U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Compendium of the OIE Global Conference on Wildlife, Paris (France), 23-25 February 2011


One health and biodiversity issues are global and complex. As such, they require international collaboration if we hope to achieve the goal of minimizing disease impacts on humans and animals, while maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem integrity. This will require motivated teams to overcome barriers to collaboration, by focusing on the proven keys to success and developing networks of biological, physical and social scientists as well as decision-makers and stakeholders. These collaborations will require facilitation by governments and international organizations.

Finally, we must move towards a more holistic, transdisciplinary approach to international collaborations. New forms of knowledge, institutional structure and problem-solving require a new dialogue between science and the humanities. Transdisciplinarity serves to ground the particular biodiversity or emerging disease issue in its ecological, social and health context, and enable decision-makers to reach across agencies and disciplines to strengthen the basis for sustainable ecosystems, health and development policies. We believe that future successes in addressing complex issues such as emerging infectious diseases, loss of biodiversity, and climate change will depend on international collaborations based on transdisciplinarity.


The problems of a global society are increasingly complex and interdependent and, consequently, are not isolated to particular groups or disciplines. Many are unpredictable, emergent phenomena with non-linear dynamics whose effects have positive and negative feedbacks. As new problems develop, and strategies to address them are implemented, uncertainties continue to emerge and unexpected results occur, requiring not only a re-evaluation of one’s strategies, but also of the problem itself. Social scientists term such complex issues, ‘wicked problems’ (6). Many of the environmental problems we face today are characterized by such complexity. Issues and phenomena such as climate change, maintenance of biodiversity, pollution and One Health are not only biologically complex, but are technically and socially complex on a global scale. Traditional, intra-disciplinary scientific approaches are incapable of addressing complex environmental and health problems that transcend scientific, social and technological fields of study. A new approach to these complex problems is required.

One Health problems comprise several sub-problems that fall into the domains of different disciplines and social sectors, introducing a further level of complexity. An excellent example of this is the ecology of Vibrio cholerae, which requires elucidation by microbiologists, ichthyologists, entomologists, ecologists, epidemiologists, environmental engineers and sociologists, as well as medical professionals. There are wide variations in the preferences and values that decision-makers and stakeholders assign to the qualitative, quantitative and economic attributes of alternatives in a decision-making process, such as the one needed to address the management of cholera. By their very nature, these complex problems require numerous groups of scientists, decision-makers and stakeholders to collaborate on developing and implementing solutions.