevertheless, the PVS tool represents an OIE initiative that captures new thinking about what veterinary services can do to improve animal health and is a starting point to requiring systematic assessment of the veterinary services of countries.

Operational Innovations: How Can Implementation of Disease Surveillance and Response Efforts Be Strengthened?

Three operational innovations have emerged to change the landscape of disease surveillance and response efforts nationally and globally: the exploitation of information technologies developed for other purposes, the involvement of nonstate actors, and the enhancement of IGO authority in disease surveillance and response governance.

Exploitation of Information Technologies Developed for Other Purposes

The emergence and global spread of new information technologies, especially the Internet, electronic mail, and mobile devices (e.g., cell phones), has transformed disease surveillance in human and animal health. These technologies did not develop to service health needs, but leaders in both health areas have moved to exploit them to increase the speed and flow of epidemiological information to permit earlier detection and verification of diseases and facilitate more rapid interventions to control identified threats.

The capabilities created by new technologies have supported a proliferation of early-warning and disease surveillance networks, described more fully in Chapter 4, including “networks of networks,” such as WHO’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network. OIE’s World Animal Health Information System (WAHIS) provides members with a faster, more reliable way to submit disease notifications and other information. Using the World Animal Health Information Database Interface, WAHIS allows OIE to organize and make available a wider range of information on animal diseases, except in wildlife and companion animals. Information technology has the potential to help overcome the “silo” effect by enabling the collection and sharing of information outside traditional approaches and to increase the effectiveness of early-warning and disease surveillance activities for human and animal health.

As discussed in Chapter 5, the exploitation of information technologies has had another governance impact—changing the calculations of how states handle information about outbreaks. The failure of states to report outbreaks undermines international governance targeted at promoting and protecting human and animal health and trade. Given the potential imposition of harmful trade sanctions, states often have not reported outbreaks in order to avoid the adverse economic consequences that often followed. Until the global governance can address economic losses associated with transparency and rapid reporting, nations reporting outbreaks promptly, as they are bound to do, are at risk of trade and tourism losses, as Mexico experienced in its rapid sharing of information and samples after the influenza A(H1N1) outbreak in April 2009.

Today’s global networking ability has reduced, but not yet eliminated, a state’s ability to hide or ignore outbreaks. Both WHO and OIE search the Internet and other nongovernmental sources for news or indications of disease events and seek verification from countries about potential events. This reality has changed state incentives regarding transparency about dis ease problems and engagement in international cooperation—precisely the directions in which human and animal health experts want governments to follow.

Information technologies have had less impact on response capabilities because response interventions involve more than collecting and sharing information. Although information on the outbreak of HPAI H5N1 in Southeast Asia was known by January 2004, it took WHO, FAO, and OIE until November 2005 to develop a coordinated or joint strategy against this threat. In contrast, the manner in which surveillance, information technologies, and response planning for SARS was coordinated, including the day-to-day public reporting of the progress of the outbreak and the pandemic status updates by WHO, demonstrates how health officials can use new technologies to improve responses to disease threats.

Involvement of Nonstate Actors

A second operational innovation has been the involvement of nonstate actors in governance functions for human and animal health, especially early warning and disease surveillance activities. As described in Chapter 4, nonprofit entities such as ProMED-mail, pioneered the use of information technologies and networks of stakeholders, and transformed early warning and disease surveillance strategies. Bigger and better funded NGOs are following these pioneers and taking nonstate actor involvement to new levels of activity and importance in governance (see Boxes 8-1 and 8-2).

In human health, WHO has integrated nonstate actors into its governance system. In developing IHR 2005, WHO acknowledged that its duty to rely only on government-provided information was a handicap to an effective regime. The 2001 World Health Assembly first authorized WHO to use nongovernmental information (WHO, 2001) to gather and assess information generated by nongovernmental sources. Eventually WHO members raised this authority to the level of international law in IHR 2005, Article 9. Statistics show the importance of WHO access to nongovernmental sources of information. Of the 1,704 substantiated events tracked by WHO from January 1, 2001, until December 31, 2008, 54.8 percent were initially reported by nongovernmental sources (WHO, 2009; see Table 7-2).

TABLE 7-2. Substantiated Events by Initial Source of Official Information.


Substantiated Events by Initial Source of Official Information.

IHR 2005 also permits WHO to verify information it receives from governments, giving WHO leverage to approach governments with “unofficial” information to determine whether reports are rumors or true hazards, and, if they are hazards, how to address them (IHR 2005, Art. 10). With the majority of initial event reports to WHO coming from nongovernmental sources, WHO has many opportunities to seek official verification of information. Less than 9 percent of all disease events tracked by WHO from January 1, 2001, to December 31, 2008 (n = 2,503) were determined to be “unverifiable,” meaning that WHO received no information from responsible national authorities and was unable to assess the events properly (WHO, 2009; see Table 7-3).

TABLE 7-3. Events and Final Designation and Year of Reporting.


Events and Final Designation and Year of Reporting.

Looked at another way, the 91 percent response rate demonstrates that the monopoly states once possessed on what information WHO could access and use has been broken. As one WHO official stated publicly, “Changes to the International Health Regulations in terms of being able to respond to rumours, as opposed in the past to official notifications, have made a huge difference. We are now able to go to a country … to ask specifically what is going on, and that country realises that the world knows a particular country has a problem” (House of Lords, 2008, p. 45). IHR 2005’s inclusion of nongovernmental sources of information and WHO’s verification authority represents an excellent example of global governance for human health.

The circumstances for animal health are different. OIE has experienced greater difficulty in getting its members to comply with their legal duties to notify OIE of specified animal disease incidents. As an OIE official stated, “There are too many instances where member countries haven’t fulfilled their obligations and some serious disease events have not been reported to the OIE, or reporting has been very slow. The situation results in the very real risks of diseases being spread and loss of credibility of countries involved” (O’Neill, 2004, p. 1). In recognition of this in May 2009 through Resolution 17, OIE member states reminded each other of their obligation to make information about relevant animal diseases available to OIE. Since that obligation is already specified in the Terrestrial Animal Health Code and the Aquatic Animal Health Code, concern remains for how, and by whom, this new resolution can be enforced given the limited staff at OIE and its limited presence in the member countries.

OIE has also introduced nonstate actors in their governance with new communication technologies. The International Committee—OIE’s highest policymaking organ—authorized the Central Bureau in May 2001 “to question any delegate of a member country regarding animal health incidents reported in the media (newspapers, scientific journals, ProMED-mail, etc.)” (Jebara and Shimshony, 2006, pp. 435–436). Using this authority, OIE collects and analyzes information from nongovernmental sources, as illustrated by OIE’s participation in networks such as GLEWS that receive and assess unofficial information for early warning and disease surveillance purposes. OIE then seeks verification of unofficial information from OIE members. The number of requests has been increasing steadily since 2002, but OIE members still fail to respond to requests more than 25 percent of the time. In fact, in more than 50 percent of the cases of verification requests, OIE members had not provided official notifications until after a verification request (Table 7-4).

TABLE 7-4. OIE Verification Requests and Responses to Them.


OIE Verification Requests and Responses to Them.

Enhancement of Intergovernmental Authority

IHR 2005 also authorizes the WHO Director-General to declare a public health emergency of international concern, even over the opposition of the affected country (IHR 2005, Art. 12). If the Director-General makes such a declaration, then his or her temporary, albeit nonbinding recommendations, must be issued to state parties on how best to address the emergency (IHR 2005, Art. 15). With these authorities, WHO can exercise power and play a leading role in responding to and shaping country-level responses to declared public health emergencies of international concern.

The OIE regime does not grant similar powers to the OIE Director-General, which may be a major reason for the difference in verification of reporting rates. However, all OIE member states are also member states of WHO, except for Liechtenstein, New Caledonia, and Taiwan. Except for these three entities, all OIE member states under IHR 2005 have already accepted the binding legal obligation to respond to WHO requests for verification of information that WHO receives from nongovernmental sources about disease events in their territories. With this precedent, creating the same binding requirements on reporting to OIE about animal diseases in general and zoonotic threats in particular should be possible. However, the authorities granted to OIE by member states have several shortcomings. In particular:


OIE members states do not have a binding obligation under international law to respond to OIE requests for verification of information received from nongovernmental sources of information;


OIE does not have the policy or legal authority to publicly disseminate information received from nongovernmental sources without confirmation by the affected OIE member state;


OIE does not have the policy or legal authority to declare an animal health emergency of international concern and to issue recommendations about how OIE member states should respond to such emergencies; and


OIE members do not have legally binding obligations to develop and maintain minimum core disease surveillance and response capabilities for risks to animal health, including zoonotic diseases.

Substantive Harmonization: The Same Rules for Human and Animal Health Governance Systems

One potential goal is to ensure that human and animal health governance systems operate under a harmonized set of substantive rules. This would require revising WHO or OIE rules (or both) and obtaining agreement by FAO so that disease surveillance and response in human and animal health contexts operate seamlessly, eliminating gaps that might undermine governance efforts. A high-profile substantive harmonization proposal has in fact been recently made by a British House of Lords Select Committee (HLSC) on Intergovernmental Organisations (House of Lords, 2008). The HLSC recommended that the United Kingdom (UK) urgently pursue through relevant IGOs “the creation of an event-reporting system for animal diseases along the same lines as the new IHRs relating to human health” (House of Lords, 2008, p. 46). The committee explored this proposal to assess its persuasiveness.

The House of Lords Committee’s Recommendation

In comparing the regimes governing human and animal health, the HLSC observed that (1) the two areas “operate separately rather than in an integrated manner”; (2) there is a lack of local animal health capacity (e.g., veterinary services, human and material resources) that impairs animal health surveillance and response efforts; and (3) OIE’s regime does not contain rules that have made IHR 2005 such an innovation in global health governance (House of Lords, 2008, pp. 44–45).

The HLSC concluded that “given that some three quarters of emerging infections in humans originate from animals, this asymmetry between the new IHRs … and the regulations governing the declaration of diseases in animals is worrying” and that “the present disjunction between the management of animal and human diseases are too great for it to be allowed to continue” (House of Lords, 2008, pp. 45–46).

The HLSC was most concerned about OIE’s inability to use nongovernmental information and to seek its verification from OIE members, but it did not mention WHO’s authority in IHR 2005 to declare human and animal health emergencies of international concern and to issue temporary response recommendations. In the end, the HLSC recommended that the UK government pursue the creation of a disease reporting system for animal diseases in the image of IHR 2005. The approach would create substantive harmonization of the rules in the human and animal health governance realms.

In terms of how to accomplish this recommendation, the HLSC “considered whether the new IHRs should be amended so as to cover explicitly threats to human health from diseases which are detected in animals” (House of Lords, 2008, p. 45). The HLSC report contained differing views on whether amending IHR 2005 in this manner was feasible.

Committee Analysis of the House of Lords Select Committee’s Recommendation

IHR 2005 already permits WHO to investigate potential zoonotic threats by authorizing WHO to collect information from any source on disease events of whatever origin that might threaten human and animal health. This strategy captures emerging or reemerging zoonotic disease threats. During the committee’s background research, WHO officials described two examples—one involving Rift Valley fever and one concerning Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever—in which WHO used IHR 2005 to alert health officials of potential zoonotic threats.

In fact, human health officials promoted the governance approach in IHR 2005 by arguing that it would allow WHO to catch new zoonotic diseases earlier and more often than previously. WHO’s response to SARS functioned as a “roll out” of the approach, which was formally adopted in IHR 2005. As a result it requires notifications of any case of SARS or human influenza caused by a new subtype, which reflects concern with zoonotic diseases (IHR 2005, Annex 2). The decision instrument that guides state parties to IHR 2005 in determining whether a disease event may constitute a public health emergency of international concern is also sufficiently robust to catch zoonotic disease emergence or reemergence (IHR 2005, Annex 2).

Given the implicit mandates within IHR 2005 regarding zoonotic diseases, the treaty may not need to be amended to explicitly include zoonotic diseases within its disease surveillance approach. Rather, the more salient concern appears to be fine-tuning disease surveillance to detect animal diseases earlier so experts have more time to prevent diseases from threatening other animals and, potentially, humans. Under this reasoning, the OIE treaties, not IHR 2005, would require amendment.

However, the highest policymaking body in OIE has authorized the organization to collect, analyze, and seek verification of nongovernmental sources of information within WAHIS and as part of its participation in GLEWS. The OIE data in Table 7-4 indicate that when verification of unofficial information was sought between 2002 and 2007, OIE members provided official or unofficial responses to verification requests more often than they failed to respond (providing responses to nearly 74 percent of verification requests made by OIE to its member states). Thus, the HLSC belief that OIE does not or cannot use nongovernmental sources of information is incorrect.

The committee concludes that the performance of OIE member states to provide official notification of disease events and to respond to OIE verification requests is suboptimal for achieving an effective global system of emerging infectious disease surveillance and response. OIE efforts to increase incentives for better compliance and responses need stronger policy or legal measures.

The HLSC report never mentions IHR 2005’s obligations on state parties to develop and maintain minimum core disease surveillance capabilities. IHR 2005 recognizes that disease surveillance capacities are fundamental public goods for which national governments are, and always will be, primarily responsible. A strategy for animal diseases comprehensively informed by IHR 2005 would have to include requirements on OIE members to develop and maintain minimum core disease surveillance capabilities—requirements that OIE agreements do not impose. This change would further underscore how radical a strategy of substantive harmonization on the basis of IHR 2005 would be for the OIE governance system.

The HLSC analysis also did not consider whether IHR 2005 offers a template for improving response capacities in animal health. As described above, IHR 2005 moves response governance closer to becoming an integral part of disease surveillance for two reasons: (1) the regulations only empower WHO to declare a public health emergency of international concern and authorize WHO to issue temporary recommendations to guide countries’ responses to such emergencies; and (2) it mandates that state parties develop and maintain minimum core response capabilities from the local to the national levels.

OIE itself has not developed strong national animal health response capabilities because it relies on OIE members to develop and maintain them. FAO might possess more response capabilities at the country level, but FAO capabilities are currently inflated because of HPAI H5N1 and might not be sustainable in the long run. Dividing responsibilities between OIE (early warning) and FAO (early response) to animal outbreaks would require amendments and policy changes across two IGOs.

The committee concludes that implications of including minimum core disease surveillance and response capacities for animal health at national levels are enormous. In many countries, and particularly in the poorest ones, the disease surveillance and response capabilities of public and private veterinary services are limited and fragmented. Strengthening these capa bilities within and across countries, while integrating them with capacity building for human and animal health, would require major amendments, resources, and attitude changes at the national governance level.

The committee also acknowledged that under a broad-based substantive harmonization strategy, the task of amending OIE treaties to reflect IHR 2005’s rules would be an even more significant undertaking than implied by the HLSC analysis. Whether such a transformation of OIE governance would be feasible is difficult to assess, but the committee was aware that the revision process that produced IHR 2005 lasted 10 years (1995–2005), and perhaps would not have been finished by then without the shock of SARS in 2003. Amending the OIE treaties to produce substantive harmonization with IHR 2005 would not be a quick and controversy-free diplomatic endeavor. However, it would be feasible with sufficient pressure and resources.


The threat that zoonotic diseases currently pose, and will continue to pose for the foreseeable future, counsels against complacency and in favor of strengthening national, international, and global governance strategies concerning disease surveillance and response capabilities—even though progress has been made in governance contexts in and between human and animal health. The strategies that countries, IGOs, and NGOs should pursue is difficult to determine. The answer must balance what reforms might be feasible with what disease surveillance and response capabilities are required of stakeholders. The committee identified three principal reform options that can be explored: (1) structural centralization, (2) structural coordination, and (3) intensified implementation.

Structural Centralization: One Regime for Integrated Human and Animal Health

Unifying disease surveillance and response efforts for zoonotic threats under a single institution and set of rules would be the most radical reform option. Rather than trying to ensure coordination among WHO, FAO, and OIE, structural centralization would empower one of the existing intergovernmental entities to exercise primary responsibility for disease surveillance and early response. This approach would provide a streamlined architecture for global health governance on zoonoses. If established and supported by all three organizations, it would be the most expedient option.

However, such a structural centralization has several disadvantages. First, WHO, FAO, and OIE are unlikely to support this approach; second, the transaction costs of negotiating a single regime would be significant; and third, the time needed for complicated negotiations among the three organizations would be counterproductive given the pressing needs the zoonotic threat creates. Finally, structural centralization in itself would be insufficient because such centralization does not produce the functional capabilities that are needed for surveillance and response for zoonotic diseases. In addition, streamlined architecture might not produce more effective governance because the new regime would disrupt patterns of collaboration currently developing and could have difficulty with tapping into the major existing bodies of knowledge and experience of WHO, FAO, and OIE.

Structured Coordination: Maintaining Core Competencies of Existing Agencies While Establishing Transparent Coordinating Mechanisms

Under this second option, WHO, FAO, and OIE would maintain their own respective mandates, but a permanent coordination mechanism would be established with the authority and provide a means of bringing the technical agencies together in order to act quickly, develop common standards and, in the case of a potential emerging zoonotic disease outbreak, prepare a joint response strategy. This would make permanent the current arrangement under the United Nations System Influenza Coordinator’s (UNSIC’s) office, except that it would not be disease specific. The rationale is that it would be based on the very successful intervention of UNSIC, which, the committee believes, has made a major difference in the overall coherence and efficiency of the HPAI campaign. The coordinating mechanism could be entrusted to UNSIC, making its mandate broader to include all zoonotic infectious diseases and making it permanent (it is currently expected to end in December 2010), or entrusted to another high-level UN agency, independent of WHO, FAO, and OIE. The establishment of a permanent coordination mechanism would still carry some transaction costs for the three technical agencies, but these costs would be much less than in the case of the structural centralization integration option. It would also use the available resources of the technical agencies.

Intensified Implementation: Integrated Human and Animal Health Capabilities

A third option, but not mutually exclusive with the second option, would involve intensifying efforts to implement and integrate WHO and FAO/OIE activities that seek to strengthen local, subnational, and national disease surveillance and response capabilities. The inadequacies and weaknesses of human and animal health systems in many countries is recognized to be a serious impediment to effective planning to prevent, protect against, and control zoonotic diseases (Vallat and Mallet, 2006). Rather than focusing on the structural or substantive aspects of international and global governance, reform could concentrate on implementing and coordinating the obligations and initiatives contained in the IHR 2005 and FAO/OIE strategic plans related to national disease surveillance and response capabilities.

In animal health, intensified implementation would require greater commitment, including financial resources, to advance the strategy of improving disease surveillance and response capacities within countries as proposed by FAO and OIE in their joint strategy on Ensuring Good Gover nance to Address Emerging and Re-Emerging Animal Disease Threats (OIE and FAO, 2007). It would also require a further definition of the respective tasks of OIE and FAO, which could entail a clearer focus of OIE on setting standards as well as a commitment from FAO to support its member countries in the implementation of these standards. For human health, IHR 2005 would provide the strategy for intensified implementation, especially helping developing countries comply with their obligations to develop and maintain core disease surveillance and response capabilities.

Nonetheless, the intensified implementation strategy faces daunting challenges. Concerns already exist about whether WHO members will adequately implement IHR 2005. Although the committee considers this implementation essential for an integrated surveillance and response system for zoonotic emerging infectious diseases, and WHO is undertaking implementation activities, there is not yet a clear and adequately funded strategy for achieving IHR 2005 compliance. WHO does not have the necessary internal capacity to fully focus on IHR 2005 implementation challenges. Sufficient, sustainable financing to implement and improve disease surveillance and response capacity in low-resource countries, discussed in Chapter 6, is a particular strategic challenge.

OIE’s and FAO’s Ensuring Good Governance strategy (2007) also confronts implementation problems that arise from, among other things, the scale of the capacity-building task and the lack of sufficient human and financial resources. As noted earlier, OIE has no internal capabilities to task with capacity building within OIE member states, and most of FAO’s capabilities are focused on the HPAI H5N1 threat and will rise and fall with the perceived magnitude of the threat. More permanent financing mechanisms, as recommended in Chapter 6, are essential to implement this option.

A strategy of intensified implementation that is executed inadequately could raise other dangers for human and animal health governance. The controversy sparked by Indonesia’s decision not to share samples of HPAI H5N1 viruses with WHO for disease surveillance purposes illustrates these dangers. Indonesia questioned the legitimacy of sharing virus samples for global disease surveillance when it, like other developing countries, received little if anything in return. Indonesia has been specifically concerned about its lack of equitable access to influenza vaccines and drugs, which represent an important response against this disease threat. The committee concludes that the HPAI H5N1 campaign, as discussed in Chapter 2 , has shown the strong value and feasibility of enhanced coordination among WHO, FAO, and OIE, as provided by UNSIC. UNSIC’s establishment significantly enhanced the coherence and efficiency of the campaign, and its credibility vis-à-vis the donors.

International Trade Agreements

Supporting Liberalization of Trade in Agricultural Goods and Food Products

Chapter 3 identified trade as a driver influencing zoonotic disease emergence and reemergence. Trade agreements have facilitated the growth of global trade in agricultural and food products. Governance mechanisms that increase trade, such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) under WTO, have proved successful.

The current WTO round of trade negotiations—called the Doha Development Round and ostensibly focused on helping developing countries—has been suspended largely because of disagreements on how to liberalize trade in agricultural products and reduce agricultural subsidies, particularly the significant production subsidies that the European Union and the United States provide to their respective domestic agricultural sectors. Despite this setback in multilateral trade talks, global trade in agricultural products is likely to continue to expand for three reasons. First, WTO agreements facilitate the existing levels of agricultural trade and make any retrenchment difficult to accomplish. Second, progress in the Doha Round will have to be based on agreements to liberalize agricultural trade and to reduce the market-distorting impact of agricultural subsidies. Third, regional and bilateral trade agreements are proliferating and often include commitments to liberalize trade in agriculture products. These regional and bilateral agreements might expand trade in agricultural products despite the difficulties presented in the Doha talks.

Rules on Trade-Restricting Measures to Protect Human or Animal Health

Trade agreements have provided one way of handling problems related to human and animal diseases. In 2002, WHO and WTO jointly published “WTO Agreements and Public Health: A Joint Study by the WHO and WTO Secretariat,” which describes the increasingly coordinated activities on the technical and policy levels for the organizations with acknowledgement of the common ground between trade and health. There was also acknowledgement that their respective policymakers could benefit from closer cooperation to ensure coherence between their different areas of responsibilities.

The WTO agreements explicitly allow governments to take measures to restrict trade when pursuing national health and other policy objectives in order to protect health. The publication discusses the rationale and benefits of IHR 2005 as well as the risk-based preventive approach in FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius (Codex) because the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) formally recognizes the food safety standards, guidelines, and recommendations established by the Codex Commission. “The link between the standard-setting work of the Codex and the scientific input from the WHO is important in that it lends some dynamics to the trade rules” (WTO and WHO, 2002, p. 143). The report also acknowledges the formal mechanisms and activities used for coordinated communication and mutual participation between and among WTO, WHO, FAO, and OIE—such as WTO’s reliance on WHO’s scientific expertise to resolve trade disputes arising from health concerns, the mutual observer status and active participation to provide advice on the SPS Agreement, Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement, Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement, and World Health Assembly meetings; and their mutual participation in regional and national meetings related to capacity building for disease surveillance to detect and control diseases that could pose a threat to health, especially via trade activities.

For example, WTO members can violate GATT if a trade-restricting measure is necessary to protect human, animal, or plant life or health (GATT, Article XX(b)). Under the SPS Agreement, WTO members have the right to restrict trade to protect life or health of humans, animals, or plants under certain conditions (e.g., in the context of food safety for human health) and subject to specific obligations (e.g., the measure must be based on a risk assessment and be supported by adequate scientific evidence).

Concerning food safety, the SPS Agreement provides that WTO members that apply standards established by the Codex Commission are deemed to comply with the SPS Agreement (SPS Agreement, Art. 3.2). The same “safe harbor” applies if WTO members base trade-restricting animal health measures on OIE standards. In this way, the SPS Agreement gives legal significance to Codex and OIE standards that they do not have within WHO, FAO, or OIE. Outside the SPS Agreement, Codex, FAO, and OIE standards are nonbinding recommendations. Pegging compliance with the SPS Agreement on conformity with Codex and OIE standards raises the legal importance of these standards in ways Codex and OIE did not achieve in their own realms.

Thus, GATT and the SPS Agreement increase the legitimacy of trade-restricting health measures when they are harmonized according to international standards. The SPS Agreement allows WTO members to apply standards that are more protective than international standards, as long as the WTO members comply with their other obligations (e.g., conducting a risk assessment, providing sufficient scientific evidence) (SPS Agreement, Art. 3.3). Countries have violated obligations to report human and animal disease outbreaks because they fear trade sanctions or travel restrictions, and their resulting negative economic consequences. Furthermore, countries have often applied trade and travel sanctions in irrational ways, causing unjustified harm to exporting countries. Even though the SPS Agreement requires a risk assessment (Art. 5.1) and a scientific basis for trade-restricting health measures (Art. 2.3), a country experiencing an outbreak can still be damaged by illegitimate trade sanctions and effectively have no recourse. Even the WTO dispute settlement body provides no mechanism for compensating an exporting member for losses caused by unjustified trade-restricting measures because of a perceived health threat (Van den Bossche, 2008).

Problems and Potential: WTO’s Recognition of Codex and OIE Standards

Attempts to cover up outbreaks for fear of economic sanctions are increasingly impractical, as discussed earlier in the chapter. WTO members’ rights to restrict trade for health purposes at levels more protective than international standards allows developed countries, and even private associations of importers (e.g., GlobalG.A.P.2 ), to impose more stringent requirements for agriculture and food imports. Although higher standards might create incentives to produce higher value products and generate increased employment, these standards impose costs on exporters in developing countries that are increasingly difficult to meet (Bobo, 2007). Compliance with international standards may still not provide increased market access when developed country or private-sector standards become more stringent.

The potential in WTO’s recognition of international standards as a “safe harbor” arises because this approach increases the incentives of exporting nations and exporters to upgrade their SPS strategies and capabilities at home and in export sectors. Such upgrades could help the effort to protect against zoonotic diseases by providing incentives to produce food and agricultural products according to the highest internationally accepted standards.

OIE has leveraged the SPS Agreement’s use of its standards to work more with its members on improving their ability to meet OIE standards. The WTO Secretariat has increased assistance to developing countries to help their exporting enterprises meet international standards. Without the lure of export markets, efforts to have countries improve their production processes in this manner would be less effective.

WTO Rules and Integrated Surveillance and Response Capacities for Zoonotic Diseases

Controversies with GATT and the SPS Agreement have focused on whether their rules leave WTO members with sufficient policy space to protect human, animal, or plant life or health from import-borne diseases in the context of expanding and intensifying trade in agricultural and food products. Although important, these controversies do not illuminate how countries, multinational corporations, IGOs, and NGOs should strengthen surveillance and response capacities for zoonotic diseases from local to global levels. National and global action against emerging zoonotic threats could be strengthened by engaging in WTO-based activities that seek to balance human and animal trade and health interests. WTO members could operate these WTO rules more effectively if national, international, and global surveillance and response capacities for human and animal diseases were integrated and robust. However, achieving that objective is not the function of GATT, the SPS Agreement, any other WTO agreement, or any regional or bilateral trade agreement for that matter.

Other Regulatory or Policy Options to Address Zoonoses

Also discussed in Chapter 3, wildlife trade is too often ignored as a significant driver for zoonotic disease emergence and spread. The cultural food preferences and practices of people, as well as increased interest in exotic pet ownership, reinforce its relevance and often create lucrative incentives for increased trading of wildlife. Thus, legal and illegal wildlife trade activities deserve more concerted attention in disease surveillance, prevention, response, and control. Strengthening governance mechanisms on drivers of zoonotic disease emergence and spread would help reduce threats to human and animal health at all geographic levels. Addressing the issue in existing or new international treaties, or in domestic policies, that may directly address health or wildlife trade, or whose activities may have unintended consequences to them, are options to consider.


The current environment to integrate and improve surveillance and response capabilities for diseases of zoonotic origin is fraught with structural problems in the form of governance “silos” for human health and animal health as well as fragmentation and weaknesses in regimes that address the drivers of zoonotic disease emergence and spread. Despite these structural problems, conceptual, strategic, and operational governance innovations have improved disease surveillance and response capabilities nationally and globally. However, the progress enabled by these innovations has not been sufficient to produce the necessary integrated disease surveillance and response capabilities for zoonotic diseases.

The committee’s analysis suggested this objective will only be achieved through a set of national, international, and global efforts focused on the threat of zoonotic diseases. In the increasingly complicated, challenging, and dangerous interconnections between human and animal health, we have no single simple intervention to end the threat. The committee believed, however, that stakeholders could craft a set of integrated, coordinated actions and activities that will measurably improve governance of zoonotic disease threats. The beginnings of this effort are discernable, especially in the increasing collaboration the HPAI H5N1 crisis has created among WHO, FAO, OIE, and other UN agencies and organizations, and the impact this collaboration has at national levels of governance. Aspects of this are also apparent in other governance contexts, such as the manner in which WTO recognizes OIE and Codex standards and the ability of IHR 2005’s disease surveillance strategy to catch zoonotic disease emergence or reemergence.

Although governance challenges can look foreboding, never before has there been so much policy and diplomatic activity focused on zoonotic disease threats. The opportunity to harness the momentum generated by SARS and HPAI H5N1 to create a more permanent governance structure—that is flexible and robust enough to handle zoonotic disease emergence and spread rapidly, efficiently, and effectively—has never been greater.


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Also known as Doctors Without Borders.


GlobalG.A.P. (formerly known as EUREPGAP) “is a private sector body that sets voluntary standards for the certification of agricultural products around the globe. The aim is to establish one standard for Good Agricultural Practice (G.A.P.) with different product applications capable of fitting to the whole of agriculture” (GlobalG.A.P., 2009).

Copyright 2009 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Bookshelf ID: NBK215319


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