Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

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

The fourth meeting of the focal points for the project
Strengthening Regional Data Exchange System on
Food and Agricultural Statistics in Asia and the Pacific countries (RDES)

Novotel Bangkok, Thailand
Wednesday, 5 October 2005




Distinguished participants,
FAO colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to extend to you a warm welcome to this fourth meeting of the focal points for the project Strengthening Regional Data Exchange System on Food and Agricultural Statistics in Asia and the Pacific countries (RDES). The main objectives of the project are to implement an electronics-based regional data exchange system for the participating countries and to strengthen national capacity to analyze data on food and agricultural statistics.

This project – carried out by FAO – was recently extended through 2007 with generous financial contributions from the government of Japan. On behalf of FAO and the participating countries, I would like to express our gratitude and appreciation for Japan’s continued support to food and agricultural development in the region, specifically in the sector of agricultural statistics.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The United Nations, at its recently concluded 60th General Assembly, has recommitted to intensify international effort and cooperation to meet the Millennium Development Goals, noting that the slow progress made in the implementation of the MDGs. According to FAO's latest estimates (2004), the number of hungry people in the Asia-Pacific region has declined by 50 million only since 1996, an average yearly reduction of 6 million.

In order to achieve this internationally agreed goals, in particular, the overarching MDG1, which explicitly recognizes the interrelationship between hunger and poverty and the imperative of reducing both, all stakeholders – the governments, international organizations, donors, NGOs must redouble their effort and reassess their roles and actions.

Food and agricultural statistics agencies should play an important role in this effort by providing decision-makers with reliable and timely information related to agriculture, forestry and fisheries as well as commerce and trade. This information will enable formulation of appropriate policies and actions for the agricultural sector.

FAO has always been at the forefront of promoting and providing technical assistance to member countries in establishing and developing strong agricultural statistical systems at the national, sub-regional, regional and global levels. FAO has continued efforts in support of censuses of agriculture. It will soon publish the World Programme for the Census of Agriculture 2010. This is a most important survey to obtain not only a snapshot of the existing global structure of agricultural, but also a reliable and up-to-date basis for sampling frames.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Food and agricultural statistics in countries in the Asia and Pacific region have undergone dramatic changes during the last twenty years. Although national reporting systems continue to be a major source of data in many countries, sample surveys have gradually been introduced into statistical systems.

With rapid social and economic development in the region and rapid advancement of new technological tools, such as powerful ICT technologies, this project has developed the Regional Data Exchange System (RDES) using Internet technology. Since the project launched the RDES in 2002, the RDES has been supplying the valuable updates to the databases for the region, giving users an opportunity to review at national and sub-national level, information about area, production and yield of major agricultural commodities as well as data about livestock in participating countries.

By using RDES, statistical agencies have been able to better respond to requests from policy makers, planners of agricultural development and data users from the private sector for more detailed, timely and reliable information.

In addition, the project has achieved remarkable results at the country level, such as internet-based access to RDES national and subnational data for all 16 participating countries. I note in this respect that these national pages are regularly updated by the country focal points themselves. The project is also endeavouring to include in RDES data from non-participating countries such as other APCAS members, including from developed countries.

Ladies and gentlemen,

At this stage, it is considered important for RDES to further provide capacity building support to participating countries regarding the analysis of agricultural data on the RDES. I understand that this fourth meeting of focal points for the project will serve as a forum to introduce new project activities, to review the Regional Data Exchange System, to discuss the development of the RDES, and to agree on future outputs.

The meeting offers a timely opportunity to further fine tune your requirements and expectations from the project. Let me reiterate that while FAO is taking the lead in the implementation of this project with support from the government of Japan, the ultimate beneficiaries of the project are the people in the participating countries including the hungry and malnourished whose livelihood will be better from enhanced planning and more effective policies.

I therefore call upon you to join with FAO to make every effort to improve agricultural statistics in your country and the region and to provide reliable indicators to decision-makers for the development of policies and in monitoring and evaluating their effectiveness. Your discussions this week will be beneficial to your countries and the whole region of Asia and the Pacific. It will push forward to enable the formulation of appropriate politics on agriculture and the development of rural areas, while ensuring adequate supplies of food for the population, and the achievement of sustainable growth.

In conclusion, I wish you a successful outcome for the meeting and an enjoyable stay in the city of Bangkok.

Thank you.