Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

Talking Points for High Level Policy Dialogue on
APEC’s Engagement with Multilateral Organizations

 Singapore, 17 February, 2009
He Changchui
Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

 


A) Establishing a Context

a.  The raison d'etre of the Organization is food security. According to the preamble to FAO's constitution, the aim of the Organization's work is to contribute towards an expanding world economy and ensure humanity's freedom from hunger. This is to be done by raising levels of nutrition and standards of living; securing improvements in the efficiency of the production and distribution of all food and agricultural products; and by bettering the condition of rural populations.
b.   There is no doubt that the Asia-Pacific region has made tremendous progress in strengthening food security. But neither can it be denied that serious problems remain:
c.   Asia and the Pacific is home to the largest concentration of poverty stricken and undernourished people in the world with 583 million people, or 63 percent of the world’s total, still unable to access sufficient food for sound health and growth. The countries of this region also have some of the highest prevalence of underweight among young children in the world. In many countries of this region, more than 40% of children under 5 are underweight, implying that will have to bear a lifetime burden since undernourished children are likely to grow up to be undernourished adults.
d.   There are a number of emerging trends that are likely to affect food security in this region in the coming decades. Rapid population and economic growth, increasing competition for scarce natural resources, especially good quality arable land and water, particularly in the context of growing demand for bioenergy, the threat of climate change, and of transboundary animal diseases such as Avian influenza and the associated demand for food safety, all these challenges will ensure that food security continues to be a serious concern in this region now and in coming decades.

 

B) Networking with stakeholders

e.   A meaningful reduction in the number of undernourished people in this region is inconceivable without building broad alliances and partnership with all those who are seriously concerned about overcoming hunger and promoting sustainable agricultural development. It is true that formal responsibility for eliminating hunger rests with national governments and their legislative bodies. However, success also requires the full engagement of the international community and civil society in all its dimensions, working together in complementary ways towards a common goal.
f.   To this end, FAO has set up an international Alliance against Hunger which aims to promote the emergence of mutually beneficial partnerships among members, including governments and parliaments, international organizations, NGOs and civil society, communities and local institutions, the private sector, and even concerned individuals, in order to mobilize political will, technical expertise and financial resources in the fight against hunger.
g.   Examples of FAO's effort in promoting networks include the enduring relationships built between FAO and regional and international networks. Regional networks include the cross sectoral issues such as the Asia and Pacific Commission on Agricultural Statistics (APCAS), through which FAO bringing together senior statistics officials from 25 member countries of this region, who work on agricultural statistics. Through years of effort, a number of self supporting networks devoting to sectoral issues have also been established with FAO’s initial support and /or as exit mechanism to sustain FAO’s field project support. These include: the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI) which aims to promote the development of national agricultural research centres (NARS) in the Asia-Pacific region through inter-regional and inter-institutional cooperation and Asia-Pacific Rural and agricultural Credit Association (APRACA). The Regional Network for the Development of Agricultural Cooperation in Asia and the Pacific (NEDAC) -- the network for the development of agricultural cooperatives in the Asia-Pacific region -- is an umbrella organization, hosted by FAO on its premises in Bangkok. These network maintain close partnership with FAO.
h.   FAO also participates in international networks, notably the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which is a strategic alliance of members, partners and international agricultural research centres. FAO's cooperation with the CGIAR dates back to the 1960s and covers governance, strategic planning, normative and technical cooperation and information exchange. It is most extensive in crop production but also addresses crop enhancement, management of land and water resources, plant protection, seed systems, and conservation agriculture. The Science Council of the CGIAR is hosted by FAO on its premises in Rome.
i.   FAO also works increasingly extensively with NGOs and CSOs, such as ANGOC, the Asian NGO Coalition, based in Manila. As much as possible and as far as resource is available, we co-organize technical activities with NGOs. During the Tsunami disaster relief operation and rehabilitation, we worked closely with NGOs in Indonesia and Thailand for project implementation.
j.   FAO is in the process of creating an international panel of experts as well as an expert network to provide opportunities for managed, informal cooperation.

 

C) Developing partnership with REOs

k.   Besides networks, FAO also works in partnership with regional economic organizations and international financial institutions on food security, sustainable agriculture and rural development. Though these partnerships often build on networks, the major difference between the two is that partnerships have specific themes and being result-oriented. FAO has been working in partnership with the SAARC secretariat to develop a regional strategy and programme for food security, which was approved by the SAARC Summit. On 3 August, the Summit issued the “Colombo Statement for Food Security”. FAO has also helped formulate an integrated ASEAN food security policy in partnership with the ASEAN secretariat and is working in partnership with the Pacific Island Cooperation (PIC) and other organizations on projects under the Special Programme on Food Security.
l.   Partnerships with national organizations working on rural development are also important. FAO has developed partnerships with NIRD -- the National Institute for Rural Development -- an autonomous body under the Indian Ministry of Rural Development based in Hyderabad, India -- and CIRDAP, the Centre for Integrated Rural Development in Asia and the Pacific, located in Dhaka, Bangladesh. An example of the fruits of FAO's collaboration with these organizations is the Handbook produced jointly by FAO, NIRD and CIRDAP for trainers on participatory local development. Lessons from the Handbook have been incorporated into NIRD's curriculum and are in great demand.
m.   These partnerships will be further strengthened through events such as the planned World Food Summit in 2010.

 

D) Enhancing cooperation between FAO and APEC

n.   FAO has a long history of building successful network, forging partnership and promoting collaboration with governments, regional economic organizations and financing institutions, as well as NGOs. We are ready to share specific experience and cooperate with APEC secretariat and its member economies, most are the FAO members. Our joint study with IFAD in the region on pro-poor agricultural policy formulation and implementation, with ADB on GMR agricultural sector development, with ASEAN secretariat on harmonization of shrimp export standards are but a few examples demonstrating how organizations with different mandates, geographical coverage and institutional structures can work in a complementary manner in different modality, such as through joint programming, or pooling resources and or exchanges of knowledge and expertise.
o.   Cooperation with APEC can take places at multiple levels --global, regional and national. Examples of policy issues where cooperation between APEC and FAO is likely to be mutually beneficial, including i) international agricultural trade issues, issues relating to animal health, e.g. avian influenza, ii) plant diseases, iii) food safety and iv) fisheries. These are all issues where cooperation across national borders is essential.