Bangkok, Thailand, 20 Feb 2013 -- A consultation with development partners and donors in support of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), today called for more focused efforts to reduce poverty and hunger in South Asia. The consultation was jointly organized by FAO and the SAARC Secretariat in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank.
South Asia, despite continued efforts to reduce hunger, remains home to more than half of the total hungry population in Asia. Some 35 percent of all the hungry people in the world are in the South Asian sub-region. Unlike Southeast Asia where hunger has been rapidly reduced in recent years, South Asia is one of only two sub-regions in the world where the number of hungry people has remained almost the unchanged or increasing. The other is sub-Saharan Africa.
In his opening remarks to the consultation, Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and Pacific said, “This is not a donor conference, but a very import first step to have a clear understanding of how to move toward food security for South Asia following the financial and food price crises which have reduced the amount of food many vulnerable people can buy. Today food prices are almost 60 percent higher than ten years ago in real terms, putting enormous pressure on the most vulnerable in society.”
Konuma called the situation in South Asia “very alarming” and noted that food production needs to be increased by 77 percent in the next 40 years to meet the needs of a growing population.
Today’s consultation was attended by a large number of government representatives from SAARC and donor countries. The SAARC Secretariat formulated a regional strategy and programme for food security with support from FAO. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) provided a regional technical assistance grant to the SAARC Secretariat to develop six programme proposals which were the basis for today’s SAARC-FAO Consultation with development partners.
The consultation signaled broad support for SAARC’s efforts to lay the foundations of a food secure South Asia region. It also furthered cooperation among SAARC and development partners to make sure people have regular access to enough good-quality food to lead active, healthy lives and to raise levels of nutrition, improve agricultural productivity and better the lives of rural populations so they may contribute to the growth of the world economy.
In closing Konuma said: “Our task here in Bangkok is to help build the capacity to deliver on these programmes and to strengthen the important new momentum we now see. More than before, the process of improving food security and social stability are truly interconnected. Eradicating hunger and promoting food security are key elements for future stability and peace, especially in South Asia.”