Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

OPENING MESSAGE

by

Hiroyuki Konuma
Assistant Director-General and
FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

delivered at the

Regional Workshop on Geographical Indications (GI)

Bangkok, Thailand
15 July 2010




Mr Herve Gallepe, Representative of AFD, Paris
Ms Pajchima Tanasanti, Director-General of Department of Intellectual Property, Ministry of Commerce, Thailand
Officials from AFD
Participants from Laos, Viet Nam, Thailand and Cambodia
Ladies and Gentlemen,

      It is my great pleasure to welcome you, on behalf of the Regional Office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, to this technical workshop aimed at further promoting and implementing the adoption of geographical indication: high value, quality products with particular geographic attributes.

      According to the 1996 World Food Summit, “food security exists when all people at all times have physical and economic access to safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.  Within this broad definition, specific quality attributes of products linked to the geographical places where they are produced are important for food diversity, value addition and ultimately increasing smallholder incomes. Enhancing the relations between people, places and agricultural and food products is an important pathway to sustainable rural development.

      In different parts of the world, generations of people have built a local identity and have local know how to produce food products typically found in that locality. These products draw from specific local landscapes that characterize the interaction between the natural resource base and the production system. These are the outcomes of the link between products, places and people. Today, this represents for many rural communities not only a heritage that needs to be preserved, but also a value in the market as consumers become increasingly interested in quality products linked to geographical origin and local traditions.

      In Asian countries, such heritage is very rich: numerous products present specific qualities linked to geographical origin and governments are aware of this heritage and potential for development and are willing to preserve and promote it. This was indeed one of the lessons learnt from a series of case studies that FAO undertook in Asia and one of the results of the regional technical workshop and conference that FAO organized last year in Bangkok together with the Department of Intellectual Property and the EU delegation in Thailand.

      Because of the potential positive impact on rural development and preservation of biodiversity, FAO has expanded the scope of its activities to improve quality and safety to incorporate this concept of quality products linked to geographical origin.  Differentiated products by geography have the opportunity to meet a specific and lucrative market demand. Consumers are increasingly concerned with specific attributes of agricultural and food products, in relation to culture, identity, and sustainable ways of production. These products also contribute to biodiversity, world cultural heritage preservation, socio-cultural development and rural poverty reduction.

      FAO considers geographically differentiated products, a vital ‘niche’ market and a strong basis for ensuring food security and sustainable agricultural development. Indeed, marketing such products contributes to food security by generating income and through it providing money for food, education, health care, and other basic needs contributing to sustainable development.

      Monitoring, certifying and remunerating quality based on geographic origin is a major issue which developing countries, development partners and international organizations need to address in collaboration with value chain stakeholders. What is more, it is very important to learn about ‘best practices’ on how to better design and implement such projects in the field.

Ladies and gentlemen,

      It is for this reason - and as a follow-up to last year’s regional seminar - that the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific has accepted the invitation of Agence Francaise De Developpement - AFD - to jointly organize and host this meeting at our regional office.

      In close collaboration with AFD, FAO is pleased to have invited you to this technical workshop which is intended to build on your cumulative past experiences. Your presence here is our best assurance for a forward looking vision in developing a concrete programme with sustainable results for and impact on smallholder farmers in the region.

      Based on your active participation and contribution, the meeting is expected to result in and produce the outputs such as a validated logical framework, an agreement for all partners to pursue for follow-up activities and a plan of work to finalize the project document and to launch the regional project.

      I hope that this meeting will provide an opportunity to strengthen the basis of collaboration between us all. The lessons from this workshop should also allow us to develop further future programmes and by doing so become a catalytic instrument for regional cooperation in this emerging field.

      Finally, I wish to assure you of our continued collaboration with AFD for the formulation and implementation of the new project to be formulated. I thank you all for coming here to share your expertise and wish you a fruitful exchange of ideas over the next two days and the formulation of a successful and sustainable project.

      Thank you.