Ladies and Gentlemen,
Fostering greater cooperation within the Greater Mekong Sub-Region is a key priority for FAO. Therefore, it is my great pleasure to welcome you to Bangkok and to the FAO Regional Office.
Energy is a crucial element of the development puzzle. We all know and recognize the critical importance of reliable and affordable energy, needed to support and enhance nearly every aspect of development – education, health, agriculture, food safety, alternative livelihoods, marketing, and many others.
Bioenergy, and biofuels in particular, presents a unique opportunity to promote rural development in the GMS region. It holds potential as both a source of energy and an alternative market for the produce of the region’s farmers.
But realizing this potential does not come without risks. Unchecked expansion of biofuels could threaten the biodiversity of rural ecosystems and drain scarce natural resources. Biofuels could also threaten the food security of our most vulnerable communities by pushing the price of basic nutrition beyond their reach.
To ensure that such catastrophes are avoided, there is a clear need for cooperation on issues related to bioenergy and biofuels. An important foundation for such cooperation is the sharing of experiences on policies and programme, by better informing each other to gain collective understanding of the potential opportunities and limitations of bioenergy. But we must also cooperate to share expertise capacities in order to seize opportunities. We must take advantage of opportunities for mutual benefit through the trade of bioenergy feedstocks and by promoting appropriate bioenergy technologies. We can also benefit by mapping out strategies that put the livelihoods of our region’s poor and vulnerable communities at the forefront of future policy development and implementation.
ADB, working together with various partners and countries in the region, has helped lay the groundwork for such cooperation with drafting of the Regional Strategic Framework for Biofuel Development. But, there is still much to do to further enhance collaboration and cooperation in the region.
Today, you will discuss some of these next steps. A key element of this process will be to identify gaps in our knowledge and consider where further work is required. You will also hear from my colleagues in FAO about a new project that we hope will better integrate community perspectives into policy-making on these matters.
I believe your efforts today will give new strength to this valuable partnership among the GMS countries and my valued colleagues at ADB, IFAD and other organizations.
Working together, in a truly cooperative spirit, we have the capacity to realize the full potential of secure and affordable bioenergy for rural development and poverty reduction in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region.
I wish you all the best for a fruitful meeting.