Distinguished guests from the government, delegates from APHCA, colleagues from headquarters, and representatives and guests from partner agencies
It is my great honor and pleasure to welcome you to this high level meeting on Pro-poor HPAI Risk Reduction: Lessons from Southeast Asia and Africa. As you know, this meeting is being held in partnership with the Animal Health and Production Commission for Asia and the Pacific—a statutory body of FAO. I have learnt from the APHCA team that the Department of Livestock Development, Royal Thai Government has provided substantial support to the organization of this meeting and the APHCA business sessions. I gratefully take this opportunity to extend my sincere thanks to Royal Thai Government for their continuing support and their gesture of generosity.
In recent years, FAO has been engaged in responding to an increasing number of emergencies worldwide. Among these, those related to diseases of animal origin and trans-boundary plant pests have been most challenging and critical in view of their potential and real impact on food security, livelihoods, human health, as well as on national economies and their exposure to global market forces. Following the emergence and spread of HPAI strain H5N1, FAO, in close collaboration with OIE, WHO and regional and national agencies, has played a leading role in the coordination of a global approach to the control of this disease with considerable zoonotic potential. These coordinated efforts have resulted in reduced pandemic threat from Avian Influenza, although the potential still remains.
The increasing number of emergencies and emerging infectious diseases pose new challenges and call for more effective systems and capacities for crises prevention, risk analysis and communication and rapid medium and long term response. This requires a deeper understanding of the drivers of disease emergence and ecological vulnerabilities as well as the commitment of all parties to enhance the resilience of agricultural systems and societies.
FAO remains committed to partnering with all national and international agencies in responding to existing and new threats. Building on FAO’s experience and existing structures, FAO senior management has recently established a Food Chain Crisis Management Framework that aims to address in an integrated and interdisciplinary manner, the risks to the human food chain. I am confident that the deliberations in this meeting will be very useful in informing the work within this framework and in partnering with member governments as well as with other partner organization, both regional as well as global.
This however must not deviate us from our long term aspirations of eradicating poverty and hunger. FAO is committed to ensuring food security and protecting livelihoods of poor across the world. It is imperative that we join forces and coordinate efforts in addressing threats that pose risks to poor peoples’ livelihoods and future global prosperity. Livestock are an important, often under-appreciated asset of the poor, and diseases can quickly wipe out this important pillar of rural livelihoods. In recognition of the importance of livestock and the potentially disastrous consequences of high impact diseases, more than a decade ago, FAO launched the Global Rinderpest Eradication program with the aim of consolidating gains in Rinderpest control and to move towards the eradication of this disease. This was expected to lead to a declaration of global freedom from Rinderpest by 2011. I am pleased to inform the meeting that just a few days ago, October 15 to be precise, FAO Director General, in a global meeting at FAO Headquarters in Rome, has declared that this goal will be achieved. This success provides strong impetus towards enhancing poor people’s livestock dependent livelihoods and a moment of pride for all those associated with the program.
While we celebrate this achievement, we must build on these successes in strengthening our efforts to address new challenges. Never before has there been such broad international consensus and support for agriculture and for the improvement of food security in poor countries. Members of the G8 countries issued a statement on food security at L’Aquila in July 2009 and backed it up with financial pledges. Public interest in food security is at an all time high and we must seize the moment to advance our efforts towards building a food secure world. In that context, this meeting on Pro-poor HPAI risk reduction is very timely and I am confident that the deliberations in the meeting will facilitate moving from emergency response to more fundamental ways of addressing food security through poverty focused livestock sector development. I thank all the partners and participants in contributing to these deliberations and particularly thank DFID in investing in research to underpin this long term development process.
Finally, I would like to extend my personal thanks to Dr Sabirovic for his kind presence and the Royal Thai Government for their generous support.
I wish the meeting fruitful deliberations.