Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

WELCOME ADDRESS

by

Hiroyuki Konuma
Assistant Director-General and
FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

delivered at the

Commemoration of the World Water Day
International Year of Water Cooperation

Bangkok, Thailand
22 March 2012

 

Mr Surapol Pattanee, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment,
Mr Gwang-Jo Kim, Director UNESCO Bangkok,
Mr Hongpeng Liu, Chief, Energy Security and Water Resources Section, ESCAP,
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure and honor for me to join you on the occasion of the Commemoration of the World Water Day, and of the International Year of Water Cooperation, and to have the opportunity to share a few thoughts with you.

First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to Dr Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary of ESCAP and her colleagues as well as Mr Kim UNESCO Regional Director and his staff for this partnership.

I am pleased to note, looking at today’s programme, that FAO and ESCAP, are the Lead Organization for the Focus Area on Economic, Food and Water Security of the 2nd Asia Pacific Water Summit jointly convened by the Royal Thai government and the Asia Pacific Water Forum in May this year.
FAO, together with the International Water Management Institute, has also contributed to the Asia Water Development Outlook, which Mr Wouter Arriens of ADB will present later this afternoon.

FAO has also supported ESCAP in the organization of an expert group meeting on improving access to water, sanitation and energy services in Asia and the Pacific, by addressing the water-food-energy nexus.

We work together with ADB, UNESCO and other partners, and enjoy their collaboration. These examples of water cooperation also tell us that water cooperation is not and can no longer be just about water. Water security, economic, food and water security, the water-food-energy nexus, have water at the center but the objectives are human security and environmental sustainability.

Indeed, we believe that we can no longer address food security or water and food security in isolation, and that a multi-sectoral approach is necessary to develop effective, coherent and feasible policies, strategies and interventions for agricultural water management to achieve and then maintain food security, managing economic transitions and transitions towards green growth development strategies.

Does this mean then what we are discussing is trade-offs between food security, energy security, environmental security or economic development. Certainly not. Food security is not negotiable.

Indeed, for the UN System, one of the priority of the post-Rio agenda which was proposed to the international community, under the leadership of UN Secretary General Mr Baan Ki Moon, is to eliminate hunger in our lifetime. it is called “Zero Hunger Challenge” which will be formally launched in Asia and the Pacific region in 29 April 2013 at this ESCAP International Conference Center (ICC). The Asia Pacific is heading to meet the MDG targets of reducing by half the proportion of hungry regionally but some countries, especially those in South Asia, are failing to reach this target. In practice, achieving the MDG will leave the region with 570 million hungry and malnourished. The goal proposed is zero. No trade-off. This is the challenge that we hope that the leaders of the region will re-affirm at the 2nd Asia Pacific Water Summit and I am calling on the Government of Thailand and the Asia Pacific Water Forum, with the support of ESCAP, to put this “Zero Hunger Challenge” forward and encourage all partners to scale up their efforts and turn the vision of an end to hunger into a reality.

Mr Chairman,

What is very clear is that achieving this goal of zero hunger, in the context of growing population, increased demand for water from other sectors and users and the environment, greening of the economies, and threats of climate change will require agriculture to substantially increase its resource use efficiency, adopt sustainable intensification practices and enhance its production of ecosystem services. The irrigation sector will need to modernize and provide much better services to farmers and other water users: cities, industries, and ecosystems. We will need to decouple water pollution for agricultural production. we need to ensure sharing of this benefit of economic gains and prosperity at all levels.

Given the commanding weight of agriculture in overall water use, assisting agriculture and irrigation in undergoing this transition and be successful should be a key priority for international water cooperation, as failure would mean that other objectives of water cooperation could not be met.

Mr Chairman,

I wish to introduce very briefly the Zero Hunger Initiative which constitutes 5 goals to achieve the goal of zero hunger:

1. 100% access to adequate food all year round;
2. Zero stunted children lass than 2 years;
3. All food systems are sustainable;
4. 100% increase in smallholder productivity and income; and,
5. Zero loss or waste of food.

Each of these goals has a very strong water element or provides elements of solutions to address the water challenges that the region is facing. Each of these goals requires international water cooperation or contribute significantly to water cooperation. For instance, considering that between 30 or 40 percent of food is either wasted or lost, a considerable reduction on food waste or losses would reduce agricultural water demand. Food system sustainability is essentially about achieving policy coherence on water, land use, energy and climate climate change and sustainable practices. Providing farmers with decent income opportunities within or outside the agricultural production sector would provide them with other options than relentlessly overexploiting water resources.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Each of these goals has a very strong water element or provides elements of solutions to address the water challenges that the region is facing. Each of these goals requires international water cooperation or contribute significantly to water cooperation. For instance, considering that between 30 or 40 percent of food is either wasted or lost, a considerable reduction on food waste or losses would reduce agricultural water demand. Food system sustainability is essentially about achieving policy coherence on water, land use, energy and climate climate change and sustainable practices. Providing farmers with decent income opportunities within or outside the agricultural production sector would provide them with other options than relentlessly overexploiting water resources.

With these few words, I wish all of us a valuable and meaningful World Water Day. Thank you for your attention.