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Food and
Agriculture
Organization of the
United Nations


APRC/00/REP

 

REPORT
OF THE TWENTY-FIFTH
FAO REGIONAL CONFERENCE
FOR ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

 

 

YokohamaJapan 28 August to 1 September 2000

 

 

FAO Member Nations in the Asia Region (as of 16 November 1999)

Bangladesh
Bhutan
Cambodia
China
Democratic People's Republic
   of Korea
India
Indonesia
Iran, Islamic Republic of
Japan
Kazakhstan
Korea, Republic of
Laos
Malaysia
Maldives
Mongolia
Myanmar
Nepal
Pakistan
Philippines
Sri Lanka
Tajikistan
Thailand
Viet Nam

FAO Member Nations in the Southwest Pacific Region (as of 16 November 1999)

Australia
Cook Islands
Fiji
France
Kiribati
Marshall Islands
New Zealand
Niue
Palau
Papua New Guinea
Samoa
Solomon Islands
Tonga
United States of America
Vanuatu

Date and place of FAO Regional Conferences for Asia and the Pacific

First Bangalore, India, 27 July - 5 August 1953
Second Kandy, Ceylon, 20-25 June 1955
Third Bandung, Indonesia, 8-18 October 1956
Fourth Tokyo, Japan, 6-16 October 1958
Fifth Saigon, Republic of Viet Nam, 21-30 November 1960
Sixth Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 15-29 September 1962
Seventh Manila, Philippines, 7-21 November 1964
Eighth Seoul, Republic of Korea, 15-24 September 1966
Ninth Bangkok, Thailand, 4-15 November 1968
Tenth Canberra, Australia, 27 August - 8 September 1970
Eleventh New Delhi, India, 17-27 October 1972
Twelfth Tokyo, Japan, 17-27 September 1974
Thirteenth Manila, Philippines, 5-13 August 1976
Fourteenth Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 25 July - 3 August 1978
Fifteenth New Delhi, India, 5-13 March 1980
Sixteenth Jakarta, Indonesia, 1-11 June 1982
Seventeenth Islamabad, Pakistan, 24 April - 3 May 1984
Eighteenth Rome, Italy, 8-17 July 1986
Nineteenth Bangkok, Thailand, 11-15 July 1988
Twentieth Beijing, China, 23-27 April 1990
Twenty-first New Delhi, India, 10-14 February 1992
Twenty-second Manila, Philippines, 3-7 October 1994
Twenty-third Apia, Western Samoa, 14-18 May 1996
Twenty-fourth Yangon, Myanmar, 20-24 April 1998
Twenty-fifth Yokohama, Japan, 28 August - 1 September 2000

 

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

 

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. Applications for such permission, with a statement of the purpose and extent of the reproduction, should be addressed to the Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, 39 Phra Atit Road, Bangkok, Thailand.

 

Ķ FAO 2000


Table of Contents


 


SUMMARY OF MAIN RECOMMENDATIONS

Ministerial-Level Session of the Conference

For the attention of Governments and FAO

The Conference:

1. encouraged the further strengthening of mechanisms for exchanging technical knowledge and experience through Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC), South-South Cooperation and other partnerships (para 23).

For the attention of FAO

The Conference:

2. encouraged FAO to maintain and expand close collaboration with other organizations to ensure coherence in the pursuit of food security and rural development (para 23).

Sustainable Agricultural Development and Poverty Alleviation in the New Millennium: Reflections and Lessons from the Asian Crisis

For the attention of Governments and FAO

The Conference:

3. stressed the importance of making disaggregated data on agricultural development widely available (para 35);

4. endorsed the recommendations of the eighteenth session of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission, highlighting the importance of sustainable forest management in the region (para 38);

5. urged support for the implementation of the Proposals for Action developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests and the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (para 38).

For the attention of Governments

The Conference:

6. invited member countries and international donor organizations to increase funding for agricultural research and for supporting institutions relevant for small-scale farmers (para 33);

7. called for implementation of policy reforms that encourage private and public sector participation in economic activities in accordance with their comparative advantages (para 34);

8. encouraged governments to focus on addressing cases of market failure, ensuring competitiveness and quality of support services, protecting the environment and common property resources, and promoting balanced regional development (para 34).

For the attention of FAO

The Conference:

9. urged FAO to continue and to strengthen its activities in support of integrated pest management, effective water and fertiliser use, integrated plant nutrition systems, pre- and post-harvest technologies and appropriate application of biotechnology (para 30);

10. recommended that FAO assist countries in establishing clearly defined and enforceable land and property rights and broad-based decentralised development of economic activities in rural areas (para 31);

11. urged FAO to assist member countries in developing effective micro-credit programmes, extension services, education and marketing support for small-scale farmers, especially women, the less-skilled and disadvantaged (para 32);

12. requested FAO to assist developing countries in meeting the sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) requirements of food-importing countries (para 33);

13. requested FAO to provide direct support and capacity-building services for carrying out needed agricultural sector reviews, assessments of policies for food security and poverty alleviation, and studies of pricing policies for resources and inputs such as water and irrigation (para 34);

14. encouraged FAO to assist member countries in collecting, analysing and sharing key information on agricultural development (para 35);

15. requested FAO to identify factors undermining sustainable fisheries and to promote effective measures against such factors (para 37);

16. urged FAO to study opportunities for advancing the comprehensive and sustainable management of marine resources, based on the ecosystem approach (para 37);

17. requested FAO to actively contribute to international discussions on the relationship between forest products trade and sustainable forest management (para 38);

18. encouraged FAO to collaborate with all relevant organizations in developing national and regional strategies for action for food security and rural development to ensure coherence and relevance of activities, including adequate budgetary support for its own activities in the region (para 39).

Implications and Development of Biotechnology

For the attention of Governments and FAO

The Conference:

19. invited international donors to provide the necessary financial support to FAO to assist in the work of establishing mechanisms for assessing and managing the potential environmental risks associated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) (para 47);

20. emphasised the importance of implementing the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilisation of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which was adopted at the International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources in Leipzig, Germany, in 1996 (para 48);

21. urged that the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, be finalised soon so as to promote judicious conservation and use of genetic resources for alleviation of food insecurity and poverty (para 48);

22. endorsed the work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) in setting standards and developing guidance for member countries in the areas of biosafety and foods derived from biotechnology (para 50).

For the attention of FAO

The Conference:

23. supported FAO's efforts to help member countries realize the positive effects of biotechnology, while working to minimise potential negative impacts (para 43);

24. urged FAO to strengthen its programme of policy advice, information exchange and technical assistance related to biotechnology (para 43);

25. requested FAO to provide policy advice to member countries, upon request, on matters such as setting priorities for the development and application of biotechnologies, and the comparative advantages of biotechnologies vis-ā-vis alternative technologies (para 44);

26. endorsed a proposal calling on FAO to establish a regional biotechnology network (tentatively dubbed "Asia-Pacific Bionet") (para 45);

27. requested FAO to organize consultations and workshops on the application of biotechnology (para 45);

28. urged FAO to strengthen its efforts to assess technology options and to monitor and analyse developments in the field of biotechnology, and to make timely and appropriate information available to countries and the public (para 46);

29. recommended that FAO provide capacity-building support to developing countries in establishing mechanisms for assessing and managing the potential environmental risks associated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) (para 47);

30. requested FAO to strengthen its assistance in developing and disseminating methodologies for in situ conservation of genetic resources (para 48);

31. requested FAO to assist developing countries in establishing suitable domestic regulatory environments to ensure biosafety and harmonisation with international standards (para 49);

32. stressed the need for FAO to coordinate and collaborate with all relevant partners on biotechnology issues and applications (para 51).

World Food Summit (WFS) Follow-up

For the attention of Governments and FAO

The Conference:

33. invited donors to work with FAO and the FIVIMS Interagency Working Group to establish or improve national and regional FIVIMS (para 55);

34. welcomed the initiative of the Government of Japan and FAO to develop the Asian FIVIMS (para 55);

35. recommended that special attention be paid to key areas such as natural resource management, problem soils (salinization), post-harvest management and loss prevention, food safety and harmonisation of production policy (para 63);

36. recommended that future reviews of food insecurity give consideration to the issues of food insecurity in developed countries of the region (para 67).

For the attention of Governments

The Conference:

37. urged concerned Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs) to strengthen national plans of action for World Food Summit follow-up and assign the highest priority to increasing investments in sustainable agriculture and rural development (para 54);

38. encouraged all countries in the region to expedite the political, social and economic reforms needed to enhance broad participation in governance and development (para 57);

39. urged member countries to strengthen commitments to South-South Cooperation as a cost-effective approach for sharing technology and knowledge (para 59);

40. urged countries to make disaster prevention and mitigation an integral component of sustainable agriculture and rural development (para 60);

41. called upon governments to undertake measures to assist small farmers in adjusting to liberalised trade regimes (para 62);

42. urged governments to make the Ministerial Decision on assisting LIFDCs, negatively affected by trade liberalisation, more operationally effective (para 62);

43. recommended that countries give special attention to investment and trade policies favourable to the poor (para 65);

44. urged all countries to improve the management, education and protection of migrant workers and their families (para 66);

45. recommended that countries strengthen national agricultural research systems and reinforce their roles in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) (para 68).

For the attention of FAO

The Conference:

46. recommended that FAO continue to strengthen three of its WFS follow-up programmes, which have significantly improved the investment climates in LIFDCs: the Special Programme for Food Security, Telefood and Strategies for Agricultural Development and Food Security (para 59);

47. recommended that FAO increase technical assistance in disaster management to the most affected countries (para 60);

48. recommended that FAO assist countries in strengthening policies, reinforcing infrastructure and building capacity for trade in agricultural commodities (para 61);

49. encouraged FAO to continue and strengthen collaboration with other organizations working in food and agriculture, and to contribute to other international fora with its knowledge and expertise (para 69).

Actions Taken on the Main Recommendations of the 24th Regional Conference
for Asia and the Pacific and other FAO Activities in the Region (1998-1999)

For the attention of Governments and FAO

The Conference:

50. encouraged the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission to take a more proactive role in facilitating the implementation of the proposals for action developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) and the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF) (para 73);

51. encouraged FAO and member countries to continue and expand efforts to protect and use sustainably mangroves and other coastal resources (para 74).

For the attention of FAO

The Conference:

52. encouraged FAO' initiatives to enhance the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, the adoption of the International Plan of Action for the Management of Fishing Capacity, as well as its leadership in tackling various issues of fisheries in the Asia-Pacific region, including questions on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (para 72);

53. recommended that FAO continue to provide strong support for the implementation of the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific (para 73);

54. requested that FAO continue to report separately to the Conference on activities in Pacific Island Countries (para 76);

55. urged FAO to incorporate, in future reports to the Conference, an assessment of outcome of actions and activities undertaken in the region (para 77);

56. encouraged FAO to further focus on topics of specific relevance and priority for the Asia-Pacific region in future Conferences (para 78).

Concluding Items

For the attention of Governments and FAO

The Conference:

57. noted that the invitations of Nepal and the Philippines to host the next Conference would be conveyed to the Director-General of FAO, who would decide on the date and place of the Conference in consultation with member governments (para 83).

For the attention of Governments

The Conference:

58. invited member countries to forward to FAO specific recommendations on the main subjects to be addressed in the next Conference (para 84).


I. INTRODUCTORY ITEMS

Organization of the Conference

1. The twenty-fifth FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific was held in Yokohama, Japan, from 28 August to 1 September 2000. The Conference was organized in two parts, including a Senior Officers Meeting from 28 to 30 August, and a Ministerial-level Meeting from 31 August to 1 September.

2. Representatives from 32 Member Countries participated in the Meeting. Observers from two United Nations Member States, eight International Non-governmental Organizations, and five Intergovernmental Organizations were also in attendance. Representatives of four other United Nations Organizations participated. A complete list of participants is given in Appendix B.

Inaugural Ceremonies

3. The Senior Officers Meeting was opened with addresses by Dr R.B. Singh, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative of FAO and His Excellency Hideaki Kumazawa, Vice-Minister for International Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), Government of Japan.

4. Dr Singh expressed appreciation to the Government of Japan for the excellent support in hosting the meeting. He noted that the Meeting and Conference had set a record in attendance and in the level of representation by Member Countries. He also noted with pleasure the participation of all four new Member Nations from the Pacific subregion.

5. His Excellency Hideaki Kumazawa, welcomed delegates and participants to Yokohama on behalf of the Government of Japan and formally opened the Senior Officers Meeting. He pointed out that past achievements, and the lessons of the recent Asian economic crisis, offered valuable insights to help meet the increasingly complex challenges of agricultural development and poverty alleviation. Noting that two-thirds of the world's undernourished population lives in Asia and the Pacific, His Excellency the Vice-Minister emphasised the need for further increases in productivity, including safe application of biotechnology. He urged delegates to generate new ideas on the priority actions to be taken to alleviate hunger and achieve sustainable development.

6. The Inaugural Ceremony of the Ministerial Meeting was held on 31 August. Dr Jacques Diouf, Director-General of FAO, welcomed all participants of the Conference. He highlighted the fact that the Conference provided a unique opportunity for exchanging views and perspectives on sustainable development of agriculture and rural areas, and for advancing the goals of food security and poverty alleviation.

7. His Excellency Mr Yoshiro Mori, Prime Minister of Japan, presented the Conference inaugural address. He commended the past and ongoing contributions of FAO in combating world hunger, but reminded participants of the challenges that remained. In particular, Mr Mori noted the recent struggles of countries in Asia and the Pacific in overcoming the adverse effects of the Asian economic crisis.

8. While acknowledging the notable advances in agricultural production in the past four decades, His Excellency the Prime Minister reminded delegates of the risks of intensive production on the environment, problems resulting from globalisation and turmoil caused by natural disasters and conflicts.

9. His Excellency the Prime Minister highlighted the importance of education and capacity building as indispensable measures for reducing undernutrition and poverty. He called on participating countries to reaffirm their commitment to effective implementation of the World Food Summit (WFS) Plan of Action.

10. The full text of the inaugural address of Prime Minister Mori is given in Appendix D of this report.

Election of Chairpersons, Vice-Chairpersons and Rapporteurs

11. Delegates unanimously elected His Excellency, Mr Hideaki Kumazawa, Vice-Minister for International Affairs, MAFF, Government of Japan, as Chairperson of the Senior Officers Meeting. The senior officers also elected all the heads of delegations of vice-ministerial rank as Vice-Chairpersons of the Senior Officers Meeting, and Mr T. Sofala Aveau, of Samoa, as Rapporteur.

12. His Excellency Mr Yoichi Tani, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Government of Japan, was elected unanimously as the Chairperson of the Ministerial Meeting. Delegates also elected all the other Ministers present as Vice-Chairpersons of the Conference, and Mr Abd. Kadir Abdul Hadi, of Malaysia, as Rapporteur of the Conference.

Adoption of the Agenda and Timetable

13. The Conference adopted the agenda, which is given in Appendix A. Documents submitted to the Conference are listed in Appendix C.

Statement of the Director-General

14. In his statement, Dr Jacques Diouf noted the progress made in implementing the Plan of Action adopted by the World Food Summit. He observed that the number of undernourished people in the world declined by about 8 million people per year in recent years. However, he reminded participants that this was still far below the figure of 20 million per year required to meet the objectives of the World Food Summit.

15. The Director-General noted the frequent natural and man-made disasters that challenge efforts to provide food security to the world's poor. He emphasised the strategic role of FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System in assessing the food and agriculture situation, determining food-aid needs and informing the international community of food insecurity problems.

16. Addressing the specific challenges and opportunities in Asia and the Pacific, the Director-General noted the recurring issues related to increasing population, depletion of natural resources and water scarcity. He noted opportunities and warned of new concerns brought on by globalisation, structural adjustment, modern science and technology.

17. The Director-General underscored the importance of the parallel meetings for Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) and the forum for discussion of Intra-regional Trade in Food and Agricultural Products in Asia and the Pacific. He viewed the NGO consultation as particularly beneficial for elucidating the views of partners active in pursuing the shared vision of food security for all.

18. A complete text of the Director-General's statement is given in Appendix E.

II. MINISTERIAL-LEVEL SESSION OF THE CONFERENCE

19. The Ministerial-level Session of the Conference was convened from 31 August to 1 September. It involved the full delegations of all participating countries and organizations, including 18 ministers of agriculture. The Conference welcomed the full participation of four new members from the Pacific islands; the delegations from the new members indicated enthusiasm and pleasure for the opportunity to share ideas and experiences with other Conference members.

20. Mr T. Sofala Aveau, Rapporteur of the Senior Officers Meeting, introduced the report of the Senior Officers Meeting to the Ministerial-level Session and summarised the key findings and recommendations resulting from the deliberations during that part of the Conference. The Ministers and other delegates endorsed the findings and recommendations of the Senior Officers Meeting, which comprise an integral part of this Conference report.

21. In validating and reinforcing the conclusions and recommendations made by the senior officers, the Ministers and other delegates drew particular attention to the roles of domestic food production; fair and equitable trade; sustainable broad-based development of rural areas; expansion of rural employment opportunities; sustainable management of natural resources; appropriate application of modern biotechnologies; intensified education and nutritional awareness programmes; and sound agricultural policies in enhancing food security and alleviating rural poverty.

22. The Ministers and other delegates highlighted the many positive ongoing initiatives in the pursuit of food security and described the challenges and constraints limiting progress. Of particular concern were the recent economic problems and disruptions arising from the Asian economic crisis, challenges of adapting to globalisation and new trade arrangements and the ravages of severe floods, prolonged drought, cyclones, civil strife and other natural and man-made disasters.

23. The Ministers and other delegates stressed the valuable roles of FAO in supporting Member Countries' efforts to achieve food security. Particular emphasis was given to the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), FAO's Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) and technical and policy assistance provided under various other mechanisms. The Conference encouraged the further strengthening of mechanisms promoted by FAO for exchanging technical knowledge and experience through Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC), South-South Cooperation and other partnerships. The Conference also encouraged FAO to maintain and expand close collaboration with other Organizations to ensure coherence in the pursuit of food security and rural development.

24. The Conference was briefed on two parallel events, which had been organized in conjunction with the Conference, by Mr Masanori Hayashi, Chairperson of the Intra-regional Trade Consultation, and Mr Mutsutami Harada, Chairperson of the NGOs/CSOs Consultation. The Conference expressed its appreciation to JA Zenchu for its leadership and support in organizing the NGOs/CSOs Consultation.

III. SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT AND POVERTY ALLEVIATION IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM: REFLECTIONS AND LESSONS FROM THE ASIAN CRISIS

25. The Conference considered the key issues of sustainable agricultural development and poverty alleviation, with special reference to the lessons from the recent Asian economic crisis and resulting implications for the agriculture sector and the poor.1 The Conference agreed that, as the region's most important sector in terms of employment and livelihood, agriculture has crucial roles to play in alleviating poverty and ensuring food security.

26. The delegates noted that despite unprecedented rates of economic and agricultural growth in the past three decades, poverty alleviation remained the main development issue in many countries of the region. Poverty was seen as mainly a rural phenomenon; urban poverty was recognised largely as an indirect effect of rural poverty. Poverty was acknowledged as the core of the problem of food insecurity.

27. Ex post analysis of the Asian economic crisis indicated that the agriculture sector played a major role in assuaging the severity of the impacts by absorbing displaced labour, contributing to foreign exchange revenues, increasing domestic food supplies and generating resources for domestic investment. Some countries supported the analysis presented in the Secretariat document indicating that agricultural growth was relatively rapid in open economies.

28. Currency depreciation in several countries had created incentives for increased farm production and revenues, but the actual realization of this potential was constrained in many areas by high interest rates and lack of access to supporting inputs. Some members noted that improved market access, especially in developed economies, would improve the prospects for delivering growth and poverty alleviation, especially for developing countries. Farm households were also negatively affected by falling urban demand for agricultural commodities and declines in rural non-farm employment, wage rates and remittances from family members working in other sectors.

29. Delegates recognised the major challenge of sustaining agricultural growth in the context of resource degradation and water scarcity arising from population increases, changing demand patterns and increasing globalisation. Improved technologies, appropriate agricultural practices, sound policies and effective institutions were acknowledged as important elements in meeting this challenge.

30. Delegates noted the positive contributions of FAO in promoting the application of appropriate technologies to enhance agricultural production, including through the Special Programme for Food Security. The Meeting urged FAO to continue and to strengthen its activities in support of integrated pest management, effective water and fertiliser use, integrated plant nutrition systems, pre- and post-harvest technologies and appropriate application of biotechnology.

31. The Conference acknowledged the importance of clearly defined property rights as an incentive for investment in agricultural development. The Conference recommended that FAO assist Member Countries in establishing clearly defined and enforceable land and property rights and broad-based decentralised development of economic activities in rural areas.

32. The Conference urged FAO to assist Member Countries in developing effective micro-credit programmes, extension services, education and marketing support for small-scale farmers, especially women, the less-skilled and disadvantaged.

33. The Conference recognised the potential of agricultural research to generate a range of adaptable and appropriate technologies, particularly for small-scale farmers. It invited Member Countries and international donor Organizations to increase funding for such research and for supporting institutions. The Conference also requested FAO to assist developing countries in meeting the sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) requirements of food-importing countries.

34. The Conference called for implementation of policy reforms that encourage private and public sector participation in economic activities in accordance with their comparative advantages. The public sector was encouraged to focus on addressing cases of market failure, ensuring competitiveness and quality of support services, protecting the environment and common property resources, and promoting balanced regional development. The Conference requested FAO to provide direct support and capacity-building services for carrying out needed agricultural sector reviews, assessments of policies for food security and poverty alleviation and studies of pricing policies for resources and inputs such as water and irrigation.

35. Recognising the importance of transparency, particularly in trade and financial institutions, the Conference encouraged FAO to assist member countries in collecting, analysing and sharing key information on agricultural development. It stressed the importance of making disaggregated data widely available.

36. Regarding the multifunctional character of agriculture, a consensus on the meaning of the concept and on further work within FAO was still not achieved, while strong statements both in favour and against were made by various participants.

37. The Conference recognised the major importance of sustainable use of fisheries resources in contributing to food security in the region. The Conference requested FAO to identify factors undermining sustainable fisheries and to promote effective measures against such factors. The Conference further urged FAO to study opportunities for advancing the comprehensive and sustainable management of marine resources, based on the ecosystem approach.

38. The Conference recognised the supporting role that healthy forests provide in maintaining agricultural systems, particularly for sustaining water resources. The Conference endorsed the recommendations of the eighteenth session of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission, which reaffirmed the importance of sustainable forest management in Asia and the Pacific. The Conference urged FAO and Member Countries to support the implementation of the Proposals for Action developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests and the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests. The Conference requested FAO to actively contribute to international discussions on the relationship between forest products trade and sustainable forest management.

39. FAO was encouraged to collaborate with all relevant Organizations in developing national and regional strategies for action for food security and rural development to ensure coherence and relevance of activities, including adequate budgetary support for its own activities in the region.

IV. IMPLICATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT OF BIOTECHNOLOGY

40. The Conference reviewed and discussed recent developments in biotechnology and their implications for agricultural production.2 Delegates recognised that almost all methods and products of modern biotechnology were already being applied in the region to some extent. This experience was considered useful in determining appropriate future courses of action related to the application of biotechnology in the agriculture sector.

41. The Conference concluded that biotechnology-properly integrated with other technologies including traditional methods-had the potential to greatly increase agricultural production, improve quality and nutritional content of food, decrease pre- and post-harvest losses and promote bioremediation and environmental improvement. The Conference acknowledged, however, that issues and concerns related to the development and widespread application of biotechnology should be addressed appropriately, particularly in areas concerning human health and environmental protection.

42. The Conference noted that Asia and the Pacific has several advantages compared with other regions with respect to biotechnology development and utilisation. The region is rich in biological and ecological diversity; it has a cadre of skilled human resources; it has good laboratory infrastructure; and it possesses an abundant labour force.

43. The Conference generally supported FAO's efforts to help Member Countries realize the positive effects of biotechnology, while working to minimise potential negative impacts. It urged FAO to strengthen its programme of policy advice, information exchange and technical assistance related to biotechnology.

44. The Conference requested FAO to provide policy advice to Member Countries, upon request, on matters such as setting priorities for the development and application of biotechnologies, and the comparative advantages of biotechnologies vis-ā-vis alternative technologies.

45. Delegates emphasised the need for increased access to information on biotechnologies, including information on availability, potential applications, costs and benefits. The Conference endorsed a proposal calling on FAO to establish a regional biotechnology network, (tentatively dubbed "Asia-Pacific Bionet") and requested FAO to organize consultations and workshops on the application of biotechnology.

46. The Conference urged FAO to strengthen its efforts to assess technology options, to monitor and analyse developments in the field of biotechnology and to make timely and appropriate information available to countries and the public.

47. Noting that countries had been encouraged under the Cartageņa Protocol of the Convention on Biological Diversity to establish mechanisms for assessing and managing the potential environmental risks associated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the Conference recommended that FAO provide capacity-building support to developing countries in this endeavour, as requested. International donors were invited to provide the necessary financial support for this work.

48. The Conference emphasised the importance of implementing the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilisation of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which was adopted at the International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources in Leipzig, Germany, in 1996. It noted the resolution on the need to balance the Plant Variety Protection and Farmer's Rights aimed toward accessing genetic resources and fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from their use. The Conference urged that the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which is addressing this issue, be finalised soon so as to promote judicious conservation and use of genetic resources for alleviation of food insecurity and poverty. The Conference requested FAO to strengthen its assistance in developing and disseminating methodologies for in situ conservation of genetic resources.

49. The Conference requested FAO to assist developing countries in establishing suitable domestic regulatory environments to ensure biosafety and harmonisation with international standards.

50. The Conference endorsed the work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) in setting standards and developing guidance for member countries in the areas of biosafety and foods derived from biotechnology. The work of the CAC and the IPPC was considered essential in protecting the health and safety of consumers and plants respectively, in ensuring fair trade of products derived from biotechnology and in providing guidance to governments on their regulatory management of these products.

51. Recognising the wide range of Organizations interested in biotechnology issues and applications, the Conference stressed the need for FAO to coordinate and collaborate with all relevant partners.

V. WORLD FOOD SUMMIT FOLLOW-UP

52. The Conference gave priority consideration to food insecurity and vulnerability in Asia and the Pacific and follow-up to the World Food Summit.3

53. The Conference welcomed significant improvements in food supply situation during the past two years. The region had largely rebounded from the adverse effects of the 1997/98 El Niņo phenomenon and the regional financial crisis. Regional production of staple foods had regained lost ground; aggregate carry-over grain stocks had risen; and net imports of grains had increased. Subsequently, per capita consumption of food had increased. The Conference recognised, however, that there were wide disparities among countries. In a few areas, natural and man-made disasters had caused food insecurity to worsen.

54. The Conference noted that new estimates of chronic food insecurity pointed to a decline in the percentage of undernourished people in the region, but an increase in the absolute number. Moreover, many Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs) had not made sufficient progress toward meeting the World Food Summit target of halving the undernourished by 2015. It was noted that the Asia-Pacific region had to reduce its number of undernourished by 14 million per year to achieve the objectives of the World Food Summit. The Conference urged concerned LIFDCs to strengthen national plans of action for World Food Summit follow-up and assign the highest priority to increasing investments in sustainable agriculture and rural development.

55. Delegates recognised that the slow progress in alleviating undernourishment could be attributed to many factors, including-increasingly in recent years-man-made disasters. The Conference stressed the importance of identifying, estimating and locating vulnerable people in a timely manner, through the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information Mapping System (FIVIMS). The Conference invited donors to work with FAO and the FIVIMS Interagency Working Group to establish or improve national and regional FIVIMS. It welcomed the initiative of the Government of Japan and FAO to develop the Asian FIVIMS.

56. In reviewing World Food Summit follow-up, the Conference gave particular consideration to the "people-centred commitments" made at the Summit (i.e. enabling environments, poverty eradication, disaster mitigation and collective actions in pursuance of food security and balanced nutrition).

57. The Conference noted that the Asian economic crisis had motivated several countries to accelerate political, social and economic reforms beneficial for meeting WFS objectives. The Conference encouraged all countries in the region to expedite such reforms to enhance broad participation in governance and development.

58. The Conference agreed that increased and sustained capital flow into agriculture and rural development was a critical precursor for poverty alleviation and eradication. It noted three encouraging trends in this area: a) the return to agriculture as a priority sector for employment and income generation; b) decentralisation and devolution of responsibilities in rural development; and c) increasing efficiency in distributing aid to the poor.

59. The Conference recommended that FAO continue to strengthen three of its WFS follow-up programmes, which have significantly improved the investment climates in LIFDCs: the Special Programme for Food Security, Telefood and Strategies for Agricultural Development and Food Security. In this regard, it stressed the importance of monitoring and evaluating these programmes on a continuing basis. The Conference commended FAO for promoting South-South cooperation in the implementation of these programmes and urged Member Countries to strengthen commitments to this cost-effective approach for sharing technology and knowledge.

60. Recognising the serious negative impact of natural disasters on food security, the Conference urged countries to make disaster prevention and mitigation an integral component of sustainable agriculture and rural development. It recommended that FAO increase technical assistance in disaster management to the most affected countries.

61. The Conference recommended that FAO assist countries in strengthening policies, reinforcing infrastructure and building capacity for trade in agricultural commodities.

62. The Conference drew attention to the possibility of small farmers having difficulty in adjusting to liberalised trade regimes. It called upon governments to undertake measures to assist small farmers to cope with the changes. It further urged governments to make the Ministerial Decision on assisting LIFDCs, negatively affected by trade liberalisation, more operationally effective.

63. In strengthening research and development of sustainable agriculture, the Conference recommended that special attention be paid to key areas such as natural resource management, problem soils (salinization), post-harvest management and loss prevention, food safety and harmonisation of production policy.

64. The Conference noted the development of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) Food System as a step toward more efficient use of land, labour and capital resources in the production, processing, regional trade and consumption of food. The APEC Food System was considered a positive example of collective action among countries of the region in addressing food security issues.

65. Consistent with the WFS Plan of Action, the Conference emphasised the importance of participatory approaches and empowerment of vulnerable people. It recommended that countries give special attention to investment and trade policies favourable to the poor.

66. The Conference noted the increasing importance of intra-country and inter-country migrants in contributing to food security and urged all countries to improve the management, education and protection of migrant workers and their families.

67. The Conference recognised that food insecurity was not restricted to developing countries. It recommended that future reviews give consideration to the issues of food insecurity in developed countries of the region.

68. The Conference stressed the importance of research and development in sustainable agriculture. It recommended that countries strengthen national agricultural research systems and reinforce their roles in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

69. The Conference noted with appreciation that FAO had been effectively working to ensure coherence among relevant International and Regional Organizations, Non-governmental Organizations, and others working in food and agriculture. It encouraged FAO to continue and strengthen such collaboration and to contribute to other international fora with its knowledge and expertise.

VI. ACTIONS TAKEN ON THE MAIN RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE 24th REGIONAL CONFERENCE FOR ASIA AND THE PACIFIC AND OTHER FAO ACTIVITIES IN THE REGION (1998-99)

70. The Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific (ADG/RR) reported on the major FAO activities of the past biennium and actions taken on the main recommendations of the twenty-fourth Conference.4 He drew special attention to the work of FAO, particularly the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAP), in supporting implementation of the World Food Summit Plan of Action, the Special Programme for Food Security, and South-South cooperation. He pointed out that approximately half of RAP's technical resources had been devoted to operational activities in Member Countries and more than 200 field projects had been operated.

71. The Conference expressed general satisfaction with the follow-up actions taken on the recommendations of the twenty-fourth Conference and with the overall support provided by FAO to the region. Delegates expressed particular appreciation for the work of the Regional Commissions in dealing with issues of importance to the region.

72. The Conference encouraged FAO's initiatives to enhance the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, the adoption of the International Plan of Action for the Management of Fishing Capacity, as well as its leadership in tackling various issues of fisheries in the Asia-Pacific region, including questions on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

73. The Conference appreciated the work of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC), particularly in advancing the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific. It recommended that FAO continue to provide strong support for the implementation of the Code. It also encouraged APFC to take a more proactive role in facilitating the implementation of the proposals for action developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) and the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF).

74. The Conference encouraged FAO and Member Countries to continue and expand efforts to protect and use sustainably mangroves and other coastal resources.

75. The Conference welcomed FAO's initiatives in assisting developing countries to adjust to the opportunities of a more liberalised international trade environment.

76. The Conference appreciated the expanding role and effectiveness of the FAO Subregional Office for the Pacific Islands (SAPA). It requested that FAO continue to report separately to the Conference on activities in Pacific Island Countries.

77. The Conference urged FAO to incorporate, in future reports, an assessment of outcome of actions and activities undertaken in the region.

78. While appreciating the subject matters covered by the Conference, the Conference encouraged FAO to further focus on topics of specific relevance and priority for the Asia-Pacific region in future Conferences.

VII. REPRESENTATION OF THE REGION ON THE CGIAR

79. The Conference was informed that, after careful consideration of the increasing representation of developing countries through various mechanisms and fora on international agricultural research, the 117th Council had endorsed the phasing out of the regional representation in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).5

80. The representative of the CGIAR expressed appreciation to FAO to having managed a highly productive and effective system of regional representation over the past 30 years. He also expressed appreciation to all the countries of the region for their active role in helping to govern and guide the CGIAR.

VIII. INFORMATION ON THE FAO WORLD AGRICULTURE INFORMATION CENTRE (WAICENT)

The Conference was presented with an introduction to FAO's World Agriculture Information Centre (WAICENT), which has grown to be one of the world's largest websites. The Conference was briefed on the complex issues of data management, accessibility and use. Also highlighted was the need for capacity building to ensure that Member Countries can effectively access and use the rapidly expanding wealth of information available through WAICENT. 81.

IX. CONCLUDING ITEMS

Date, Place and Main Subjects of the Twenty-sixth Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific

82. The Government of Nepal graciously informed the Conference of its interest and willingness to host the twenty-sixth FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific, in Kathmandu, in the year 2002. The Government of the Philippines kindly offered to provide an alternative venue if, for any reason, the offer of Nepal could not be accepted.

83. The Chairperson of the Conference noted that the invitations of Nepal and the Philippines would be conveyed to the Director-General of FAO, who would decide on the date and place of the Conference in consultation with Member Governments.

84. Member countries were invited to forward to FAO specific recommendations on the main subjects to be addressed in the next Conference.

Adoption of the Report

85. The Conference unanimously adopted the draft report presented by the Rapporteur and the Conference Chairperson.

Closure of the Conference

86. In closing statements and comments, delegates expressed their sincere appreciation to the Government and people of Japan for hosting the Conference. They were most appreciative of the generous and warm hospitality extended to all participants.

87. On behalf of the Government of Japan, His Excellency Mr Yoichi Tani, thanked the participants for their constructive and positive contributions, which had contributed to the Conference's success. He noted the constructive discussions and exchange of views during the Conference, the positive recommendations for future work and the commitment of all countries in the region to work collectively to address remaining problems. He then declared the twenty-fifth FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific closed.


1 APRC/00/4

2 APRC/00/05

3 APRC/00/3

4 APRC/00/2

5 APRC/00/INF/5

6 Including Senior Officers Meeting items 4 and 6

 


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