First ERFAN General Meeting
“ERFAN’s role is to build bridges between Africa and Italy in the research and progress of veterinary sciences through the One Health approach, to promote coordinated action for human and animal health and environmental protection and to foster policy development on public health. Besides highlighting ERFAN’s past and future activities, today’s Assembly is an opportunity to gather synergies on a valuable platform to help bridge the gap between scientific interests and policy priorities. Meetings like this one offer experts and policy-makers a space to share experiences and enable science and technology to reach their full potential for the benefit of mankind”. With these words, the Director General of IZSAM, Nicola D’Alterio, opened the First ERFAN General Meeting, which took place on Monday 4 October in the authoritative Sala Capitolare of the Santa Maria sopra Minerva convent of the Senate of the Italian Republic, with the support of Senator Nazario Pagano from Abruzzo, who gave the institutional welcome address.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Luigi Di Maio, also showed his support for the initiative with a message in which he thanked the IZSAM for the invitation and stressed that: “The pandemic has highlighted the connection between the health of humans, animals and ecosystems and the need for a multilateral approach to address global health challenges. Since the beginning of the emergency, Italy has supported the multilateral response through the ACT-Accelerator and has financed the Covax Facility with more than 385 million euro that have allowed 45 million doses to be donated to low- and middle-income countries. The ERFAN Network provides a structured system of dialogue and cooperation between Italy and Africa, promoting capacity building, scientific progress and technology transfer. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation is actively engaged in supporting the development of zooprophylaxis in Africa, especially through the transfer of know-how”. In this regard, Minister Di Maio recalled the support for the twinning project between the Veterinary Laboratory of Maputo, Mozambique, and the IZS of Abruzzo and Molise. The first session “ERFAN and Science-Policy Interface” was enriched by the contributions of the DG of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Monique Eloit, the Head of the Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development of the European Commission Leonard Mizzi, the Director General of Veterinary Services of the Italian Ministry of Health Pierdavide Lecchini and Laura Aghilarre of the Directorate General for Development Cooperation of the MAECI.
Before the speeches by Rachid Bouguedour from the OIE sub-regional representation in North Africa and Moetapele Letshwenyo from the OIE sub-regional representation in South Africa, Dr. Massimo Scacchia outlined the past and future of ERFAN. The Head of International Cooperation of IZSAM and of the ERFAN Secretariat thanked the members of the working group present in the room, and then went on to illustrate the good work done by the Network, even in the last period marked by the pandemic and the impossibility of moving: “ERFAN is strongly supported by our Ministry of Health and by the OIE, which financed it. Networking, exchanging knowledge and good practices means, for example, exporting and importing safe foodstuffs through accurate controls that individual African countries are often unable to guarantee. It means allowing African centres of excellence to acquire OIE Reference Laboratory status, through training, technology transfer and capacity building through research programmes. This is not scientific colonialism but an inclusive ethical approach of reciprocity, exchange and equal collaboration. ERFAN is structured in different working groups focused on specific health issues and today includes 34 partners from 18 countries.
In conclusion, DG D’Alterio reaffirmed the interdependence between science and politics and the need for ever greater integration: “ERFAN helps build visibility, awareness, credibility, legitimacy and trust around specific scientific issues and encourages participation, exchanges, synergies and cooperation. The policy of the European Union and of our country is constantly striving to strengthen relations between Italy and Africa. Several initiatives have been taken in this direction and the presence today of distinguished representatives of the European Commission, the Italian Government and representatives of the main international organisations, denotes the strong interest in ERFAN’s activities. The pandemic has highlighted the central importance of international cooperation in providing rapid and appropriate responses to global challenges. The global health emergency is undoubtedly linked to the process of globalisation and its effects require governance through various forms of cooperation between states. ERFAN can be an effective catalyst to improve the resilience of communities and states to the rapid challenges of globalisation, to adopt a common strategy to safeguard animal and human health and to protect the environment”.