Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

OPENING STATEMENT

by

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

Delivered at the

Project Appraisal Workshop

Bangkok, Thailand, 18-19 June 2007





BOBLME Project Steering Committee members,
National BOBLME Coordinators,
Representatives from the World Bank, Norway and Sweden
FAO colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,


On behalf of the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and on my own behalf, I welcome you to the Regional Office for this appraisal workshop of the project proposal Sustainable Management of the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem - otherwise known as “BOBLME”.

The Bay of Bengal is one of the world’s sixty-three Large Marine Ecosystems. It is bordered by eight countries (Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand) whose populations represent 25 percent of the world’s total. Over 400 million of these people live on coastal catchment areas and their numbers are expected to increase by 20 percent by the year 2015. The Bay of Bengal thus has some of the most densely populated coastlines on earth. Poverty is common and the people living along these coasts are highly reliant on the natural resources of the Bay of Bengal and its coastal habitats, particularly fisheries.

An example of long term and multi-donor commitment, the BOBLME programme builds on the twenty-five-year old FAO programme known as the "Bay of Bengal Programme”. This programme and its many projects were carried by the Bay of Bengal countries with external support provided by multiple donors. The BOBP evolved through three major phases, from fisheries development to fisheries management and livelihoods. In the latter part of the 1990s, the project further broadened its horizons and adopted an integrated large marine ecosystem approach to deal with the complex interaction of issues in the Bay of Bengal.

Since 1998, a special project funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) aimed at developing a full-size project through broad consultation with a wide range of stakeholders in the Bay of Bengal countries. In addition, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) allocated substantial funds to support this development phase, hosted by the Government of India. Co-funding and in-kind contributions were provided by the Bay of Bengal countries, FAO, the World Bank, and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The focus of the project development was on addressing a range of sectors and issues relevant to the management of a large marine ecosystem including: oceanography and marine environment; living marine resources; estuarine and coastal habitats; shipping; coastal zone development; offshore oil and gas resources; and socio-economic factors. During a series of workshops and consultations, participating countries identified three top priorities for future work:

  • overexploitation of living marine resources;
  • critical habitats; and
  • land-based pollution.

A full-size project was approved by the GEF Council at its February 2005 Intersessional Work Programme. The project was designed with an estimated budget of US$30 million, of which US$12.1 million was funded by GEF resources. The remaining amount was from co-financing. However, following the devastating tsunami in December 2004, financing of emergency relief and rehabilitation work largely prevailed and, as a result, mobilization of co-financing for BOBLME became lower priority. Hence, the project has been delayed.

Responding to the new realities, it is now necessary to move ahead with a revised project which corresponds to an estimated financing package of around US$20 million of which US$10 million from GEF resources. With Sida and Norway having also confirmed their intent to contribute to the revised project, and with in-kind support by FAO and NOAA, it is proposed to submit the new project by 31 July for endorsement by GEF.

In the mean time, the GEF Secretariat has advised that there should be at least a 1:1 co-financing ratio, requiring commitments from the eight participating countries. As agreed at the Colombo workshop in October 2004, each country should commit in-kind and cash co-financing for the project in writing – as the GEF and other donors look for these types of assurances. In this connection, I wish to note that copies of co-financing commitment letters from countries should accompany the project document when submitted to the GEF for endorsement.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This workshop is convened to bring the participating countries together to collectively appraise and coordinate the final stage of project preparations and allow for proper submission of the proposal to the GEF. I thus reiterate that the current estimated financing package of 20 million US dollars reflects the levels of donor and country in-kind commitments made so far. In scaling down the project to fit the budget envelope, every effort has been made to remain consistent with confirmed priorities and guidance provided by the BOBLME countries during previous workshops, while taking into account the realities of the post-tsunami resource constraints.

You are thus looking at a revised and scaled down project that would meet the BOBLME countries’ top priorities as well as donor criteria and available financing packages. The workshop will review this revised proposal; discuss implementation arrangements and the work plan, as well as the location of the project headquarters.

On this last subject, the location of the project headquarters, the Government of India is ready to participate in the project without hosting the headquarters. FAO is therefore looking forward to see an early and consensus agreement emerge on the location of the headquarters – possibly during the present meeting. Alternative and/or temporary arrangements can be considered at the appropriate time, as well as the resulting cost implications.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In concluding, I should like to stress the importance of your deliberations. You may not realize that your decisions here this week, will have tremendous positive impact on the livelihood of millions of people living around the Bay of Bengal, and on the sustainability of this important ecosystem.

Once again, I am pleased to welcome you all to the Regional Office, and I am confident that with your determination and cooperation, the joint goals of sustainable development in the Bay of Bengal, will be successfully achieved.

Thank you.