Distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific – to attend this workshop on establishing an East Asia Office for the Asia-Pacific Forest Invasive Species Network.
Invasive species remain a major threat to forests in the Asia-Pacific region. They are a threat that continues to escalate as human populations increase, as international trade and travel accelerate, as forests are increasingly degraded – reducing their resilience and increasing their vulnerability – and as the effects of climate change take hold, altering the balance of ecosystems.
Their impacts are enormous. The damage and control costs of invasive species in the United States alone have been estimated at US$ 138 billion, annually. As just one example, the Asian long-horned beetle was first introduced into the U.S. in 1996 and was expected to infect and damage millions of hectares of hardwood trees. The USDA Forest Service estimated the costs of eradicating the beetle could be as high as US$365 million dollars over a 15 year programme.
And this is just one in a multitude of threats. The small country of New Zealand, for instance, is actively monitoring for more than 300 unwanted invasive species. The New Zealand government’s annual budget for biosecurity border protection – managing the biosecurity risk associated with international trade and travel – or simply put, trying to keep invasive species out – is presently US$74 million. On top of this, the New Zealand government is spending another US$41 million each year in assessing, containing and reducing the harm caused by unwanted organisms already established in New Zealand.
National expenditures for countries in Asia and the Pacific – especially in developing countries – are hard to identify, but numerous programmes and projects give indications of how much money is being spent. In Fiji, for example, the government is spending US$275,00 on containing and attempting to eradicate the Asian Subterranean Termite. Another US$165,00 is being spent on eradicating the American iguana. Maldives has been attempting an eradication programme for Coconut Hispid Beetle – which was causing annual economic losses assessed in excess of US$100,000. Viet Nam is running an extensive programme to control gall wasp in its eucalyptus plantations.
Quite clearly, some countries in the Asia-Pacific region are spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year in direct expenditure on invasive species and – despite this – are sustaining hundreds of billions of dollars in ecological damage. In other, less developed countries, budgets for prevention, monitoring and management of invasive species are small or non-existent. But, almost certainly, these countries are also sustaining major ecological losses to invasive species – but they lack the knowledge, expertise, systems and especially resources to mount any effective response to these incursions.
A great deal is at stake. And the international, transboundary nature of the problem means that networking among countries has a critical role to play in better managing the invasive species threat. It was with this in mind that, in 2003, the member countries of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission agreed to establish the Asia-Pacific Forest Invasive Species Network. And not surprisingly, over the past 10 years, this Network has been active and successful in playing a variety of important roles, including:
- Promoting exchange of information on forest invasive species among member countries;
- Facilitating access to expertise and resources such as research and education and training opportunities;
- Strengthening capacities of the members to conduct research and management on forest invasive species;
- Increasing coordination and cooperation among member countries by developing regional strategies for forest invasive species; and
- Raising awareness of invasive species as a significant issue throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
But, of course, there is vast potential to do much more. With billions of dollars at stake, I am certain that there are huge wells of financial resources that can be tapped to support an effective network with a proven track record. So, I am delighted to see our Chinese colleagues taking initiative and opportunity in proposing to establish an East Asia Office for the Network.
This development offers significant potential to energize the network, to expand network activities exponentially, and to make the Asia-Pacific Forest Invasive Species Network a central pillar in invasive species activities in the region. Consequently, when our Forestry Group here in Bangkok sought support from the FAO Technical Cooperation Programme Facility to implement this workshop, I was very pleased to grant the authorization.
This small workshop is extremely important – bringing together several of the leaders and drivers of the network’s activities. It will help to set the path for the network for the next decade and beyond. It is my belief that this network should take a very energetic and ambitious path – to become a much larger player in forest invasive species issues. I want to see it grow and flourish. So I urge you to be ambitious in your deliberations – not to take the easy, conservative paths, but to look at ways to vigorously expand.
With these thoughts in mind, I wish you all the very best in your deliberations and discussions, and for a highly successful workshop.