Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific



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

Delivered at the

Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation Programme Development Partners’ Dialogue

9 April 2007, Beijing, China

Mr Lu Xiaoping, Deputy Director General, Ministry of Agriculture, China
Mr Urooj Malik, Director, Asian Development Bank
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and my own behalf I would like to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to the organizers for inviting FAO to this important forum. Our participation in this meeting reflects the long-standing relations and excellent collaboration between the member countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion, the Asian Development Bank and FAO in the areas of food security and agricultural and rural development which have assumed special significance in the context of the commitments of our member countries embodied in the World Food Summit Declarations and the Millennium Development Goals.

It is a matter of great pride that most GMS countries have achieved rapid and sustained economic growth and drastically reduced poverty and food insecurity. The agriculture sector in several GMS countries has also developed tremendously and can provide suitable technologies and best practices to other member countries. FAO is proud to have been a partner of GMS countries in developing the food and agriculture sector and promoting rural development.

Presently, FAO is executing 59 technical assistance country specific projects in five GMS member countries, excluding China, with a combined value of approximately US$ 30 million. This does not include 70 projects completed since 2002. These projects assist the agricultural and rural sector in the GMS member countries in the diverse fields of crops, livestock, fisheries, forestry, natural resource management, irrigation development, nutrition, agro-biodiversity, agricultural statistics, product standards and safety, marketing and processing.

FAO is also assisting these GMS countries through 21 regional projects valued at approximately US$ 21 million in various technical areas of agriculture. These include: trans-boundary disease control, improving food safety and its management, development and application of integrated pest management in vegetable growing, improving phytosanitary capacity and legislation, enhancing sustainable forest harvesting, community forestry, conservation and sustainable utilization of plant genetic resources, organic agriculture, village level processing and enterprise skills development, and management of livestock waste and the environment. The regional projects cover different groups of countries within the Greater Mekong subregion. For example, the regional integrated pest management in vegetable production programme covers five of the six GMS countries.

In addition, FAO is implementing 13 country level and 17 regional special projects worth US$ 41 million responding to emergencies and post-emergency rehabilitation such as those relating to Avian Influenza and the tsunami. Thus the total portfolio of on-going technical cooperation and emergency assistance by FAO in the five GMS countries, through its own resources under the Technical Cooperation Programme and through donor funding, is approximately US$ 92 million.

Mr Chairman,

As you know FAO is a specialized agency providing technical assistance to its developing member countries in agriculture and rural development for economic growth and prosperity as well as poverty and hunger eradication. It has a Technical Cooperation Programme which is intended to provide urgent and catalytic technical assistance to member countries. For larger field projects we need to rely on cooperation and partnerships with governments and bilateral and multilateral donors.

We value very much the partnership with the Asian Development Bank in addressing development issues in agriculture and the rural sector. We have several joint projects and co-financed technical assistance activities, including under the Bank’s core programmes for agriculture and the environment in the Greater Mekong subregion. The on-going project on control of trans-boundary animal diseases (TAD) in the Greater Mekong subregion is an example. This project is managed and co-financed by FAO and mainly serves Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam, which have the highest number of poor livestock farmers. Thailand and the Yunan Province of China also participate in the project. However, as they have well-developed capacity in TADs control, they provide in-kind support in developing and enhancing regional cooperation and capacity. Concurrently, we are carrying out an assessment and perspective study on the future of forests and biodiversity in the Greater Mekong subregion with the Bank’s support, as part of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study being carried out by FAO. We are also exploring opportunities for cooperation in other fields, such as a policy study on bioenergy opportunities and trade-offs in the Greater Mekong subregion.

Likewise, in cooperation with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, (IFAD) FAO will soon be launching a project entitled Pro-Poor Policy Formulation, Dialogue and Implementation at the Country Level. Three of eight countries covered by this project are in the Greater Mekong subregion, namely Cambodia, China and Viet Nam. Another joint initiative with IFAD which is in the final stages of agreement is on enhancing agricultural competitiveness of rural households in the Greater Mekong subregion. Its objective is to improve livelihoods, income and agricultural competitiveness of poor rural households in the context of a regionally integrated GMS. Specifically, the project will: (a) introduce new and improved production, handling and processing technologies for agricultural products that have the potential to be important sources of income for poor rural households; (b) make the supply chain more rewarding for poor producers by promoting balanced partnerships between producers and buyers; (c) facilitate expanded trade for small producers in Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar, in particular with Thailand and Southern China. The project will use technical expertise from Thailand under the South-South Cooperation arrangement.

FAO has been actively participating in the Bank’s Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation Program’s forums on agriculture and the environment, including in the working group meetings, and has shared its views and perspectives on the drafts of the Strategic Framework for Subregional Cooperation in Agriculture, 2006-2010. We have taken note of the five core programme areas, which we are confident will contribute to the modernization of agriculture in the subregion through cooperation in key areas.

In order to ensure the best use of our resources in the service of our member countries and to focus our activities in priority areas of major concern to the region, we in FAO have also taken stock of the main challenges confronting the agriculture and rural sector in the region and have come up with six thematic priority areas – namely (i) agricultural restructuring under changing market and trade conditions, (ii) decentralizing governance in support of sustainable development, (iii) reducing vulnerability to disasters, (iv) promoting effective and equitable management, conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, (v) strengthening biosecurity for food security and agricultural trade and (vi) alleviating poverty in rice-based livelihood systems.

The synergy between the strategic thrusts of the Core Agriculture Support Program for the GMS countries and FAO’s thematic areas are evident. Our first priority of agricultural restructuring has similar thrusts as the first and second core programs – facilitating cross-border trade and investment in agriculture, and promoting public–private partnership in sharing information. Likewise, our third, fourth and fifth priorities on reducing vulnerability to disasters, strengthening biosecurity and promoting sustainable natural resource management have immense synergy with the third and fourth core programs – enhancing capacity in agriculture science and technology, and emergency response mechanisms for agricultural crises.

The obvious complementarities between our strategic approaches to address agricultural development in the subregion are also strongly evidenced by an analysis of FAO’s on-going and prospective interventions in each of the five core areas. It showed that FAO had 19 on-going and 17 prospective projects and activities at the country and subregional levels directly linked to the core programme areas.

Mr Chairman, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Having dealt with the complementarities and synergies between our strategic thrusts, I would like to express FAO’s full commitment to carry out its mandate for agriculture and rural development and freedom from hunger in collaboration with the GMS member countries and its development partners and to continue its dialogue and cooperation in mutually agreed areas. In addition to cooperation at the country level, FAO remains ready to work with the existing and future subregional cooperation mechanisms in identifying specific areas of collaboration.

I thank Mr Chairman and Distinguished Delegates for giving FAO this opportunity to share its views at this important forum.

Thank you very much.