Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

The state of the world’s animal genetic resources
Regional training workshop on progress and identification of regional priorities

8 to 10 December 2003, Bangkok
Century Park Hotel
Opening address by 
He Changchui
Assistant Director-General
and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

Dear participants,
Colleagues from headquarters,

It is my great pleasure to welcome over 20 country representatives from the Asia region to this workshop in Bangkok.

Asia is home to many of the breeds of the most important livestock species. This region has not only the highest livestock numbers, it also has the most diverse array of animal genetics resources in the world. You are all on the forefront of development and fully aware of the substantial past and predicted future changes in the livestock sector world wide and in Asia in particular. By 2020, an additional 120 million tons of meat and 240 million tons of milk will be required to fulfill the predicted demand of the growing population. This ‘livestock revolution’ will increasingly rely on just a few high yielding breeds. Often, these breeds will need to be imported by developing countries, resulting in a loss of genetically valuable local breeds. Driven by market forces, the process of intensification and industrialization for mono-gastric species in particular will continue. All too often these processes of intensifying production are also associated with environmental damage, a loss of opportunities for the poor, and a threat to public health. Similar trends perhaps not in the same magnitude have been observed in other regions in the World.

Recognizing the importance of animal genetic resources, the need to use, develop and conserve these essential resources in a sustainable manner, and the poor state of current management, FAO – at an early stage, in 1993 – already initiated the development of the Global Strategy for the Management of Farm Animal Genetic Resources. This strategy was considered necessary to enhance awareness of the many roles and values of animal genetic resources; provide a framework for local, national, regional and global efforts to make better use of, develop and conserve these resources; and mobilize the financial support necessary to develop and implement the Strategy.

Ladies and gentlemen,

International awareness of the essential role of animal genetic resources in food and agriculture production and productivity has substantially increased in recent years. The Commission on Sustainable Development, in developing Agenda 21, emphasized the importance of promoting sustainable agriculture and rural development, and acknowledged the essential need to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of animal genetic resources for agriculture.

Agricultural biodiversity was the major theme for the third meeting of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1996. The parties agreed to develop a programme of work on agricultural biological diversity; strongly endorsed the further development of the Global Strategy for the Management of Farm Animal Genetic Resources; and encouraged parties to develop inventories and consider the status of farm animal genetic resources and measures for their conservation and sustainable utilization. In providing advice to the Global Environment Facility (the Convention’s financial mechanism), the parties indicated that priority be given to supporting efforts for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity so important for agriculture.

In November 1996, Heads of State gathered at the World Food Summit in Rome at the invitation of FAO. They reaffirmed the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food and to be free from hunger. The World Food Summit resulted in governments agreeing to a Plan of Action that contains commitments, objectives and actions aimed at addressing food security and rural development. The need to develop and make better use of livestock resources was recognized as a fundamental element of the Plan of Action.

It is within this context of the fight for global and sustainable food security that the implementation of the Global Strategy for the management of AnGR is guided by FAO member countries – through the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) and its Intergovernmental Technical Working group (ITWG-AnGR). A major element of the strategy is the preparation of a first Report on the state of the world’s animal genetic resources. This report will play a crucial role in advancing efforts to achieve global food security and sustainable rural development. The commission stressed that your country reports will be the basis for the formulation of strategic priorities for action as well as for the compilation of the first global report on the state of the world animal genetic resources.

As a result, I should like to reiterate the national ownership of the programme which aims at increasing both national and regional capacities to use, develop and conserve animal genetic resources as well as the ability to report on status and trends. I wish to underline in this connection that three years ago 186 countries were invited by the FAO Director-General to participate in this exercise. Up to present, 150 countries have started and/or completed the preparation of the country reports, constituting a clear indication of the success and country ownership of the programme.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Two years ago, many of you attended the FAO training workshop at Kasetsart University with the objective to initiate country reports on animal genetic resources. FAO is fully aware that this was an extremely demanding task, technically and financially. I note now with satisfaction that most of the countries present today have already submitted the final report or an advanced draft.

The present workshop here in Bangkok will allow you to review again your reports and – if needed – add a final touch. But more importantly, you are here to identify strategic priorities for action in the Asia region. This is a crucial step and the outcome of your work will draw global attention to the problems and needs for the better management and sustainable development of animal genetic resources through the Priority Action Report. As a follow-up, the third session of the Intergovernmental Technical Working Group on Animal Genetic Resources – to be held in Rome in March 2004 – will consider progress and further development of the report preparation and the strategic action report. Asia will be represented by five countries, China, India, the Republic of Korea, Thailand and Viet Nam. I strongly encourage the representatives of these countries to liaise with their neighbours so that all of Asia’s views and issues will be expressed in a comprehensive manner.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The challenge of ‘food for all’ is greater now than before with one out of six people in the world underfed. Animal enetic resources have contributed to food and agriculture for more than 12 000 years, providing meat, milk products, eggs, fibre, fertilizer for crops, manure for fuel and draught power. Let us make sure that animal diversity is maintained as an important factor in sustaining the livelihoods of many people.

It is in this context that I wish you successful deliberations and look forward to the final report of your meeting.

Thank you.