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Posted on Mon, 01 Feb 2021, 14:44

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©FAO/ Petterik Wiggers

Rome, 28 January 2021. Despite the undeniable difficulties and changes it posed, the strike of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 did not impede the IPPC Secretariat from achieving some remarkable results and learning constructive lessons for the future. “After a year of challenges and unexpected circumstances, for the IPPC Secretariat it is time to turn the page and look at 2021 as a new starting point”, stressed Mr Jingyuan Xia, Director of the FAO Plant Protection and Production (NSP) Division, during the IPPC Secretariat’s annual meeting on Wednesday, 28 January.

With the nomination of the new IPPC Secretary expected in the second semester of 2021, the extension of the International Year of Plant Health until mid-2021 and the forward steps towards the proclamation of an International Day of Plant Health, 2021 will be another intense year of initiatives for the global plant health community. “During the pandemic, we have realised that if we act as One IPPC we are strong enough to address any type of challenge and adapt with flexibility to new situations”, highlighted Mr Avetik Nersisyan, IPPC Secretary Officer in charge.

This annual meeting focused on the priorities and lessons learned by each Secretariat’s unit. For the Standards Setting Unit the establishment of a new technical panel on commodity and pathways standards and the beginning of a prolific discussion with contracting parties on authorization of entities to perform phytosanitary actions are amongst the most remarkable achievements of 2020.

After having conducted a design-thinking pilot study with Kenya and Madagascar, the Implementation and Facilitation Unit raised the necessity of more proactive e-learning platforms and IT-tools to enhance contracting parties’ capacity development. New programme and activities on pest outbreak alert and response systems and e-Commerce, the establishment of a new Implementation and Capacity Development Committee’s subgroup on National Reporting Obligations and the implementation of the FAO Global Action for Fall Armyworm control are some of the key priorities for this year.

A lot has been done to secure continuity of IPPC governance activities throughout 2020. The action plan of the Integration and Support Team (IST) embraced a wide spectrum of activities ranging from information management and communications to international cooperation. Partnerships and collaborations with food security, biodiversity, and climate change stakeholders and groups were consolidated. In addition, the IYPH brought new attention to plant health as a key global issue. After the extension of the IYPH, efforts are now being made to guarantee a solid legacy of the year beyond July 2021. A study on the impact of climate change on plant health, a youth declaration for plant health and the proclamation of an International Day of Plant Health by the UN General Assembly in December are some key priorities of the IST for 2021.

Widely recognized as a unique case of digital innovation in plant health, the IPPC ePhyto Solution registered a surprisingly rapid increase of on-boarding countries throughout 2020. More training sessions and new cooperative frameworks with external organizations, such as the World Bank and the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation, were possible. In 2021 the ePhyto group aimed at raising sustainable funding, enhancing cooperation with other international standards setting bodies, facilitating on-boarding and organizing new ePhyto Industry Advisory Group’s trainings with selected countries.

The pandemic did not affect only the implementation of IPPC work plan, but posed also new challenges to the IPPC financial management and resource mobilization mechanisms for 2020. The unexpected shift to the virtual modality has drastically reduced the costs for meetings, events, field trips, causing a surplus of the 2.8 percent of the allotment for 2021. Moreover, with the postponement of the 15th session of the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM-15), the year 2020 registered a significant drop of contributions to the IPPC multi donor trust fund. As a result, the Financial Committee in collaboration with the CPM Bureau and the IPPC Secretariat had to revised the work plan and budget for 2021 considering the limitations brought by COVID-19. Finally, Mr Xia and Mr Nersisyan awarded the entire staff with a certificate of appreciation to acknowledge the contribution and commitment demonstrated by the IPPC Secretariat throughout 2020.

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