Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

OPENING ADDRESS

by

Hiroyuki Konuma
Assistant Director-General and
FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific
(Representing Participating Partners)

delivered at the

First Meeting of the Regional Steering Committee for Asia and the Pacific
for the Global Strategy to Improve Agricultural and Rural Statistics

Bangkok, Thailand
9 to 10 April 2013

 

Distinguished Participants and Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to extend, on behalf of the Director-General of FAO and on my own behalf, a warm welcome to the participants of the First meeting of the Regional Steering Committee for Asia and the Pacific for the Global Strategy to Improve Agricultural and Rural Statistics (RSC).

I am delighted to acknowledge with my gratitude for the participation of regional steering committee members from 8 countries, as well as from key partners ESCAP, ADB, SIAP, DFID, SPC, IASRI and APAARI, our partners ADB and ESCAP/SIAP, an observer from the Republic of Korea and other FAO colleagues who are attending this meeting.  I am thankful for your interest in supporting the Global Strategy and travelled long distance to participate in this event despite of your busy schedule. Your active involvement is significant as reliable food and agricultural statistics are more essential than ever for proper planning and decision-making.

I would also like to welcome Mr Christophe Duhamel, who is the Global Coordinator for the initiative.

I am happy to note that many international organizations are working as a team to improve agricultural statistics. FAO is privileged to take a part in this joint effort and host the secretariat. I thank ESCAP, ADB and SIAP for partnering with us in this regional process; as well as DFID and SPC. 

The implementation of the Global Strategy in Asia and the Pacific is a long-term plan for  improving agricultural and rural statistics in the countries. The RSC will play an important role in guiding that implementation.

This workshop is of particular importance as it will review the Annual Workplan for 2013 and will select Pilot Countries for participation in the Regional Action Plan (RAP) in 2013. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
You are well aware, that FAO’s main mandate is to combat hunger and malnutrition and monitor the progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, especially MDG one, Target two, aimed at reducing extreme hunger by half by 2015. Despite the rapid transformation of economies, the Asia-Pacific region is still a home of around 563 million people faced chronic hunger in 2010-2012  which accounts for almost two-third of the world total hunger population.

The international financial crisis which broke out in 2007-08, combined with the food prices crisis preceding, has been a major setback to regional progress towards the MDGs. We continue experiencing a potential risk of a similar serious setback due to protraction of high and volatile food prices. For the poor, who are already spending 60 to 70 percent of their household budgets on food, even a small increase in food prices can be catastrophic.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Concern has been expressed at several international fora over the declining quantity and quality of agricultural statistics which are fundamental for policy-makers to carry out accurate assessment and take decisions on food security interventions and agricultural and rural development. Some of the weaknesses in national agricultural statistics are underlined by the data requirements posed by national strategic plans and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – especially on food security but also on other issues on growing demand such as price volatility, biofuels, global warming and the environment.

The Global Strategy is a ground-breaking effort which has as one of the key recommendations that agriculture be integrated into national statistical systems. The Regional Action Plan for Asia and the Pacific defines the areas of support that the Asia Pacific region needs in terms of technical assistance, training and research to strengthening national agricultural statistical systems and outlines activities aimed at implementing that support in a sustainable way.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is a historical opportunity to enable countries to develop sustainable statistical systems which will produce accurate and reliable agricultural and rural data – comparable over time and across countries for use by decision-makers. However, there is a necessary condition for the strategy for statistical development to be sustainable. Assistance shall be provided to countries that may require it and show political will and commitment. Governments need to demonstrate ownership and commitment by funding regular statistical services and other necessary cost-sharing contributions.

I am convinced that with our strong partnership with ESCAP and ADB our member countries and other leading institutions present here, we together will improve the evidence base of policy making of the agricultural sector in the region.

Finally, let me acknowledge the hard work of the secretariat staff in FAO and ESCAP in the preparation and organization of this meeting. I would also like to thank our colleagues, partner organisations, and members from the Philippines and China for presentations they will make to assist understanding and discussion. 

I wish you all success in your discussions and a pleasant stay in Thailand.

Thank you.