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1. Opening speeches


1. Opening speeches

1.1. Text of opening address by mr. Sawad Hemkamon on behalf of director general, DEDP

Mr. Dent, representative of the Assistant Director General of FAO, Mr. Vehmeyer, representative of The Netherlands Government, Professor Hulscher, CTA of the Regional Wood Energy Development Programme, Distinguished participants, experts and guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the Director General of the Department of Energy Development and Promotion, I have the pleasure of welcoming you to Thailand. I appreciate that you have come from 7 different countries in Asia to attend this Training Course. As you know, Thailand has hosted the Regional Wood Energy Development Programme in Asia for many years. The Department I represent enjoys excellent cooperation with the programme. Naturally, quite a number of activities of the Regional Programme have already taken place in Thailand, and we will be pleased if this continues to be the case.

Early this year, the Regional Advisory Committee meeting of the Wood Energy Programme was convened in Bangkok, which brought many delegates from countries in South and South-East Asia to this place. And last June, Thailand was host to the Regional Expert Consultation on Gender and Wood Energy, which was convened in Chiang Mail We consider both meetings to have been very important and successful, and to have provided opportunities for many interesting discussions. I myself had the pleasure of participating in the Expert Consultation, and actually it was in Chiang Mai that we discussed how RWEDP could proceed with further activities and training courses related to that subject.

I would like to quote some of the recommendations which were formulated in the Chiang Mai Expert Consultation:

The present Sub-regional Course on Women in Wood Energy Development is a follow-up of these recommendations, particularly the third one which recommends gender analysis training. I am glad to note that RWEDP quickly taken up the matter and is now implementing this training course.

In the coming week, the focus is on Women in Wood Energy Development, which is a major component of gender analysis. But of course, there are other gender groups which matter when wood energy development is discussed, for instance, children and elderly people. We know that in many countries young children bear the heavy burden of collecting fuelwood on a daily basis, and we also know that the elderly and, for instance, single-headed households often face severe problems in coping with their wood energy needs, in addition to other burdens. Perhaps these children should be at school rather then collecting fuelwood, and perhaps the elderly deserve a little more comfort. Similar and other problems are faced by women when it comes to wood energy. I expect and I trust that the coming week will help you in analysing wood energy projects and programmes from a women's and, more generally, from a gender perspective. I think the same type of analysis should not only apply to wood energy, but also to many other projects and programmes. Perhaps the approach by the Regional Wood Energy Development Programme can provide an inspiration to other programmes in related fields.

The Department of Energy Development and Promotion in Thailand is concerned with various aspects of energy, including wood and charcoal, energy conservation, and other issues. In the rapidly developing economy of Thailand, growing energy requirements are posing new challenges, and new options have become available. Modern forms of energy like oil, gas and electricity have become more and more widespread, even in the rural areas. At the same time we know that the use of wood and charcoal remains extremely important in the rural areas as well as in the cities. Actually, the use of wood and biomass fuels is still increasing in Thailand. Obviously, this requires adequate attention from the government departments concerned.

A glance at the programme for the coming week shows that you will have little spare time for sightseeing in Bangkok, let alone visiting other parts of Thailand. That is natural, as this training course is not meant as a touristic visit to Thailand. All costs are paid for by FAO, and understandably, FAO is expecting the training programme participants to gain the maximum benefit from the course. However, when you have free time on an evening or Saturday morning, do look around the bustling and fascinating city which is Bangkok. Even though Bangkok is considered a shopping paradise, please do not forget that Bangkok has much more to offer than shopping. Nearby the FAO office you will find the Grand Palace which attracts visitors from all over the world. Thai culture is also very much present in the many beautiful temples which can be visited. And related to the subject of your programme, you could also make your own field observations, in almost any part of the city, regarding the roles of Thai women in utilising woodfuels for the preparation of food at the numerous food-stalls. Furthermore, you can experience for yourself what many people in this country find: that the best and tastiest food is prepared using charcoal as a fuel.

Finally, I would like to congratulate the Regional Wood Energy Programme for convening this Training Course. I trust you will have an interesting and rewarding programme, and I wish you a very pleasant week. Thank you.

1.2. Text of opening address on behalf of Mr. Obaidullah Khan, ADG, FAD/RAP

Mr. Sawad Hemkamon, representative of the Department of Energy Development and Promotion, Mr. Vehmeyer, representative of The Netherlands Government,

Mr. Hulscher, CTA of the Regional Wood Energy Development Programme, Distinguished participants, experts and guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome you on behalf of FAO to the Sub-regional Training Course on Women in Wood Energy Development, which is organised by the Regional Wood Energy Development Programme. The Regional Office of FAO in Bangkok is delighted to host this course and to receive participants and delegates from 7 countries in South Asia.

Women's issues have, as you know, recently been the focus of interest at the International Conference on Women in Beijing, last September. In fact, aspects of gender and particularly women, are crucial in many approaches to development. It is often the women, the children and the elderly who suffer most from hardship and poverty. At the same time, women play an important role in national and local economies, a role which is not always appreciated or valued properly. Thus it is clear that the hardships as well as the contributions of women need to be addressed in development policies, programmes and projects.

Wood energy development is one of the areas in which women's issues are crucial. We know that in most, if not all countries in Asia, that it is the women who take care of daily fuel needs for domestic use, it is women who work for many hours in smokey kitchens, and it is often the women who participate in village woodlots or care for homegardens which supply the much needed woodfuels. At the same time, women have many other domestic tasks and they contribute, for instance, to subsistence farming, and also to income earning from commercial crops, livestock, and small-scale enterprises. Detailed surveys on gender aspects of rural households have shown that generally women have less time to sleep than men, the difference being as much as a few hours every night all the year round. Also, the time spent by women in their daily tasks appears to be much more fragmented than the time spent by men. Such information is important when we try to design effective interventions for development, including wood energy development.

Gender aspects are part of the present phase of the Regional Wood Energy Development Programme, even more explicitly and systematically than in past phases. I had the pleasure of attending part of the programme of the Regional Expert Consultation on Gender and Wood Energy in Asia, which was organised by RWEDP last June in Chiang Mail In those consultations, in which many high-level representatives from RWEDP-member countries participated, some country delegates presented articulate national policies on women's issues. Plans for mulating similar policies were indicated by others. Delegates also discussed how to institutionalise a gender approach in their respective organisations. It was noted that women's issues have to be integrated further into policy making and planning for wood energy. The consultations were conducted in a very good and cooperative atmosphere, and provided a common policy framework as well as outlines for further activities in the context of RWEDP.

The present course is a follow-up of these consultations. Amongst other subjects, methods and tools for incorporating women's aspects into projects and programmes will be analysed and discussed. I have seen from the programme that you will discuss gender analysis tools and apply checklists to project cases. The materials available from case studies for such analyses are abundant, and it is up to us to make good use of the lessons we can learn so as to improve future projects and development efforts. In a course like the one starting today, participants must be active contributors to the sessions, and base their contributions on their own personal experiences and viewpoints. It is fortunate RWEDP provides the scope for this international exchange and for the learning process which is admirably supported by experienced resource persons.

I would like to congratulate RWEDP for its current initiative, as well as for the success of the recent Expert Consultation which I mentioned before. I think women's and gender issues have been put firmly on the agenda of the Regional Wood Energy Development Programme. You may have seen the special issue of Wood Energy News last June, which focused on Gender and Wood Energy. I would also like to express my appreciation and thanks to the government of the donor country, The Netherlands, for its continued support to FAO, and to the Regional Wood Energy Development Programme in particular.

I wish you a very successful and pleasant programme in the coming week.

1.3. Text of opening address by Mr. Paul A.M. Vehmeyer, first secretary, the embassy in Bangkok and deputy permanent of the Netherlands to ESCAP

Dear representatives of the Royal Thai Government and the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, colleagues in the inaugural forum, course collaborators and WEP-Staff,

Dear Participants,

It is my pleasure to address you on behalf of the funding government, the Government of the Netherlands. I know that you have high expectations about this course.

Well, may I assure you that these are entirely justified. In my four years here in Bangkok the WEP-team has demonstrated great enthusiasm, dedication and a superb standard of professionalism.

The staff, together with the selected resource-persons, stand ready to offer another high calibre course. So may I encourage you to participate as fully as possible in order to extract generous experiences and benefits from it.

With your approval I would like for a moment to go back to the Participants' Information Note you all received. From this you must have concluded that a Gender Approach is a condition for a successful Wood Energy Development Programme Plan.

Please allow me to formulate a question which almost certainly is lingering in the back of your minds.

Why are donors so interested in funding "the Gender Approach" in the Development Cooperation?

This question was treated at a previous seminar and it seems appropriate to recall the response.

Of course an overall concern of the Netherlands Development Cooperation is that the large financial sums that are donated should in particular be relevant for Structural Poverty Alleviation. Many bilateral donors share this paramount consideration. It is fair to say that decades of development assistance programmes have failed to root out hard-core poverty on the desired scale.

Now, the international discussion on development theory - in other words the debate on unresolved challenges - centers on a number of topics, including the agents of change and the risks of the Structural Adjustment Programmes and the Extended Structural Adjustment Facilities, the SAP's and the ESAF's of the Bretton Woods Institutions. Development research has brought to light that under the heading "Agents of Change" the Gender Analysis Tools are indispensable if one is commited to increasing levels of participation at the community level. That will evidently guarantee real will-power and provision of means to push back persistent poverty levels within deprived societies.

Certainly one can ride much higher waves of inspiration. The Beijing Conference, following on the Forward Looking Strategies of Nairobi is a monument to collective creative activity and commitment, serving all-important political goals.

The RWEDP Gender Approach I would like more to compare with the bread and butter instruments needed to technically deliver the goods at grassroots level, or more aptly put, 'at the root of shrub and tree' within or around the village. In other words to formulate policies and put them to work in rural areas, in daily life. This seminar is the second in a tripod or a trivet to use a metaphor. The latter supporting a nice boiling kettle which is not the same as a melting-pot. But I leave that matter to much better qualified speakers later in this week.

Ahead of the current seminar lies a similar sub-regional conference targeted at the eight South-East Asia countries.

May I remark in passing that Gender & Development Specialists are attached to the Netherlands Embassies in many countries. Also at the subcontinent level. They are ready to help where they can with network information, enquiries regarding the operation of local and regional Women's Funds and with advice on matters of common interest.

To facilitate your access to these officials you will find some information at the table where the conference papers are issued. With reference to what Mr. Sawad said on behalf of the Thai Government regarding particularly vulnerable groups such as female headed single parent households and children who are denied a basic education, it should be noted these could be possible beneficiaries of local community initiatives.

Let me now say something about the FAO. It is a very large organisation with many activities throughout the world. These days are not the easiest for the United Nations and its Specialised Agencies and the FAO is no exception. In fact more the place where an example has been set. Its General Conference in October was the first major gathering of a UN agency after a strong drive from a large country to gain efficiencies by slashing UN budgets everywhere. At this gathering I'm afraid I have to report that the FAO took a maiden hit.

This RWEDP programme is financed from the FAO's extra-budgetary programme and should be considered safe from financial cut-backs. It seems an appropriate time, therefore, to dwell on its achievements.

The RWEDP was established in 1988 and was developed with due regard for "critical mass" with 11 participating countries in this part of the world. It was also devised in a well-structured manner with a Regional Advisory Board, National Advisory Committees and National Wood Energy Working Groups. The programme focal points, again in each participating country, are the life lines to "Mother" to use an epithet - a descriptive phrase for Headquarters borrowed from a once famous TV crime-series. The headquarters, as you know, is situated in Rome.

In 1994 after a thorough evaluation the extended RWEDP started to encompass the 15 countries which are currently participating in the programme.

That "Mother" cares well may be indicated by the number of publications which to date exceeds 40, many of which are technical reports with vast, readily usable knowledge. I am not counting the editions of the Wood Energy News, the Journal which has appeared no less than 24 times. Already 6 years ago a RWEDP publication was dedicated to Women's Role in Forest Resource Management. Moreover, a Special issue of WEN was devoted to the Gender-lssues after the Chiang Mai workshop held in the beginning of this year.

Let me finish this inaugural contribution at the beginning of your course with the most important part of all, that is the knowledge and experience you bring to this meeting yourself. Coming from various countries and diverse institutions and organisations - government agencies, academic centers and NGOs alike - you together represent a rare source of wealth. Your combined knowledge and experience is your biggest asset here. That each of you and the course as a whole may capitalise on that is my sincerest wish.

Finally, I would like to express my gratitude for the opportunity to speak here this morning, so kindly offered to the Embassy by the Chief Technical Adviser, Professor Wim Hulscher. May I also wish you all a fruitful and pleasant stay in Bangkok.

Thank you.

1.4. Vote of thanks by Dr. W.S. Hulscher, CTA, RWEDP, Bangkok

Mr. Sawad Hemkamon, representative of the Department of Energy Development and Promotion, Mr. Dent, representative of the Assistant Director General of FAO,

Mr. Vehmeyer, representative of The Netherlands Government,

Distinguished participants, experts and guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you all for coming to Bangkok, to FAO, and to the Opening of our Training Course on Women in Wood Energy Development.

In particular, thank you Mr. Sawad, for welcoming us on behalf of DEDP and the Thai Government. I am happy you can observe this follow-up of the Chiang Mai Consultation, and that you underlined so well some of the conclusions of that meeting. I think it is as long as 11 years since I first visited DEDP at Yodse, Patumwan, in Bangkok, to meet the then Director, Mr. Sompong. By then DEDP was still called NEA. In those days we didn't know the word gender, or at least we didn't use it. We simply talked about woodstoves and households. And yes, we talked about charcoal; I fully agree with you on the tastiness of food prepared on charcoal. A lot has changed in Thailand as well as in the energy field in these 11 years, but fortunately not the charcoal! Mr. Sawad, I also appreciate that you drew our attention to the wider scope of gender groups. The Regional Wood energy Programme very much appreciates the good cooperation with DEDP, and all of us are delighted to be hosted in Thailand.

Thank you also, Mr. Dent, for addressing us on behalf of the ADG, Mr. Obaidullah Khan. I was pleasantly surprised when, last June, the ADG indicated his wish to attend part of our Expert Consultation on Gender and Wood Energy. Actually, I learned that the ADG takes a keen interest in issues of gender, and is personally committed to the subjects we are discussing. It is very stimulating for the Regional Wood Energy Development Programme to interact with the highest-level Representative of FAO in this Region in a way which goes beyond administrative affairs. We are also indebted to the Regional Office of FAO for the very pleasant cooperation and the general support our programme enjoys.

Perhaps we should strive even more to implement the lessons from our own training courses and the recommendations made by experts. In Chiang Mai it was recommended that women should have greater involvement at all levels, including the higher positions, as quoted by Mr. Sawad. In one of the Professional Staff meetings when Sandy Stephens was still with RAPA, some 20 men and only 1 woman were counted. And Headquarters will probably show the same balance, just multiplied by a few hundred or so. Similarly, looking at RWEDP itself, I see only men as professionals. But at least, in the very near future RWEDP is expecting 2 female assistant-professional officers to counter the balance.

Thank you too, Mr. Vehmeyer, for addressing us on behalf of The Netherlands Embassy and Government. I know you have absented yourself from another important meeting in order to attend this Opening Session. I also know you are following with close interest what is going on at RWEDP, including the many Back-to-Office Reports on our activities. Indeed, these days United Nations, including FAO, is critically looked at by many members and contributors. The best thing we can do is to work hard, critically look at our own organisation performance, and be open to suggestions for improvements. Personally I think that the current overhead can and should enable an increased output by the organisation. Definitely we must open our minds for greater dialogue with the outside world, which is the only justification for the UN's existence.

Mr. Vehmeyer, you have for a long time sympathised with the aims of the Regional Wood Energy Programme, and I do hope we can enjoy your interest for many more years to come.

Ladies and gentlemen, participants,

I very much appreciate your interest in wood energy development, and this course in particular. I value your mixed backgrounds: government departments in energy, forestry and other sectors, to academic institutes and NGOs. I think we can learn a lot from each other, from your experiences with projects and programmes with regard to the role of women. I also appreciate that this group consists of both women and men. It is clear to all of us that we do not look at issues of gender or women in wood energy development as only a women's affair. What we aim for is that the quality of our projects and programmes, indeed the formulation and implementation of our policies and interventions, will benefit from a better understanding of gender aspects. This matters to all staff in a professional organisation. I am pleased to acknowledge and thank Mrs. Govind Kelkar and Mr. Dave Nathan, who will facilitate most of our sessions in the coming week, as well as Mr. Amarasekara, who will serve as a resource person.

It may be of interest to you to know that another Sub-Regional Course is being prepared by RWEDP on "Women, Wood Energy and Health", in 1996 in Malaysia, for the 8 member countries from South-East Asia. Furthermore, gender aspects will play a role in several other regional and national activities supported by RWEDP.

Last but not least, I would like to thank the support staff of RWEDP. It has been a hectic time at our offices. In the past 7 weeks we have organised 7 regional workshops in 6 different countries. All sorts of arrangements have had to be made for the programme and the participants, hundreds of faxes, letters and e-mail messages have had to be sent out every week, and travel arrangements, finances, paperwork and numerous other things dealt with. This has required a tremendous effort, skill and organisational discipline from all staff. I think the support staff has done an excellent job. In times of pressure they have maintained a joyful and cooperative atmosphere, and I would really like to thank them for that.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am confident you will benefit from this training course and that you will enjoy your stay in Bangkok. Thank you very much.

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