Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

WELCOME SPEECH

by

He Changchui
Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

Delivered at the

Annual Review Meeting of FAO/Government of Japan Cooperative Programme

Bangkok, Thailand 11-12 March 2008





Mr Hiromori Kuroki and other members of the Japanese delegation,
Mr Jose Maria Sumpsi, ADG/TC,
Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,


A pleasant good morning to all of you.

First of all, on behalf of all staff of FAO Regional Office, I would like to welcome Mr Hiromori Kuroki, Director of International Agricultural Organization in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan and his delegation and the officials from the Embassy of Japan in Thailand to this Annual Review Meeting on FAO/Government of Japan Cooperative Programme. I also welcome Mr Jose Maria Sumpsi, Assistant Director General of the Technical Cooperation Department and other colleagues from headquarters in Rome and LOJA.

Your presence here is a testimony to your commitment to strengthening FAO-Japan collaboration in promoting food security, agricultural and rural development, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. My office is pleased and honoured to be given the opportunity to host this important annual event. I hope we will be able to serve you well during the next two day meeting.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as you are all aware, Asia and the Pacific region has made tremendous progress in reducing poverty and hunger in the past decades. There has been a manifold increase in per capita income as well as food production. More than 250 million poor were rescued out of poverty trap during the period. However, not all the countries of the region were able to experience the historic progress.

As a result, the region still remains home to nearly two-thirds of the world’s poor. There are still over half-a billion people in the region living in absolute poverty and about 1.5 billion people suffering from hidden hunger. It is regretful and desperate to note that poverty and hunger are highly concentrated amongst rural households. At the mid way to 2015, the deadline set for achieving the MDGs, prevalence of such large scale poverty and hunger in the region cannot be acceptable to the world community. It calls for urgent measures to fight the situation.

As a leading agency in the fight against hunger and poverty, FAO has assisted member countries in achieving the MDGs, especially Goal 1 and Goal 7. The Regional Office has been working on both normative and operational programmes: our field programme in Asia and the Pacific Region is being expanded and the project delivery in this region increased by 23 percent in the past 5 years from USD 35 million in 2003 to USD 43 million in 2007.

I should mention that Japan was one of the largest donors for trust fund programme in the year 2006 and 2007 for this region, contributing significantly to the successful implementation of SPFS projects, post-tsunami rehabilitation projects, avian influenza projects, and other important key-projects including those in agriculture, forestry and nutrition sectors.

In this regard, I would like to take this opportunity to express the Regional Office’s sincere appreciation for the support and assistance the Government of Japan has provided to FAO in carrying out its mandate. The continuous generosity of your Government is highly recognized and we hope that we can count on the continuation of your cooperation in addressing new and emerging issues.

I am sure that this meeting will permit deep exchange of ideas and views between FAO and the Government of Japan, and will arrive at a consensus on priority areas of collaboration. This dynamic region faces many new challenges as it deals with the existing ones. While the emergency situation brought about by the occurrence of tsunami three years ago has been tackled, the Avian Influenza has become endemic as we witness new outbreaks every now and then. The issues of rising food prices need to be addressed urgently to prevent and mitigate adverse impact on the food security of the poor. Stemming the tide of climate change is another major challenge as it is a global public good and requires concerted action by countries and people not only in this region but in the rest of the world. The pros and cons of bioenergy productions need to be carefully weighed in making policy decisions by countries. FAO is often called upon by Member Countries for its expert advice and assistance in addressing these issues at national, regional and global levels.

Considering this, we cannot overemphasize the need for continued and increased assistance of the Government of Japan to FAO’s programmes and activities. In the emerging context, we have identified five new priority project proposals: (1) “Strengthening national capacity to undertake the census of agriculture 2010 in Asia-Pacific countries”; (2) “Regional programme on natural resources management and climate change”; (3) “Advancing the application of assisted natural regeneration for effective low-cost forest restoration in Asia-Pacific”; (4) “Bioenergy opportunities and trade-offs in the Greater Mekong subregion”; and (5) “Combating land degradation in South Asian countries”. It is our sincere hope that this meeting will positively review these new proposals and confirm its support to them.

I am confident that the sharp perspectives you will share with us today will guide us in strengthening our technical services and programmes, in better serving our Member Countries in Asia and the Pacific towards sustainable agricultural development and poverty alleviation.

I thank you for your kind attention and wish you successful deliberations and an enjoyable stay in Bangkok.