Mr. Nobuhiko Kaho and other members of the Delegation of the Government of Japan,
Mr. Tesfai Tecle, ADG, TC,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the staff of the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and on my own behalf, I have great pleasure in welcoming the delegation of the Government of Japan to this Annual Review Meeting organized by TC and hosted by RAP. I also welcome Mr. Tesfai Tecle, Assistant Director-General of the Technical Cooperation Department and other colleagues from both headquarters in Rome and LOJA.
The strong Japanese delegation present here is a testimony to your continued interest, support and commitment to strengthening collaboration between the Government of Japan and FAO in promoting agricultural and rural development in the region, where there are still 524 million undernourished people, despite the most remarkable progress and milestones in the development of agriculture sector.
As you are well aware, the region was overwhelmed by two unprecedented disasters in recent years: the tsunami of 26 December 2004 and avian influenza outbreaks since late 2003. Meantime, the region faces challenges in realizing progress towards achieving many of the MDGs and not all countries are on track to meet all these goals by 2015. As a leading agency in the fight against hunger, FAO has assisted countries in making substantive and meaningful contributions towards achieving the MDGs, but much remains to be done. All the ongoing project activities (about 15 projects) tabled on the agenda of this meeting have contributed to FAO’s mandate of helping developing member countries in achieving the MDGs, especially Goal 1 and Goal 7. I am pleased that the implementation of these projects has borne substantive results and had a successful impact.
I would like to take this opportunity to express the Regional Office’s sincere appreciation for the support and assistance the Japanese Government has provided to FAO in carrying out its mandate. In particular I would like to mention the support provided to strengthen our development programme such as SPFS and emergency programmes, such as the Avian Influenza and tsunami rehabilitation projects. This support has been very critical to the concerned countries and to FAO’s ability to deliver needed assistance in a timely manner. While appreciating the continuous generosity of the Government of Japan, we hope that we can count on the continuation of your cooperation to enable FAO to serve its constituents and carry out its mandate effectively. The FAO Regional Office remains ready and committed to support regional efforts and programmes in this direction.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am sure that this meeting will permit further exchange of ideas and views between FAO and the Government of Japan. I suggest that we take a look at the emerging regional issues and priorities such as those related to regional integration, global market and trade, as well as global threats such as climatic changes and opportunities such as bioenergy. I hope we can arrive at a consensus on ongoing cooperative activities and priority areas of collaboration. In this context, I would also like to bring to your attention that this Regional Office has taken stock of the main challenges confronting the agriculture and rural sector in the region and has 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. Some of these priorities are already reflected in the ongoing collaboration between Japan and FAO and others may be taken up under the follow up programme of cooperation. I am pleased to confirm the full cooperation of the Regional Office in this endeavour.
We should also take note on some newly emerging issues such as bio-energy, bio-security, global warming, irrigation modernization etc., which would require FAO’s future interventions. In this context, we identified some new and follow-up project proposals. These include “Regional programme on bioenergy”; “Bioenergy opportunities and trade-offs in the Greater Mekong subregion”; “Modernization of paddy irrigation systems in Asian countries”; “Capacity building in biosafety of GM crops in Asia”; “Strengthening vulnerable rural communities in the Greater Mekong subregion through agro-enterprise development in the starch subsector”; “Capacity building and regional collaboration for enhancing the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources in Asia”; and “Promoting equitable and sustainable forest harvesting in Asia”.
It is our sincere hope that this meeting will positively review these new proposals and we invite the Government of Japan to continue its support in these new priority areas.
I am confident that the sharp perspectives you will share with us today and tomorrow 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, and in assisting them in carrying out the plan of action agreed on at the World Food Summit in Rome during 1996.
I take it as my proud privilege to welcome and thank you again for your participation and wish you a nice stay in Bangkok.