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 the
Training and Awareness Raising Workshop for
Regional Officers of FAO and UNEP and Directors of Coordinating Centers
of the Basel Convention on technical assistance for the implementation of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC)
procedure on hazardous chemicals and pesticides in international trade

18 to 22 October 2004
Bangkok, Thailand




Distinguished representatives from the UNEP Regional Offices in Bangkok and Bahrain
Distinguished representatives from the Basel Convention Regional Coordinating Centers,
Dear representative of the Secretary of the Rotterdam Convention on PIC, Mr. Bill Murray,
FAO colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Jacques Diouf, and on my own behalf, I am honoured to welcome all of you to this Training and Awareness Raising Workshop for Regional Officers of FAO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Directors of Coordinating Centers of the Basel Convention on technical assistance for the implementation of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure on hazardous chemicals and pesticides in international trade. I greatly value that the workshop is held in the Asian region. I also recognize the important contribution of the workshop to further safeguard human health and the environment in Asia and the Pacific from the harmful effects of hazardous chemicals.

I should like to extend a special welcome to our colleagues from UNEP Chemicals in Geneva, from FAO Headquarters in Rome, and the resource persons representing organizations in West Africa and Asia. I should also like to thank the Secretariat for the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (IPC) for their hard work. Finally, I should like to recognize the participation of the Designated National Authority (DNA) from Thailand.

At the 1996 and 2002 World Food Summits the UN Millennium Summit in 2000, countries pledged to reduce by half the number of hungry people by 2015. While there has been some success in some countries, the current annual reduction of 8 million people a year has to more than double to 20 million if the stated goal is to be met by 2015. In addition, food production in developing countries needs to double, and some 80 percent of this increase will need to come from land that is already under production.

It is furthermore clear that the necessary intensification of crop production will impact on human health and the environment. Indeed, the increased intensification of agriculture and food production cannot be met without chemical inputs. The fundamental task is thus to realize the projected yield increases with minimal negative impact on the environment and human health. In other words, we need sustainable intensification. While more research is certainly needed, a lot can be achieved with proper adaptation and adoption of existing technologies. An important consideration will be how to avoid the mistakes of the past and to fully benefit from the lessons learned and experience gained to date.

FAO is supporting the implementation of special programmes for food security in all regions of the world. In this regard the Rotterdam Convention will further contribute to our efforts to intensify agriculture in developing countries in a sustainable manner while at the same time protecting human health and the environment.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Pesticides should not threaten the welfare, health or lives of farmers. Many pesticides that have been banned or severely restricted in developed countries are still marketed and used in developing countries. Many hazardous pesticides cannot be handled safely by farmers in developing countries especially those who work under tropical conditions. Such chemicals pose a serious risk to the health of farmers, to the health of the population in general, and to the environment.

We are all well aware that there is a significant difference between pesticide use in developing and developed countries. In developing countries, pesticide regulations are often deficient, enforcement of decisions is inconsistent and there is a shortage of trained personnel. Overuse of pesticides is still very common. Too many farmers remain unaware of appropriate pest control and IPM measures and of the dangers of pesticide application. Many old, often highly toxic pesticides continue to be used in these countries because of their low prices.

Both dumping of pesticides by exporting countries and the lack of adequate pesticide management in importing countries have contributed to an accumulation of stocks of outdated and obsolete pesticides in many countries in all of our regions. Inventories on obsolete stocks have been undertaken in many regions and the conclusion of the collected information indicates that obsolete stocks are a problem. Outdated pesticides are often in the hands of farmers, causing a considerable risk to farm families. Follow-up surveys in many countries in your regions yet have to be undertaken, while in parallel the disposal of such stocks, first of all from Africa, will need to continue.

FAO is committed to agricultural production programmes that are environmentally friendly. The long-standing involvement of FAO in the promotion of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a good example of this commitment. Experience has shown that agricultural production can increase while pesticide usage decreases. I am confident that the number of countries in your regions with national IPM programmes will continue to increase and that governments will expand the existing programmes.

The Rotterdam Convention is a first major step in building a new global approach to control harmful chemicals and pesticides. The major stakeholder under this convention, the public sector, industry and non-governmental organizations all have a role in ensuring that pesticides and industrial chemicals are used in a manner that is safe to human health and the environment.

The chemicals and pesticides subject to the Rotterdam Convention are widely known for their adverse effects on human health and the environment. The Rotterdam Convention represents a valuable tool to countries in managing these hazardous chemicals. It enables them to monitor and control the trade in certain hazardous chemicals. Most importantly it gives importing countries the power to decide which of these chemicals they want to receive and to exclude those they cannot manage safely. If trade does take place, requirements for labeling and provisions of information on potential health and environmental effects will promote the safe use of these chemicals.

The convention entered into force on 24 February this year. I am pleased to see that, as of today, 76 states that have already ratified the convention. However, I urge you in your role as regional officers, to assist governments in your region that have not yet done so to ratify the Rotterdam Convention.

At the First Conference of the Parties of the Rotterdam Convention, held last month in Geneva, Parties agreed by consensus on the inclusion of an additional 14 pesticides and chemicals. In doing so, the total number of pesticides and industrial chemicals subject to this Convention increased to 41, a clear evidence of the importance Parties give to this Convention as a useful and efficient instrument.

However, we should also keep in mind that there are some 70 000 other chemicals out there in the world in daily use, and some 1 500 are added every year. The negative impact of some of them should not be ignored and has to be communicated to those countries that still require these substances.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to highlight that the joint FAO/UNEP Secretariat has done excellent work in developing a process for the implementation of the Convention during its interim period and will certainly continue do so during the Convention period. I should hope that this cooperation will also be carried at decentralized levels, such as into the work of regional offices and lead to further FAO/UNEP interagency cooperation up to the national level.

In order to be effective, a convention requires more than just entering into force. It needs implementation and enforcement. Only if the convention is widely adopted and implemented will it make a substantial contribution to the protection of human health and the environment. I therefore call on you all to actively participate in this workshop and, as a follow-up, to assist countries in your region to ratify and to implement the Rotterdam Convention.

In closing, I should like to once again extend to all of you a very cordial welcome to Bangkok. I also wish you a pleasant stay in Bangkok.

Thank you.