The Joint FAO–OIE–WHO Global Early Warning System for health threats and emerging risks at the human–animal–ecosystems interface


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation
for Animal Health (OIE), and the World Health Organization (WHO) recognize a joint responsibility to minimize the health, social and economic impact from diseases arising at the human-animal interface by preventing, detecting, controlling, eliminating or reducing disease risks to humans originating directly or indirectly from domestic or wild animals, and their environments1.
An important aspect of efforts to mitigate potential health threats at the human-animalecosystems
interface is early warning, supported by robust risk assessment to inform decisions, actions, and timely communication between agencies and sectors responsible for human health, animal health, wildlife, and food safety. In 2006, in response to health threats such as H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the three organizations consolidated efforts to establish
a Global Early Warning System for Major Animal Diseases Including Zoonosis (GLEWS).
GLEWS became one of the mechanisms used by the OIE, FAO, and WHO together for monitoring data from existing event-based surveillance systems and to track and verify relevant animal and zoonotic events. This mechanism has provided a global platform that brought together expertise, data, functional networks, operational systems and stakeholders to improve interorganizational coordination and support to Member countries for detecting, preventing and controlling threats to health and the food chain. This mechanism of the tripartite partnership has reinforced complementarities, synergies and harmonization between the organizations and has reduced duplication and gaps. GLEWS embodies a unique cross-sectoral and multidisciplinary collaborative tool in addressing health risks at the human-animal-ecosystems interface.
Over the years since its establishment, GLEWS has become a powerful mechanism to bring
together the information and expertise existing in the three organizations and associated
networks. However, it is also clear that it could be improved by conducting more crosssectoral,
iterative risk assessment when issues emerge at the human-animal-ecosystem
interface that would benefit from the agencies working together. The following additions
would significantly strengthen the system’s ability to support and direct the management
of identified risks:

  1. generation of ad hoc and planned risk assessments aimed at providing timely guidance on prevention and supporting the response mechanisms of the three organizations;
  2.   monitoring of wildlife disease events to improve understanding of risks to people and livestock;
  3. development of timely and appropriate messages contributing to tripartite risk communications towards informing and actively engaging key partners, Member countries and the international community;
  4. linking with other key networks and mechanisms along the farm-to-table continuum.

1 The FAO-OIE-WHO Collaboration. Sharing responsibilities and coordinating global activities to address health risks at the animal human-ecosystems interface. A tripartite concept note. April 2010