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New report charts path towards electronic veterinary certification for animal commodities

A new study, published on 26 July 2020, summarises experiences gathered by several international organisations in moving progressively from paper-based certification to electronic or e-certification

The study, conducted as part of an OIE Project, funded by the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) between 2018 and 2020, collects views of a selection of Member Countries and of partner organisations such as the IPPC, the WCO and CITES on the use of e-certification.

The report “Development of a framework to facilitate e-veterinary certification for international trade on the basis of a single window system” (Project STDF/PG/609) includes feedback from three African countries on their experiences and challenges faced with regard to electronic veterinary certification : eSwatini, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Both the Terrestrial and the Aquatic Code already define (in article 5.2.4.) certification as provided by electronic exchange of data sent directly from the Competent Authority of the exporting country to the Competent Authority of the importing country.

Picture (c) Wikimedia Commons

 

But digitalising certification is more than replacing paper documents by pdf files. It requires a whole new approach to the services rendered, a private sector which drives the demand for these services and cannot be disaggregated from the ongoing processes in other areas of certification and border control towards a single window approach.

In looking at best practices of international organisations to date, the study looked at the following four organisations :

  • Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) : the Commission initiated work on this subject since 2014, with an electronic working group (EWG) currently tasked with revising the Codex Guidelines for Design, Production, Issuance and use of Generic Official Certificates (CAC/GL 38-2001), to include guidance on paperless certification.
  • International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) : the Convention initiated work on this topic in 2011 with the launch of the ePhyto certificates, based on the XML language format. The certificates are channelled through a central server or Hub and interested countries can use an online interface to issue and receive certificates, called the Generic ePhyto National System (GeNS). As of September 2019, the following African countries were testing the Hub : Kenya, Morocco and South Africa. Only Belgium, Indonesia, Norway and the UK are registered users of the Hub. In Africa, the GeNS interface is currently being tested by Ghana.
  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) : The eCITES Implementation Framework provides guidance and specific recommendations for automation of permit procedures in Management Authorities, implementation of electronic data exchange with customs for improved CITES border controls, as well as the Electronic Permit Information Exchange (EPIX) system, to prevent fraudulent use of permits and support automated generation of annual reports. EPIX facilitates the exchange of CITES permits and certificates and, as a central registry, facilitates validation of CITES permit data by CITES Management Authorities and Customs officials.
  • World Customs Organization (WCO) : The WCO Data Model (WCO DM) is a set of carefully data requirements that meet the procedural and legal needs of cross-border regulatory agencies (CBRAs), such as Customs, that control export, import and transit transactions. It is consistent with other international standards and is Single Window compatible. In order to allow countries to progressively absorb (sectoral) procedures, the WCO DM uses the Information Package concept. Information Packages are subsets of the Model that act as hierarchical standard templates linked to a particular policy/legal requirement and business process, such as the cargo declaration, the goods declaration, conveyance reporting, licences/permits, and certificates.

By deriving a pertinent Information Package, either a Base Information Package (BIP) or a specific Derived Information Package (DIP), and translating it into a My Information Package (MIP), countries can then start implementing the WCO DM. One of these BIPs is called the LPCO BIP that describes the use of the WCO DM for electronic Licences, Permits, Certificates and Other forms. It includes the DIP for the OIE Veterinary Certificate for International Trade. The OIE DIP describes the subset of the WCO DM structure of certificates containing essential information relating to animal health and public health.

To ensure that the future OIE framework on e-veterinary certification functions properly, it will first of all need to fit into the OIE objective to safeguard world trade by publishing health standards for international trade in animals and animal products. Assistance to developing countries, to help them understand e-veterinary certification, and assistance to developing and developed countries in their potential use of e-veterinary certification could be achieved by the development of practical solutions supported by collaborations with other International Organisations

Development of a framework to facilitate e-veterinary certification for international trade on the basis of a single window system (Project STDF/PG/609)

Experiences gathered at national and international level allow OIE to envision a work plan to develop e-veterinary certifications standards, avoiding the pitfalls of previous attempts and accompanied by a set of technical support tools, aimed at developing countries, which – as stated by the authors of the study – “are expected to assist developing countries in their potential use of e-veterinary certification to better engage in international trade of animals and animal products”

Such workplan includes several internal and external mechanisms, developed in parallel, such as :

  • To introduce in both the Terrestrial Code and the Aquatic Code additional guidance on the transition from paper to electronic format on the basis of a single window system.
  • The OIE to work with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) which already publishes the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), on a standardised e-veterinary certification technical solution for export and import on the basis of the OIE Derived Information Package from the WCO.
  • To cooperate in the framework of e-veterinary certification with the WCO Secretariat and relevant experts on enabling inclusive digital collaboration between government agencies in the context of a Single Window environment by examining and further aligning the existing WCO DM DIP with OIE standardised data requirements for the Veterinary Certificate for International Trade; and recognising the WCO DM DIP for the said Certificate as an international standard to facilitate the development and implementation of e-veterinary certificate exchanges through a Single Window system.
  • To explore with Codex Alimentarius the possibility of incorporating the Codex Derived Information Package from the WCO in the suggested development of a standardised e-certification technical solution for import and export by UNCTAD. Incorporation of the Codex Derived Information Package would extend the functionality of such a technical solution to food certification by competent authorities.
  • To explore with the IPPC Secretariat the exchange of electronic veterinary certificate through the IPPC Global ePhyto Hub and the potential for expansion of the Generic ePhyto National System (GeNS) to be used for international trade of animals and animal products.
  • To investigate the possibility of a partnership with the World Bank in its efforts to implement the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) by making available for developing countries standardised e-veterinary certification technical solutions for export and import that might be developed by UNCTAD.

Electronic SPS Certification at SENASA (Argentina). Picture (c) STDF (SENASA) 2018.  All other pictures (c) P. Bastiaensen (oie) 2019, unless mentioned otherwise. 

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