Later this month, Barbados will again make history as it becomes the first country in the English-speaking Caribbean to host a major international veterinary and animal health conference.

The 21st Conference of the OIE Regional Commission for the Americas will take place at the Accra Beach Hotel, Rockley, Christ Church, from Monday, November 26, to Thursday, November 29, and will bring together over 100 participants from member countries across the globe.

The OIE, known as the World Organisation for Animal Health, is still referred to by its French acronym Office International des Epizooties (OIE).

It is the world body responsible for animal health and the prevention and control of animal diseases. The members also set international standards and guidelines for animal health and trade in animal products. Barbados joined the Organisation in 1999.

Senior Veterinary Officer at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Veterinary Services Department and Local Coordinating Committee Chairman, Dr. Mark Trotman, said the meeting would be an opportunity to bring some of the major issues affecting small island states to the fore.

"It is a chance for us to highlight the issues that are of importance to the Caribbean and focus the world’s attention on issues that are relevant to small islands in the areas of animal health, veterinary public health, and international trade… It also allows us to present some of the work we are doing in Barbados from a veterinary and scientific standpoint," he pointed out.????????????????

In this regard, Dr. Trotman said there would be technical and scientific presentations on the renowned Barbados Black Belly Sheep, the work of the Fisheries Division pertaining to the invasive lionfish species, and developments at the Primate Research Centre, among others areas.????????????????????

The Caribvet Network of animal health, which looks at disease surveillance throughout the region, will also be on the agenda.

Dr. Trotman also indicated that the opportunity for local animal health and agricultural officials to network with their regional and international counterparts would augur well for the future of the sector.

Several other international agencies will be in attendance at the four-day conference including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank,???? the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Inter- American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), various non-governmental bodies as well as other organisations involved in animal health and production.

According to Dr. Trotman, the meeting will also allow Caribbean countries that are not OIE members to realise the benefits of joining such an organisation. Among the advantages he mentioned would be the ability of the region to have a stronger voice internationally.

"How to approach certain issues in relation to animal health, accessing markets; how to address a disease situation; these are catered towards the large bloc countries…We have not taken advantage of the opportunities to make strong representation in the international arena. As such, standards and guidelines are set without due consideration for the impact on small island states.

"These are the types of areas where we have to make use of our membership to push our issues. What I am really hoping that will come out of this meeting is that we encourage other CARICOM countries to join because we have seen how blocs of countries are much stronger than a single nation," the Senior Veterinary Officer said.

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