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R.B. Singh, Assistant Director General and Regional Representative

FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Ladies and Gentlemen...

I am very pleased to welcome you to Bangkok for this first Workshop of the programme, Information and Analysis for Sustainable Forest Management: Linking National and International Efforts in South and Southeast Asia. I trust you will have both a productive and enjoyable time during your stay.

This programme is of considerable significance to the forestry sector in the Asia-Pacific region. Pressures to manage forests sustainably are increasing, both nationally and internationally. Our societies have set challenges and goals for the forestry sector and we must be responsive to these challenges, as well as being able to demonstrate our progress to meeting these goals. Thus, not only must we work to improve our forest management, we must also be seen to be achieving improvement.

The programme has been developed in recognition of the many difficulties facing foresters in most countries, and in recognition that we don't yet have good solutions to all these challenges. In some instances it is difficult to prove that a particular problem exists - or conversely to prove that it doesn't. A very good example is deforestation. Almost everyone agrees that deforestation is a bad thing, but considerable debate exists as to how great the problem is, where it is occurring, and over the varying estimates of national rates of deforestation reported by different agencies in many countries. More difficult questions relating to, for example, forest degradation, the roles of trees outside forests, production of non-wood forest products, the use of wood for fuel, and the effects of plantation forests on wood supplies and natural forests in the region, remain far from being authoritatively answered.

The EC-FAO partnership programme affords us an opportunity to begin seeking answers to some of these questions. The central focus of the programme is to enable countries to get better information for policy formulation, so as to manage their forests in the direction of sustainable development.

You will have noticed that the programme documents refer to the programme as a partnership programme. It must be, in every sense, a partnership - between the European Commission and FAO on one hand - and you, the countries, on the other. From the individual country perspective, the programme is one where the more effort you put into it - the more you will get out of it. Each country needs to play an active role in proposing, designing and implementing studies - and this includes studies that are implemented in other countries. FAO's role is to co-ordinate the programme, and to provide specialist advice on project design and implementation.

I specifically want to make mention of the other partner in this initiative - the European Commission. The Commission has generously provided the working funds for the programme - more than a million US dollars. It has entrusted us, FAO and the countries of the region, to plan the programme wisely, and to implement the plans, diligently. Thus we all have a major responsibility to the Commission, to ensure we deliver results commensurate with the trust they have placed in us.

I know that a very busy programme has been developed for the Workshop, and thus I will not prolong this address. I wish you every success in your deliberations, and look forward to your partnership during the implementation of this programme.

Thank you

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