Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to extend to you a warm welcome to this second meeting of the focal points for the project Strengthening regional data exchange system on food and agricultural statistics in Asia and Pacific countries.
You may be aware that the need for establishment of a system for collection and dissemination of agricultural statistics was discussed and a number of recommendations for strengthening regional cooperation among member countries on this endeavour were made during the sixteenth session of the Asia and Pacific Commission on Agricultural Statistics in 1996. In pursuance to the recommendations, a project on Improvement of agricultural statistics in Asia and Pacific countries was launched in 1998 which was followed by the current project after its successful implementation in 2001. The main objective of this project is to implement an electronic-based regional data exchange system for the participating countries.
These two regional projects have been implemented by FAO with generous financial contributions provided by the government of Japan. I should like to take this opportunity to express once again FAO’s gratitude and appreciation to the government of Japan for her continued trust in and support for food and agricultural development projects in the region, specifically in the sector of agricultural statistics.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The last century has witnessed a tremendous advancement of science and technology as well as its benefits to mankind. In particular, information and communication technology (ICT) has provided an enabling tool for social and economic development worldwide. Ironically, while ICT reaches out to people in almost all corners of the world, the digital divide is widening even further, especially between the South and the North. As a result there are still a vast number of people, mainly rural farmers from the developing world, being deprived of the benefits from this development. The most unacceptable situation is that the world still harbors some 800 million undernourished men, women and children who go to bed hungry every day. The historic World Food Summit, held in 1996 in Rome, set a goal to halve the world hunger by 2015. This commitment was re-affirmed during the follow-up summit held in 2002. The latest FAO statistics and analysis reveal that without extra effort now, this goal will not even be met till the year 2030.
In addressing this issue, it is absolutely essential that there be renewed political commitment and financial support, and substantive programmes of actions by all concerned, from international organizations, to national governments, to local communities as well as by NGOs. The need for a systematic and holistic approach and a human-centred development approach is well recognized.
In this regard, there is no doubt that food and agricultural statistics play an essential role in fighting against hunger. Agricultural statistics provide decision-makers with reliable baseline information for agricultural and rural development policy formulation, programme development and implementation and monitoring.
Food and agricultural statistics in Asia and Pacific countries have undergone dramatic changes during the last twenty years. Although reporting systems continue to be a major source of data in many countries, sample surveys have been gradually introduced into the statistical systems. FAO has always been at the forefront of promoting and providing technical assistance in establishing and developing strong agricultural statistical systems, at the national, sub-regional, regional and global levels. Since 1950 FAO has been the leading advocator for the Programme for the World Census of Agriculture which encourages standardisation of a minimum core programme for the agricultural census and a complementary relationship between the agricultural census and more frequent food and agricultural sample surveys.
National statistical publications are now regularly issued. At RAP, we also synthesize and publish Selected indicators of food and agriculture development in Asia and the Pacific Region, which is a major source of information used widely by international organizations, development agencies and member countries for development planning. In the recent past, many countries have started to introduce modern information technology systems for data processing, analysis and dissemination. These improvements in food and agriculture statistics are expected to bridge the digital divide, benefit national agricultural development, food security and poverty alleviation and strengthen policy development, evaluation and monitoring.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I understand that this second meeting of focal points for the project will serve as a forum to introduce the Regional Data Exchange System and to discuss future outputs. This two-day meeting will also offer you a timely opportunity to review your needs and expectations from the project. I should encourage you to assess the prevailing environment of rapid changes in socio-economic as well as technological dimensions, along with the increasing demand by the agriculture sector for scientific, reliable, timely and updated statistical information in development planning. Accordingly, your meeting should be able to further fine-tune the activities and outputs of the project for the establishment of a regional data exchange system on food and agriculture statistics in Asia and Pacific countries.
We are fully aware that the project funds for these activities is rather limited. We should like to encourage you to continue building partnerships with other national and local organizations to pool various resources for the outreach of the project. The FAO Regional Office will also continue to strive to work with other development partners to find effective ways in assisting you. With this, I wish you all a successful outcome for the meeting and an enjoyable stay in the city of Bangkok.