With representatives of concerned parties in Europe and central Asia, the first dialogue meeting of the One Health partner platform took place on 22 November in Budapest, Hungary, with the aim of addressing health threats to animals, humans, plants and the environment in a more effective and coordinated manner.

Participants gathered to discuss benefits and challenges associated with applying the One Health approach and the role of partners and their expected contribution to the platform.

The dialogue was initiated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WHO during World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (18–24 November).

Adhering to the theme of the week for 2021 “Spread awareness, stop resistance”, the platform provides an opportunity for United Nations agencies, international organizations, financial institutions, civil society, academia and the private sector to initiate a thematic dialogue on One Health issues in the countries of Europe and central Asia. It aims to take stock of the region’s emerging (and re-emerging) health threats at the human–animal–environment interface, provide evidence, share lessons learned and facilitate networking around successes, better identify challenges, and foster innovation in working with the One Health approach.

“The challenges are multiple in this region and many of them, notably the COVID-19 pandemic, relate to One Health – the interconnected nature of human–animal–environmental health – highlighting the need for better coordination across sectors to protect health and prevent disruption to food systems,” said Vladimir Rakhmanin, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia.

“One Health must be at the centre of AMR [antimicrobial resistance] global and regional solutions, since the drivers of the issue lie in all health sectors: human health, animal health, plant health, environment health and food security. Recent analysis of the OIE global data on antimicrobial agents intended for use in animals confirmed a downward trend in the use of antimicrobial agents in animals in a significant number of countries in recent years. However, we still need to invest in innovation and science to provide alternative solutions, such as biosecurity and vaccines, to strengthen accountability and national, regional and global governance,” pointed out Dr Budimir Plavsic, the OIE Regional Representative for Europe.

“The interdependence of animal, human and environmental health is clear. COVID-19 was a wake-up call. The need for operationalizing the One Health concept, has never been greater. But WHO can’t do that alone. Neither is it something WHO, FAO, OIE and UNEP can do single-handedly. To address health threats originating in the animal, human and environment interface, input and support from a wide range of stakeholders and resource partners is required,” underlined Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

Through the platform, partners can also share tools that could facilitate the practical implementation of the One Health approach in priority areas at national level to maximize impact.

The COVID-19 pandemic – call for bold action

The current pandemic, the spread of bacteria that are resistant to antimicrobial treatment, and transboundary animal diseases are only a few striking symptoms of a malfunctioning system. To promote a healthy and sustainable planet, urgent and bold actions are needed across sectors.

Through strengthened collaboration in Europe and central Asia, FAO, OIE, UNEP and WHO have jointly taken further steps for better governance in this area.

Operationalizing the One Health approach is essential to better prevent, detect and control diseases that spread between animals and humans, to tackle AMR, to reduce food safety risks, to prevent environment-related human and animal health threats, and to combat other challenges.

Implementing this approach is critical for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The partner platform is a practical element of the regional One Health Coordination Mechanism, established earlier this year as a commitment to foster the implementation of the One Health approach at both the executive and technical levels.