WOAH (founded as OIE) was created in 1924 by 28 countries, and thus predates the United Nations. The founding countries wished to implement an international agreement that would enable them to work together to try to put an end to the epizootics that were devastating their livestock. In particular, they sought an undertaking from infected countries to inform the others in case of an important sanitary event, thereby enabling them to take protective action. They also wished to have information on the most effective methods of controlling the most dangerous animal diseases.
Today, these objectives of sanitary and scientific information in the veterinary field are still among the priority missions of our organisation, both for diseases solely affecting animals and those also transmissible to humans.
In 1994, the Agreements that led to the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) included specific measures on the management of sanitary and phytosanitary problems (SPS Agreements) relating to the risks posed by trade in animals and animal products. The standards, guidelines and recommendations issued by WOAH were designated as the international reference in the field of animal diseases and zoonoses. The WTO’s choice of WOAH stems mainly from the fact that our organisation’s decisions are exclusively science-based.
The objectives described above all converge hinge on the implementation of the main mission of our organisation: To improve the health and the welfare of animals all over the world regardless of the cultural practices or the economic situations in member countries.
I have had the honour of leading this organisation since January 2016, after having long known and appreciated its role, first as a National Delegate to WOAH, then as Deputy Director General of WOAH from 2009 to 2015.
Dr Monique Eloit
Monique Eloit entered the Alfort National Veterinary School (ENVA – France) in 1977. She graduated as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, having presented a thesis on infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, an early indication of her interest in livestock health management. Dr Eloit joined the State civil service in 1982 as a veterinary inspector.
From the very first years of her work, Dr Eloit had to deal with sensitive issues such as the transport and slaughter of livestock, at both the national level and at European Community level, and participated in the first European negotiations on these topics. In 1992, she was placed in charge of the launch of the programme for the oral vaccination of foxes against rabies, which in several years enabled the disease to be eradicated in France.
During the 1990s, she occupied successively the positions of Assistant to the Deputy Director for animal health and protection, in which capacity she participated in setting up the national agency for veterinary products (ANMV), and Deputy Head of the Department for food quality and veterinary and plant health actions. For over six years she also acted as Chairperson of the Standing Committee of the European Convention for the protection of animals kept for farming purposes (T-AP), at the Council of Europe.
At the beginning of the new millennium, Dr Eloit was appointed Director at the French Food Safety Agency (Afssa). In this capacity she helped to reform the expert committees, supervised national veterinary laboratories with regard to their scientific and technical support activities, and represented Afssa on the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Committee of national agencies. She was also in charge of the “bioterrorism” dossier, which involved making some of the Agency’s laboratories available for controls on suspicious products.
In 2005, she returned to the Ministry of Agriculture, holding three appointments simultaneously, as Deputy Director General for Food, Chief Veterinary officer (CVO) of France and Delegate to WOAH. During the four years that followed, she had to deal with many sanitary crises, including managing the avian influenza crisis, the foot and mouth disease and bluetongue epizootics and various food safety emergencies. Her duties as CVO and Delegate to WOAH involved working at a national level but also at a regional and international level.
After these years of experience, she joined WOAH in 2009, as Deputy Director General in charge of administration, management, human resources and regional actions. In addition to playing a leading role in institutional relations with Member Countries and with international organisations having an agreement with WOAH, she also supervises the activities of the WOAH Regional and Sub-Regional Representations. During these past six years, she has also overseen the reform of WOAH’s accounting and financial procedures and made a significant contribution to the preparation of WOAH’s Sixth Strategic Plan for the period 2016-2020.
Dr Eloit was born in 1958 and is the mother of two children. Her husband is an eminent professor of virology at Alfort national Veterinary School and a researcher at the Pasteur Institute. Dr Eloit’s thirty years of solid professional experience have given her an invaluable knowledge of all aspects of animal health and welfare. She took over as Director General of WOAH on 1 January 2016. By so doing she became the 7th Director General of WOAH, and the first woman to hold the position.
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