Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

OPENING STATEMENT
by
HE CHANGCHUI
FAO Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

delivered to the
First Regional Focal Points Consultation of the Project
Implementation of the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in Asia and the Pacific Region
12 to 15 October, 2003

FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand




Distinguished guests,
Distinguished participants,
FAO colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen

It is indeed my great pleasure to be invited to address this important meeting of the first regional focal point consultation of the project Implementation of the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (GPA) in Asia and the Pacific Region. I would like to welcome all of you, on behalf of FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf and on my own behalf, to this meeting at the FAO Regional Office in Bangkok.

The Global Plan of Action was formerly adopted by representatives of 150 countries during the Fourth International Technical Conference in June 1996. The conference also adopted the Leipzig Declaration, which focuses attention on the importance of plant genetic resources for world food security, and commits countries to implement the plan. Since its adoption, the GPA has received strong support of the FAO Council and Conference, the World Food Summit and the Conference of Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity. FAO is committed to carrying out the GPA, under the guidance of intergovernmental Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA), as part of the FAO Global System for the Conservation and Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources.

Plant genetic resources - one of the most fundamental and essential of all resources on Earth – are seriously threatened. Their loss will touch each one of us and endanger future generations. The lack of capacity to conserve and optimally utilize these resources in a sustainable and equitable manner undermines the quest for food security, sustainable development and eradication of hunger. The GPA recognizes the critical importance of plant genetic resources for ensuring food security and provides a normative framework for activities related to their conservation and sustainable use at national, regional and international levels. The GPA emphasizes an integrated approach to conservation and rational utilization of PGRFA through twenty priority activities areas, which are organized into related themes, including in situ conservation and development, ex situ conservation, rational utilization of PGR, and institutions and capacity building.

The GPA framework provides a catalyst for both priority-setting and for creating synergies among on-going activities for conservation and sustainable utilization of PGRFA and all signatory countries are committed to implement the Plan. The overall progress in the implementation of the GPA is monitored through the CGRFA. A survey conducted by FAO in 1998 and 2000 indicated that its member nations have shown various degrees of active participation in fulfilling their obligations for implementing the Plan.

Both the human and financial resources were insufficient in many developing countries for their implementation of the GPA. Much time was devoted by member nations of CGRFA during the last decade in dealing with the important issues on sovereignty right on genetic resources; access to genetic resources and the sharing of benefits arising from the use of the genetic resources; as well as the require resources for the conservation of PGRFA to ensure the continued availability of the resources that countries will need to feed their people. Finally a new global treaty “The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture” was adopted by the FAO Conference in 2001 after seven years of negotiations. The new International Treaty was developed in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity for the conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from their use, for sustainable agriculture and food security. The treaty covers all plant species of actual or potential value for food and agriculture. The treaty establishes a multilateral system of access and benefit sharing, applied to a group of 64 major crops and forages, established on criteria of food security inter-dependence. They cover about 80 percent of the world food crop calories intake from plants (such as wheat, barley, potato, sweet potato, maize, rice, cassava).

The new Treaty provides for sharing the benefits of using plant genetic resources for food and agriculture through information-exchange, access to and transfer of technology, and capacity building. It also foresees a funding strategy to mobilize funds for activities, plans and programmes to help, above all, small farmers in developing countries. The funding strategy also includes the share of the monetary benefits paid under the Multilateral System. The ratification of the treaty and the effective implementation of the provisions of the treaty on benefit sharing and funding strategy will enhance the ability to fully implement the GPA in particular of developing countries and countries with economies in transition.

Several high level summits and meetings, some of which were attended by heads of states, urged Nations to Accede to or ratify the Treaty soonest. These included the following:

•  The World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, 2002)
•  The World Food Summit - Five years later(Rome, 2002)
•  The Sixth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CBD (The Haque, 2002)
•  The 2003 G8 Evian Summit

On agriculture and biodiversity, the G8 in particular will promote the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources for food and agriculture. They support the International Treaty and efforts to ensure funding for genetic resources conservation in the framework of the priorities set up by the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources. This project was developed by FAO in collaboration with the governments of the participating countries and supported by the Government of Japan to promote the implementation of the GPA and contribute to the establishment of a monitoring framework of the Plan at national and regional level.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The participants at today’s meeting are the national focal points of the project, technical experts, representatives from CGIAR centres, and policy makers from the Japanese donor. You will be looking at developing the work plans for the project, including operational principles and procedures for carrying out the work. In addition, I should like to urge you to examine and identify benefit-sharing mechanisms in relation to the use and conservation of PGRFA to be promoted in harmony with the International Treaty and the Convention on Biological diversity.

In conclusion, I should like to reiterate that FAO will continue to work with partners like CGIAR centres, JICARS and other organization to address issues related to GPA implementation and monitoring and the use of agriculture biodiversity and science and technologies to fight against hunger and poverty.

I wish you all a successful consultation, and a pleasant and enjoyable stay in Bangkok.

With this I now declare the First Regional Focal Points Consultations open.

Thank you.