Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to welcome you, on behalf of the Regional Office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, to this important regional workshop on “Coastal area planning and management in Asian tsunami-affected countries”. The Indian Ocean tsunami of 26 December 2004 drew national and international attention to the condition of coastal zones in countries across the region. Prior to the tsunami, the need for relief from poverty and for economic growth had driven extensive land use changes in coastal areas, much of which was unplanned. This left coastlines and coastal populations in a highly vulnerable state – both physically and economically. The 20 months of rehabilitation and reconstruction that followed the tsunami have, in some cases, perpetuated this pattern – coordination and planning were difficult due to the many actors involved and to the urgent need to restore the livelihoods of tsunami victims as quickly as possible. Almost two years after the tsunami, the situation is normalizing and the focus is shifting from emergency response to long-term rehabilitation. The opportunity to plan the sustainable development of coastal areas is now upon us. This means:
- the opportunity to alleviate future hardship resulting from inadequate risk assessment, consultation and analysis,
- the opportunity to preserve precious coastal zones for the environmental and economic benefits they offer, and
- the opportunity to elevate marginal populations beyond the risks that prevail in coastal areas.
Our own experience during the rehabilitation period shows that greater cross-sectoral integration and coordination can provide for more effective rehabilitation with longer lasting benefits. It is for this reason that the agriculture, fisheries and forestry groups of the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific have joined together to organise this meeting. As livelihoods in rural areas are multi-sectoral in nature, interventions by individual sectors alone can leave communities in a state of imbalance. We therefore recognise that there is, as always, room for improvement. We also recognise that coordination and integration can impose additional costs and we are, therefore, faced with the constant need to strike a balance; a balance that provides rightful stakeholders with both short- and long-term benefits and also protects our coastal resources for future generations.
Integration may take place on many levels – between local, provincial and central government, among economic sectors and within agricultural, fisheries and forestry production systems. Pitching management in coastal areas at the right level requires knowledge of these alternatives and identification of the appropriate degree of cross-sectoral integration. It also requires the recognition that, in these dynamic coastal zones, decisions that provide short-term benefits may lead to higher costs in the future. Integrated planning can yield many desirable outcomes but the question is not simply how to make integrated plans but how to bring together divergent ideas and systems to produce equitable benefits for now and for the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
FAO has played a major role in emergency response and rehabilitation, beginning immediately after the tsunami through carrying out damage assessments for the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors and participating fully in the coordination efforts of the United Nations Flash Appeal. Over the past 19 months FAO has supported an active programme for tsunami rehabilitation in the agricultural, fisheries and forestry sectors through 75 projects, on-going or completed, with a combined worth of $65 million. These projects have provided assistance to affected countries through physical production assets, financial support, training and capacity building, strategic planning, and strengthening community organizations for more effective rehabilitation.
FAO is working hard to foster coordination within and among sectors at national and regional levels. We have been instrumental in facilitating technical coordination among organizations working in agriculture, fisheries and forestry rehabilitation, particularly in Indonesia, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand. At the regional level, FAO has organized six regional workshops for sharing information and fostering cooperation and coordination for tsunami rehabilitation in agriculture, fisheries and forestry. We have also held regional workshops on disaster-related rural finance strategies and reducing food insecurity associated with natural disasters. In the fisheries sector, FAO continues to support “CONSRN” (the Consortium to restore shattered livelihoods of communities in tsunami affected nations), a specialized network for sharing information among five international and regional organizations involved in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors. We are also collaborating closely with the Mangroves for the Future Initiative, which is currently being developed.
Thanks to the generous contribution of the Government of Finland, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the UN Office for Coordination in Humanitarian Affairs, this workshop has been convened to enable discussion of these issues and to allow the assembled country representatives and other experts to share ideas and practical experience on planning and management in coastal zones.
The goal of the workshop is to increase understanding of coastal area planning, management and land related issues and to support improvements in livelihoods and environment in areas affected by the 2004 tsunami. We call on participants to identify actions to improve coastal area land use planning and management for future development in the tsunami affected countries.
As tsunami-affected countries move from emergency response into long-term rehabilitation, it is important that issues I have identified are fully taken into account. We hope that the workshop findings will contribute to improved rehabilitation efforts in the tsunami-affected countries. Beyond that, we anticipate that lessons learned will be brought to bear on improved coastal area management in other areas.
I wish you fruitful exchange of ideas and information this week and successful workshop outcomes.
I hereby declare the workshop open.