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 have the great pleasure to welcome you to Bangkok for the Pilot Consultation on the Development of Profiles for the Exchange of Plant Protection Information among APPPC Members.
The FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, which provides the Secretariat for the APPPC, is pleased to host this important meeting. I would like to express my gratitude to the participants for having positively responded to our invitation to contribute to the advancement of agricultural development by improving regional information exchange.
FAO, as a specialized agency, it's main mandate is to raise levels of nutrition, improve agricultural productivity, better the lives of rural populations and contribute to the growth of the world economy. To achieve these goals, FAO serves as a knowledge network, collects, analyzes and disseminates data and information that help developing countries and countries in transition modernize and improve agriculture, forestry and fisheries practices and ensure good nutrition for all.
The development of information technologies in recent years has truly changed our lives and the way we conduct business. In particular, the Internet has made it possible for us to access a wealth of information at a speed that was unimaginable even a few years ago. Information is power. Better information enables us to learn from each other, improve the quality of our work and contribute to better functioning societies and a world community. On the other hand, we have more information than we can possibly absorb, which makes it necessary for us to organize the information in such a way that it can be more easily accessed, understood and used. In our field, this is often done through databases and structured information sheets such as country profiles.
FAO has long recognized that providing access to information is an important instrument in the development of agriculture. We publish the FAO Statistical Yearbook of world agricultural data and Selected indicators of food and agricultural development for the Asia-Pacific region (the latest volume covers the ten-year period from 1995 to 2005). This information allows people to make comparisons between countries, study driving factors of development, and identify trends that can be early warnings of potential dangers or signs of positive impacts of successful developments.
In addition, excerpts of information in FAO's database are published in the form of country profiles which contain key agricultural indicators in a condensed and structured format. Overall, FAO maintains about 35 databases; some of these also publish their own specific country profiles such as for livestock, fisheries, forestry, land and water use, pastures, food security, biotechnology, food safety, and animal and plant health. Surprisingly for me to note that there is no database or country profiles for plant protection. Therefore, the purpose of this meeting is to launch a new initiative and you are invited to discuss a subject that is apparently unique in this region and perhaps, in the world: the International Phytosanitary Portal IPP. IPP data source contains only a part of the overall plant protection information; pest and pesticide management, as well as the control of pest outbreaks, are also important fields of plant protection where the availability of country information could help formulate better strategies and policies and assist in regional harmonization and cooperation.
In a globalized world economy it is important to have international standards and to monitor their compliance and implementation. Many international conventions require their members to report regularly on the status of implementation. For example, the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), to which you are all members, requires countries to exchange phytosanitary information relevant to international trade. In addition, under the revised text of the IPPC, governments are encouraged to report on regular pest surveillance and monitoring, the establishment and maintenance of pest-free areas, and the results of pest risk analyses that they have conducted. The IPPC Secretariat assists in the exchange of official pest data.
Four years ago, the International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides was amended to include a provision to monitor and report on the implementation of the Code. Since it is a new requirement, the reporting procedures have not yet been set up, but when they are formally introduced the plant protection profiles that you will be discussing should contain all the information needed for your country's official report.
The Asia and Pacific Plant Protection Commission has recognized the importance of efficient and transparent exchange of critical information as an important means to improve regional cooperation and development. It is also aware that the need for accurate and structured information will increase in the coming years. Without waiting until countries are officially required to comply, the development of country profiles on plant protection information is indeed timely and very relevant for our future work. Indeed, this initiative represents a step ahead of developments.
Hopefully, the Plant Protection Profiles can already become part of the country reports in the next APPPC meeting scheduled for mid 2007 in China. By compiling the information at this time it will be easier to make the country presentations and you will contribute to a more informative and useful exchange of information at this meeting, as well as promote harmonization and cooperation among the plant protection institutions in the region.
Finally, I wish you successful and constructive discussions, and I would like to assure you that FAO will continue to do what it can to support the APPPC in its efforts to strengthen plant protection and the exchange of information.
I wish you all a pleasant stay in Bangkok.