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

Regional Consultation on
IFAD’s Regional Strategy for Rural Poverty Reduction in Asia and the Pacific

Bangkok, Thailand
23 June 2006

Mr James Carruthers, Assistant President, IFAD,
Mr Tom Elhaut and colleagues from IFAD,
Distinguished participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

A pleasant good morning to all of you.

First of all, on behalf of the Director-General of FAO Jacques Diouf, and on my own behalf, I wish to thank the organizers of the Regional Consultation for inviting FAO to this important event.

I am very pleased to be here with you this morning and look forward to listening to the summary presentations on the major conclusions of self-assessment of the regional strategy and the emerging challenges and potential in rural poverty reduction. Later this morning, FAO will share its perspectives on the state of food and agriculture in Asia and the Pacific region.

As the two United Nations Organizations with the complementary responsibility to assist member countries around the world in efforts to defeat poverty and hunger through agricultural development, FAO and IFAD have been working closely with governments as well as farmers and other stakeholders in the rural sector. In recent years, both Organizations have clearly realigned their focus towards helping member countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The inherent inseparability of the two components of the first and foremost of the MDGs, eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, which are the primary mandates of IFAD and FAO, respectively, amply underscores the necessity that FAO and IFAD work closely together to deliver their services to Members in a coordinated and complementarily manner.

Distinguished participants,

In this regard I am pleased to inform you that, in addition to regular contacts, interactions and collaboration at the headquarters level in Rome, over the past two years we have initiated closer collaboration here in Asia and the Pacific region. FAO and IFAD are preparing to launch a major technical assistance programme to promote pro-poor policy analysis, capacity building and dialogue in the region in the near future. We are also formulating a programme to facilitate South-South Cooperation between Thailand and its immediate neighbouring countries in pro-poor agricultural development through promotion of agro-industries and rural enterprises. I earnestly believe that these are just the initial steps, and that we will undertake many more collaborative activities together in the future.

As you are aware, Asia and the Pacific is the most dynamic region in the world. Many countries have achieved rapid economic growth and drastically reduced poverty and hunger, yet the region is home to the highest number of poor and food insecure in the world. This is partly owing to the sheer size of the population living in the region as well as to their different states of development and potential, and to their policies and investment in human resources and infrastructure. I think, above all, as FAO’s analytical work has shown, it has also been a result of the development strategies followed.

Nations which had the right vision, knew their priorities and were able to translate them into clear strategies – and had the political will to implement them – were ahead of those lacking in these areas. This applies equally to Organizations like ours. In today’s context of competition for resources for agriculture and the rural sector, we need to be clear about our strategic priorities which will put to best use the wealth of knowledge, expertise and experience that our Organizations possess.

In this context, I would like to bring to your attention that to help countries achieve the MDGs and the World Food Summit Declarations, the FAO 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. As the root causes and consequences of poverty and food insecurity are generally the same, it seems to me that there is a great deal of potential synergy between the strategic priorities of FAO and IFAD.

I understand that IFAD has organized this regional consultation to share the findings of its analyses on emerging issues and challenges in reducing rural poverty and to solicit suggestions and inputs from various stakeholders in the region to identify strategic thrusts for a new regional strategy. We are fully confident that the collective wisdom and insights of the distinguished participants gathered here will greatly contribute towards the goals of the consultation. We in FAO look forward to continued and strengthened partnership with IFAD in the future in implementing joint programmes to achieve our common goals in the Asia-Pacific region.

I thank you for your kind attention and wish you successful deliberations and an enjoyable stay in Bangkok.