Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

OPENING ADDRESS
by
He Changchui
Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific
Delivered at

Regional Expert Consultation of the Asia Pacific Network for
Food and Nutrition on FIVIMS Initiatives in the RAP Region and
the Meeting on Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Assessment Methodologies
and Lessons Learned in Asia

FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific,
Bangkok, Thailand
15 November 2005




Distinguished participants
Colleagues from FAO
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is indeed a pleasure for me to address this important Regional Expert Consultation of the Asia Pacific Network for Food and Nutrition (ANFN) on Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information Mapping Systems (FIVIMS) Initiatives in the RAP Region and the Meeting on Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Assessment Methodologies and Lessons Learned in Asia. On behalf of the FAO Director-General, Jacques Diouf, and on my behalf, I welcome you all to the ANFN Consultation and FIVIMS Meeting. I understand that the former is fourth in the series of ANFN Consultations.

I would like to first acknowledge the generous support given by the Government of Japan through the Japan funded Trust Fund Project, known as the Asia FIVIMS Project, for this Meeting. Japan's collaboration and cooperation in FIVIMS and related activities is indeed noteworthy.

I note that we have an impressive group of experts representing various countries of the Asia-Pacific region, our colleagues from FAO (from the regional offices for Asia and the Pacific and Africa and from headquarters in Rome), the World Food Programme (from the Asia Office in Bangkok and from headquarters in Rome), UNESCAP, Bangkok, the Asia Disaster Preparedness Centre, Thailand, and our partners from Japan as well as other experts. I extend a warm welcome to all of you!

Since the UN Conferences of the 1990s, in particular the International Conference on Nutrition (ICN) in 1992 and the World Food Summit (WFS) 1996 and the WFS: five years later in 2002, governments affirmed their commitment to achieving food security for all and the immediate goal of halving the number of undernourished by 2015. The WFS also recognized the need to target people and areas most at risk to hunger and malnutrition, identify their causes and take remedial actions. Almost all of FAO’s activities, in one way or another, have at their base the WFS and its target. FAO believes that the WFS and related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are attainable. The world already produces enough food for all. The problem is that the hungry and malnourished cannot take advantage of this opportunity. At the outset, I would like to point out that measurement and monitoring of what happens in the world is one of the fundamental mandates of the United Nations. The responsibility of FAO is of course to monitor food and agriculture at the global level, but the promotion of these activities at the country and subnational levels is equally important. Such monitoring and measurement applied to the problem of food insecurity or, more specifically to food insecurity and vulnerability, serves the objective of identifying those who are malnourished, food insecure and vulnerable. This is critical for targeted and prioritized action.

FAO has been traditionally preparing estimates referring to the prevalence of undernourishment in connection with its World Food Survey reports. The principal aim of the estimates has been to provide information on the broad dimension of the hunger problem in developing countries. FAO has been key to promoting agriculture, nutrition, forestry, fisheries and rural development, and to facilitating achievement of the World Food Summit goal of eradicating hunger and malnutrition. The Organization is a world centre of food and agricultural information and knowledge and a forum for policy dialogue and forging agreements among nations. Its work in these areas, on standard setting and on provision of global public goods, both underpins and complements the activities that it directly targets in helping to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

It is therefore very appropriate that the theme of this year’s Consultation and Meeting is “FIVIMS initiatives in the RAP Region and Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Assessment Methodologies and Lessons learned in Asia”.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Hunger and malnutrition inflict heavy costs on individuals and households, communities and nations, eroding human capital, reducing resilience to shocks and reducing productivity. Undernourishment and deficiencies in micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) cost more than five million children their lives every year, cost households in the developing world more than 220 million years of productive life from family members whose lives are cut short or impaired by disabilities related to malnutrition, and cost developing countries billions of dollars in lost productivity and consumption.

It is crucial that FAO programmes step up action if we are to deliver on the pledges made at the Millennium Summit. The MDGs with their related time-bound targets and indicators are designed as an agenda for action by countries with support from the international community. FAO currently is reviewing how its own activities can assist countries in the urgent and ambitious effort of meeting the MDGs, and complement the work of UN partners.

An important first step in combating food insecurity is the identification of food insecure and vulnerable groups, the prevalence and degree of low food intake, the quality and quantity of diets and undernutrition among these groups and the causes of their food insecurity and vulnerability. Such information makes it possible to monitor and assess the situation and to design and, eventually, evaluate possible policies and interventions. Unfortunately, such information is lacking in many countries, both developing and developed.

An ongoing assessment of different environmental, economic, food and nutrition and social indicators with identification and monitoring for the information needed to tailor effective relief and rehabilitation measures is urgently required. Taking account of such differences in underlying causes of hunger and poverty and countries’ vulnerability to natural disasters and human-induced crises, monitoring potential hunger hotspots and responding effectively to the crises are also challenges for the FIVIMS Programme.

Tracking weather conditions and crop prospects in regions regularly buffeted by monsoons, droughts and other recurring weather patterns are other critical issues being addressed under the FIVIMS. Many countries that are plagued by unfavourable weather also face difficult economic conditions, with their governments implementing crisis prevention and mitigation programmes and establishing channels for relief and rehabilitation efforts.

Consequently, developing assessment and monitoring tools and methodologies represents a high priority on the agenda for FIVIMS. Many countries have established statistical services and systems that generate and analyse information. Some categories of existing national information systems include agricultural systems, health information systems, land, water and climatic information systems, early warning systems, household food security and nutrition information systems, market information systems and vulnerability assessment and mapping systems. At the national level, strengthened and more integrated food insecurity and vulnerability information systems will provide better and more up-to-date information. The policy-makers and members of civil society concerned with food security issues at all levels can thus facilitate the assessment of policy and programme options for improving nutrition situations. Insights from FIVIMS include recognition that there is a window of opportunity to improve the nutritional status of populations, especially among vulnerable groups of women, infants and young children.

It is urgent that our programmes reach out and facilitate countries to establish quality food insecurity information systems that will provide timely information needed both to formulate effective policies and programmes and to monitor progress on achieving global, national and local goals.

I am particularly pleased that the ANFN and Asia FIVIMS project have collaborated to organize this Consultation and Meeting. The ANFN has its track record of promoting food and nutrition activities with a multidisciplinary and developmental mandate and FIVIMS has provided an excellent opportunity to take this forward. I wish to laud the efforts and progress of the Asia FIVIMS Project in identifying technical entry points for assistance and collaboration in support of FIVIMS establishment and implementation in the region.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that FAO looks forward to your continued cooperation with the ANFN and the Asia FIVIMS Project. I wish you success in your deliberations and I am confident that with your expertise, you will work towards strengthening efforts along with FAO in its commitment towards meeting the goals of eliminating hunger and malnutrition.