Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

SPEECH

by

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

delivered at the

Launching Ceremony of the ASEAN-FAO Memorandum of Understanding on
Strengthening Cooperation in Agriculture and Forestry

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
26 September 2013

 

Your Excellency, Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob, Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Malaysia,
Your Excellencies, ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry,
Distinguished ASEAN Senior Officials,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure and honour for me to be with you today. On behalf of the Director General of FAO,  Dr José Graziano da Silva and my own behalf, I wish to express my profound gratitude for the invitation from the Government of Malaysia, in her capacity of the current chair of the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry, to speak at this important historic event.

FAO and ASEAN Common Challenges

The Asia-Pacific region as a whole has made good progress in reducing the proportion of the population suffering from hunger and poverty. According to the latest revised figures from FAO, in the Asia-Pacific region, the proportion of the undernourished declined from 24.7 percent in 1990-92 to 13.9 percent in 2010-12 and the hunger target under MDG1 will be met if the proportion declines further to 12.4 percent by 2015.

The overall reduction in undernourishment has been uneven. From 1990-92 to 2010-12, the prevalence of undernourishment declined from 26.8 to 17.6 percent in South Asia, from 20.8 to 11.5 percent in Eastern Asia and from 29.6 to 10.9 percent in Southeast Asia.

Despite the reasonably good progress, FAO estimates that in the Asia-Pacific region there are still over half a billion people (563 million) living in hunger, two-thirds of the developing world’s total (852 million). Of these 563 million, 65 million still live in Southeast Asia.

It is agriculture that holds the key to food security as well as raising levels of nutrition and standards of living of the bulk of the hungry and poorly nourished.

From Collaboration to Strategic Partnership

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

FAO and ASEAN have long been in close collaboration in promoting food and nutrition security through sustainable agriculture. Closer collaboration between the two organizations was formalized through exchange of letters between the ASEAN Secretariat and FAO in 1999/2000. Since then a number of milestone initiatives have been promoted. Among others, these include capacity development for food safety, progressive control and prevention of transboundary animal diseases and zoonoses, and sustainable forest management, to name a few.

The cooperation has been brought to a new height when the two organizations joined hands in response to the food crises in 2007/08 through development of a Convergence Matrix of Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security of ASEAN Region with UN and Other Partner Agencies, which was developed during the ASEAN-UN Meeting on Food Security in Manila, the Philippines, in November 2008. The initiative does not only highlight the fact that addressing food and nutrition security required holistic, multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral approaches but also the need for strategic partnership in global and regional priority issues.

As a result, we all gather today to witness the launch of the FAO-ASEAN Memorandum of Understanding on Strengthening Cooperation in Agriculture and Forestry, which was recently formalized. It is particularly timely when Brunei Darussalam and Singapore have entered into membership of FAO since June this year, which bring common membership to both FAO and ASEAN.

The MoU signifies mutual strategic vision and trust of the two organizations in working together in addressing growing challenges in agriculture, particularly in addressing global challenges in food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture as well as in support of the sector in contributing to the realization of ASEAN Community in 2015 and beyond. It is in my conviction that the partnership will not only yield the benefits to the two organizations and people of Southeast Asia alone, but also spear head in promoting greater cooperation and partnership among various partners in agriculture at the regional and global levels.

Embarking into FAO-ASEAN Strategic Partnership for Food & Nutrition Security as well as Robust and Resilient Agriculture

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

In moving forward, FAO stands firm and ready to embark into this new partnership. Among various priority areas, I wish to highlight the following:

  1. Collaborating with ASEAN in pursuing global campaigns in the region, particularly the “Zero Hunger Challenge” launched by the Secretary-General of the United Nations at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil in June 2012. 
  2. Advancing Food and Nutrition Security through support in developing the new Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security in ASEAN (2014-2019) and capacity building in coordination and monitoring of the ASEAN Integrated Food Security (AIFS) Framework. This will be coupled with support in integrating nutrition into the AIFS Framework as well as addressing food waste and post-harvest loss reduction under the “Save Food Asia-Pacific Campaign”, bioenergy, impact of climate change, and food security information. 
  3. Strengthening Regional Capacity in Control and Prevention of Transboundary Animal Diseases (TADs) and Zoonoses, particularly  on “Emergency Assistance for Surveillance of Influenza A(H7N9) Virus in Poultry and Animal Populations in Southeast Asia”, and the on-going establishment of an ASEAN Coordinating Center for Animal Health and Zoonoses (ACCAHZ). 
  4. Policy and technical advisory support to AMAF and ASEAN Secretariat in facilitating the contribution of agriculture and forestry sectors in realization of ASEAN Community by 2015 and beyond. 
  5. Harmonization of food security and bio-energy development.

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

ASEAN and FAO share common challenges and endeavour in ensuring food & nutrition security and promoting robust and sustainable agriculture. This could be achieved through collaborative efforts and strategic partnership. I am confident that our continued cooperation will not only yield in advancing our joint efforts, but also provide facilitative support for greater cooperation and partnership with multi-stakeholders in attaining the MDGs, sustainable agricultural development and food security. This will provide the eventual contribution to realizing ASEAN Community by 2015 and beyond, and achieving our goal to eradicate poverty and hunger.

Finally, today, at this historic occasion, I have the honour and great privilege to assure your Excellency FAO’s full cooperation and commitment to support ASEAN through our close partnership ahead.

Thank you.