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 forest rehabilitation and management in Asian tsunami affected countries”.
The impacts of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami on coastal areas in Asia have drawn attention to the roles of forests and trees in enhancing coastal livelihoods and ecosystems and in providing coastal protection. In March 2005, soon after the tsunami, FAO convened a regional workshop “Rehabilitation of tsunami-affected forest ecosystems: strategies and new directions”, at our Regional Office here in Bangkok. The purpose was to exchange information on forest-related tsunami impacts and associated rehabilitation plans and to discuss opportunities for collaboration. That workshop brought together over 50 representatives of affected countries, regional and international organizations, NGOs and donors.
The workshop today is a follow-up to that first meeting. Several people who were at the first meeting have joined us again. A warm welcome to you and to the many new faces. FAO has been able to convene this meeting thanks to the generous contribution of the Government of Finland, through the “Forestry Programme for Early Rehabilitation for Asian Tsunami Affected Countries”. We are honoured that the Ambassador of Finland to Thailand and the Forestry Advisor of Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs are able to be with us here today.
The goal of the workshop is to increase understanding of coastal forest rehabilitation and management and to support improvements in livelihoods and the environment in areas affected by the 2004 tsunami. Now, almost two years after the tsunami, the affected countries are moving from emergency response into long-term rehabilitation and development. This is an opportune time to take stock of forest rehabilitation efforts carried out to date and to identify needs for long-term support for coastal forest management. We call on participants to identify actions to improve coastal forest rehabilitation and management for future development in the tsunami affected countries. 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.
The workshop outputs will also contribute to linking country priorities with the IUCN-led Mangroves for the Future Initiative, or MFF. Starting in 2007, this initiative is a multi-agency, multi-country initiative that aims to strengthen livelihoods and reduce the vulnerability of coastal populations in South and Southeast Asia and the western Indian Ocean. FAO is supporting this initiative and looks forward to collaboration with the other partners of MFF in its focal activities, including livelihoods support, protected areas, ecosystem restoration, and integrated coastal zone management and ecosystem valuation. We hope that this workshop will help foster collaboration in MFF and other worthwhile initiatives in the region.
Ladies and gentlemen,
FAO, with funding from several donors, supports an active programme for tsunami rehabilitation in the forestry, agricultural and fisheries sectors through 75 projects, ongoing or completed, with a combined worth of $65 million. We are working hard to foster coordination across these sectors and to address cross-sectoral issues in tsunami rehabilitation efforts in the affected countries.
The workshop on “Coastal area planning and management in Asian tsunami affected countries”, which will be held here from tomorrow through Friday, will discuss key post-tsunami land use issues that affected countries are grappling with. We are pleased that many of you will also participate in that meeting. The outcomes of the meeting today will be certainly relevant to that meeting and will help put your discussions into a broader context.
I wish you fruitful exchange of ideas and information today and successful workshop outcomes.
I hereby declare the workshop open.