National Project Directors and
Chief Technical Advisors,
I am delighted to receive you here at FAO’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific for the first coordination meeting of the Programme for Early Rehabilitation of Asian Tsunami-Affected Countries. A very warm welcome to all of you.
The FAO regional office is particularly pleased to host this meeting because, almost exactly a year ago to the day, a meeting was held here entitled “Regional Coordination Workshop on Rehabilitation of Tsunami-Affected Forest Ecosystems: Strategies and New Directions”. Fifteen national representatives from the seven Asian countries affected by the tsunami and 30 representatives from key international and regional organizations assisting with disaster relief operation and rehabilitation efforts met to discuss forest-related needs and opportunities for collaboration. The meeting was instrumental in raising interest in the issue: it helped in the development of a regional coordination mechanism, elaborated a common vision and strategies, and concluded a series of recommendations for actions. FAO presented the results of the Bangkok meeting to its member countries at the Committee on Forestry meeting held in Rome in mid-March 2005. The Government of Finland came forward with financial support for the project you are now working so hard to implement.
Your project is the mainstay of FAO’s forestry support to tsunami-affected countries. And you, the CTAs and the National Project Directors and Coordinators, are the mainstay of the project. The project’s success depends on you. We count on your close cooperation with FAO through Susan Braatz, Coordinator of the project.
Over the next two days, you will be discussing technical and operational aspects of the project. There is a great deal to be gained in sharing perceptions and experiences across countries. Facilitating regional collaboration in forestry, agriculture and fisheries is one of the main functions of this office. I encourage you to take full advantage of the opportunity that this meeting and the project itself provides to learn about approaches and technologies used in other countries and to share your experiences with others.
I also encourage you, as you implement the project, to look for ways to collaborate and coordinate with other sectors, particularly agriculture and fisheries but others as well. An underlying objective of the project is to foster an integrated approach to the management of coastal land and natural resources. In other words, we hope to make the links between forestry and other land uses, and between forests, coastal protection and improved livelihoods of local people. There is exciting scope for this in your project, whether it is exploring the relationship between tambak fish ponds and mangrove forests in Indonesia, or the relationship between coastal shelterbelts and protection of villages in Sri Lanka, or the relationship between planting shade and fruit trees and improving the well-being of islanders in the Maldives.
FAO’s regional office is here to support your efforts. You have been in close contact with the project team here in Bangkok – Susan, Jeremy and Chalinee, but behind them are many other people helping to ensure that the project operates as smoothly as possible. We look forward to supporting you in the best way we can over the course of the project.
In closing, I would like to wish you a very productive meeting and a pleasant stay in Bangkok.