Acting today to prepare for tomorrow

animal health sector_future of veterinary services
The World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) celebrates 100 years of improving animal health and welfare worldwide. To commemorate this milestone, WOAH is hosting a Forum, "Is WOAH ready for the future?", covering possible future scenarios related to animal health and welfare at the upcoming 91st General Session in Paris in May 2024.

WOAH’s current focus on antimicrobial resistance, animal welfare, wildlife and aquatic animals raises the question of whether its founders could have predicted the Organisation’s current state a century ago. In a constantly evolving world, WOAH is increasing its flexibility and capability to respond to new and emerging complexities, such as shifting climatic conditions and technological progress, identifying opportunities and challenges that support the Organisation’s resilience. These factors will be discussed at the Forum

How does a century-old Organisation prepare for what is to come?

With important opportunities and challenges lying ahead, exploring alternatives for future preparedness is crucial. Through the revision of current governance structures and opportunities, the Forum will explore WOAH’s past, present and future. The Forum will take place on 27 May during WOAH’s 91st General Session, and will be livestreamed online. 

Monday 27 May 2024 
Time Session 
11:00 am – 12:30 pm   Session 1 “Reflecting on the Present” (livestream) 
2:00 pm – 4:00 pm  Session 2 “Journey to the Future”  
4:30 pm – 6:00 pm   Session 3 “Acting Today to Prepare for Tomorrow” (livestream) 

To imagine WOAH’s potential role in these animal health and welfare landscapes, stakeholders were involved in a Participatory Foresight Project (PFP) launched in 2023 to mark WOAH’s 100th Anniversary. Participants used foresight methods to investigate opportunities and disruptions, encouraging discussions on complex issues and exploring possible scenarios impacting WOAH and Veterinary Services in the 21st century.

As part of the broad range of participants, there were students from the International Veterinary Students Association (IVSA). Their contributions brought fresh insights to the creation and exploration of alternative scenarios. The next generation of animal health professionals is faced with complex interconnected issues that will need to go beyond what is currently taught in veterinary schools and may include the use of artificial intelligence, data management and analysis, cybersecurity, environmental science, communications, critical thinking, leadership and diplomacy. 

As the potential next generation of WOAH experts and Delegates, having IVSA representatives at the Forum is to inspire long-term thinking and to spark conversations in the World Assembly of WOAH Delegates in the shaping the of future of how the Members contribute to the Organisation and how the Organisation serves its Members.  

What lies ahead is unpredictable. Therefore, the exploration of potential challenges presents numerous outlooks and future scenarios, each with a chance for realisation. This uncertainty shows the power of foresight practices, extending decision-making and pathway options.  

A review of WOAH’s Basic Texts, a set of foundational documents that outline the Organisation’s mission and governance structure was also made to assess their suitability for meeting the demands of Members and international organisations. At the Forum, the Assembly and partners are invited to be immersed in different future scenarios to explore WOAH’s potential role in those future landscapes to help with decision making about WOAH’s Basic Texts.

A hundred years have passed, and looking into the future can inform the decisions we need today. WOAH remains fully committed to actively responding to present and emerging complexities, and improving animal health and welfare worldwide.