The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) is an intergovernmental treaty established in 1951 to protect the world's plants, agricultural products and natural resources from plant pests. The IPPC is ratified by 184 contracting parties that collaborate to develop, adopt and promote the application of International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs) as a main tool to safeguard global food security, facilitate safe trade and protect the environment.
The ISPMs are at the heart of the IPPC. They provide the basis for countries to make national legislation, guidelines, and measures to protect their plant resources from harmful pests. ISPMs ensure that these national or regional-level measures are scientifically justified, encourage fair trade and are not used as barriers to trade of plants or plant products or other regulated items.
The IPPC is the only international convention and reference organization dedicated to developing plant health standards. It is recognized as such under the World Trade Organization (WTO's) Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement).
The Convention also makes provision for contracting parties to develop standards related to storage places, packaging, conveyances, containers, soil, and any other organism, object or material capable of harbouring or spreading plant pests, particularly where international transportation is involved.
The IPPC is deposited with the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and is administered through the IPPC Secretariat. Since it was established, the IPPC has been amended twice, most recently in 1997.
The IPPC, through its Secretariat, facilitates contracting parties to implement the convention and apply harmonized International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs) to protect important agricultural crops and wild flora and preserve ecosystems and biodiversity that plants need to thrive. In a world of eight billion people, farmers have a tough job to continue producing food for a growing population. But 40 percent of this global crop yield is lost to plant pests. The ISPMs therefore guide countries to make legislation and build phytosanitary systems to prevent, monitor, detect, report, and control pests, reduce the impact of pests on crop production and food security, and limit interruptions in global trade of plants or plant products.
There are 46 ISPMs, 31 Diagnostic Protocols, 45 Phytosanitary Treatments on plant health issues such as pest surveillance, pest risk analysis, regulation of wood packaging material in international trade, pest inspection and reporting, international movement of seed and the international movement of wood. Through its different structures and with the full support of the IPPC community, the IPPC Secretariat develops plant health standards, facilitates their implementation by conducting e-learning courses and producing guides and training manuals to explain the ISPMs. It promotes collaboration and exchange of plant health information and knowledge, supports contracting parties to develop or strengthen their phytosanitary systems and technical capacity, and gives contracting parties a forum to discuss and take common actions to protect plant health.
As the pathways for plant pests to cross borders increase and become more complex, the IPPC Secretariat supports countries to implement ISPMs, which create the basic principles for preventing the risk of pests spreading, disrupting international trade of plants and plant products such as seeds and affecting income streams for farmers and governments. Through ISPM 7 (Phytosanitary certification system), countries receive guidance to develop export certification systems to produce valid and credible phytosanitary certificates. Such a certificate confirms that a consignment meets the phytosanitary requirements of the importing country and is therefore safe to bring into its territory. The IPPC ePhyto Solution simplifies this process further by enabling trading countries to exchange phytosanitary information electronically, error-free and in near real time.
When countries comply with the convention and apply phytosanitary standards, they help avert potential pest harm to crops as sources of food, flora, economies and livelihoods of those who most rely on crop production and trade, especially in the face of climate change. Climate change, associated with increasing temperatures and erratic rainfall patterns, is creating ideal conditions for plant pests and invasive species to spread rapidly, even to areas that they would not ordinary be found.
Adherence to the standards contributes to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their targets, primarily in achieving zero hunger, protecting the environment and biodiversity, managing the impact of climate change on plant health, and easing safe trade to protect economies and livelihoods.
The Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM) or the Commission, is the IPPC’s main governing body responsible for promoting the achievement of the convention’s objectives. It reviews the state of plant protection in the world and the actions to control the introduction and spread of plant pests worldwide. The commission establishes and reviews relevant institutional arrangements and procedures for developing and adopting international standards. It holds annual sessions to review work progress of the CPM Bureau, IPPC subsidiary bodies and the IPPC Secretariat.
The CPM Bureau is a seven-member team composed of representatives from the seven FAO regions, namely: Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Near East, North America and Southwest Pacific. The purpose of the Bureau is to provide guidance to the CPM on the strategic direction, financial and operational management of its activities in cooperation with others as approved by CPM.
The Bureau meets at least twice a year in between sessions to monitor and assess the progress of the IPPC work programme vis a vis the IPPC Strategic Framework 2020-2030.
The Strategic Planning Group (SPG) provides strategic perspective to the work of the IPPC community and supports improvement through the provision of recommendations and advice to the CPM on any issues referred to it or issues related to the functions of the SPG.
The Financial Committee (FC) advises on financial matters and resource mobilization, ensuring financial transparency, appropriateness of financial decisions and their integration into the work of the IPPC Secretariat. The FC, which meets annually, has five members including at least one member of the CPM Bureau.
The Standards Committee (SC) is responsible for managing the development of International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs) and overseeing the standard setting process. The SC convenes at least once a year to review and revise draft ISPMs, monitor their development, ensure they are of consistent quality and use harmonized terms agreeable by the contracting parties. It has 25 members from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Near East, North America and Southwest Pacific and observers.
The Implementation and Capacity Development Committee (IC) helps build the technical capacity of contracting parties to efficiently adopt the convention, standards and CPM recommendations. The IC has 14 members including seven regional representatives, five technical experts, a representative of the regional plant protection organizations (RPPOs) and a representative of the IPPC Standards Committee. The IC convenes twice a year to review implementation of its work plan.
The IPPC Secretariat, established in 1992 and hosted at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome, Italy, implements the IPPC Strategic Framework and supports the CPM, CPM Bureau and subsidiary bodies. The core work of the Secretariat involves coordinating governance activities of the CPM Bureau and subsidiary bodies, developing and promoting adoption of standards, coordinating implementation and capacity development activities, supporting communications and fostering international cooperation. The secretariat also organizes CPM annual sessions and meetings of IPPC subsidiary bodies.