Hundred and Twenty-seventh Session
Rome, 22-27 November 2004
International Year of Rice 2004
1. In response to the request made during the 31st Session of the FAO Conference, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), during its Fifty-seventh session in December 2002, approved the resolution submitted by the Government of the Philippines and co-sponsored by 44 countries, declaring 2004 as the International Year of Rice (IYR). The UNGA invited FAO to facilitate the implementation of the IYR, in collaboration with governments, United Nations agencies, the International Centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), other international institutions, Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), private sector and other stakeholders concerned with rice development.
2. The IYR declaration reflects the importance of rice to global concerns regarding food security, poverty alleviation, preserving cultural heritage, and sustainable agricultural development. Rice is the staple food for more than half of the world’s population and rice cultivation and post-harvest activities provide employment for several hundred million people in rural areas, particularly in developing countries. A sustainable increase in rice production is essential to meet the goals of the Millenium Declaration and the World Food Summit, especially into halving world hunger and poverty by 2015.
3. The fundamental objective of the IYR is to promote the development of efficient and sustainable rice-based production systems and to improve access to this vital food. The strategy of the implementation of the IYR is to engage the global community by establishing mutually beneficial activities including information generation and exchange, transfer of improved production technology and capacity building through education and extension, and adoption of policy and regulatory frameworks that are conducive to the development of productive and environmentally friendly rice-based systems. By increasing global awareness and promoting the importance of rice development, immediate and long-term integrated action is expected to enhance global food security and poverty alleviation.
4. International efforts for IYR observance are well underway. Internally, the FAO Organizing Committee for the IYR was established in January 2003 and represents fifteen technical services from six departments within FAO Headquarters. An Informal International Working Group (IIWG) for the IYR was also established in March 2003 with representatives from 17 major rice producing and consuming countries; UN agencies such as: IFAD, UNDP, UNEP, UNICEF, and UNESCO; CGIAR centers including CIAT, IRRI, and WARDA; and representatives from NGOs and the private sector. The IIWG selected the slogan Rice is Life for the Year. Under the guidance of the IIWG, the Secretariat for the IYR was established at FAO to facilitate the implementation of the IYR-2004 at national, regional and global levels, and to prepare key documents and facilities for IYR implementation such as the Concept Paper, the IYR Logo, the International Rice Calendar, fact sheets, press releases, posters and the IYR official website at www.rice2004.org .
5. On 31 October 2003, the Director-General of FAO officially launched the Year and conveyed the importance of sustainable rice-based development to the members and delegates of the Economic and Social Committee (ECOSOC) of the United Nations in New York. During this occasion, the FAO Secretariat, IRRI, Cornell University and other stakeholders coordinated a week-long IYR information booth on major aspects of rice-based systems and the relationship between Rice and Life at UN Headquarters. Another major international event was the FAO Conference on “Rice in Global Markets and Sustainable Production Systems”, which took place in Rome on 12 and 13 February 2004. The Conference was attended by over 500 senior officers including Ministers and Deputy Ministers from over 100 countries; heads and senior officers of UN agencies, CGIAR centres, NGOs and private sectors. A month-long exhibit on Rice is Life was organized at FAO Headquarters with contributions from Italy, the Philippines, Switzerland, Thailand and IRRI.
6. Supporting national rice activities represents FAO’s central strategy for the implementation of the IYR. Thus far, National Organizing Committees are operational and implementing IYR initiatives in 36 countries (Annex I). The IIWG met for the second time on 11 February 2004 and acknowledged that, on a worldwide scale, the lack of farm-level information on improved rice technologies is a common and critical gap. The IIWG clarified its purpose to use the Year to promote awareness among all stakeholders, with particular emphasis on policy makers, of the urgent need to support the extension of improved rice technologies to farmers and rural communities. Within FAO Headquarters, the IYR Secretariat has been actively supporting National Organizing Committees with support documents such as: technical books and manuals on rice, factsheets, posters, the Concept Paper, the four-minute video on International Year of Rice – 2004. Members of the Secretariat served as resource persons to Conferences, Symposiums and Workshops organized by national, regional and international institutions to celebrate the IYR.
7. The FAO IYR Secretariat has assisted in the preparation and presentation of the implementation of IYR at the five FAO Regional Conferences of the Ministers in 2004 and the ASEAN Summit in March 2004 during which the Heads of ten ASEAN-countries, People’s Republic of China, Japan, and Republic of Korea signed the IYR Poster. With varying degrees of FAO support, special events were also organized by national goverments, regional bodies and youth groups to cover a wide range of topics on Rice is Life, such as: the new face of the Asian Rice Industry; rice production systems; gender roles in the field; rice research and emerging rice technologies; conservation of genetic resources; harnessing novel biotechnology for sustainable production; rice-cooking festivals; and cultural heritages of rice production. These initiatives clearly demonstrate the national and global willingness to invest resources and time into promoting sustainable rice development.
8. FAO and its partners in the Informal International Working Group organized two Global Contests - the IYR-Scientific Research Paper Contest and the IYR-Photography Contest – to enhance the participation and commitment of the global community to the implementation of the IYR. IRRI took the principal coordination lead in the selection of the best scientific research papers. The winners of both Contests were honoured at a special event held in conjunction with the World Food Day on 15 October 2004. An exhibition was also held during World Food Day that displayed prize-winning photographs and a selection of other entries to further heighten awareness.
9. The Seventeenth Session of the Committee on Agriculture, held from 31 March to 4 April 2003, recognized that the Regular-Programme funding allocated for the implementation of the IYR was not sufficient and appealed for extra-budgetary funding to support this work. Recently the implementation of the IYR received initial funding support from the Italian Government under the framework of the project GCP/INT/933/ITA “Promoting, Coordinating and Implementing Observance of the International Year of Rice – 2004”. The Government of Japan has contributed an Associate Professional Officer to assist in the coordination of regional rice activities, conferences and seminars. However, there is still a strong need for funding to elaborate and implement rice development projects.
10. Upon the instruction of the Director-General, the IYR Secretariat developed two Regional Technical Cooperation Projects to help transfer specific technological innovations and promote capacity building for improved rice production in member countries. These projects, in addition to several projects under the National Organizing Committees, will establish a framework for national, regional and international activities for enhanced sustainable rice-based development beyond 2004.
11. Continued support from policymakers at national, regional and global levels as well as Donor Community is still needed in order to translate the achievement gained through the implementation of the IYR into concrete programmes and projects on sustainable rice development in rural communities for food security and poverty alleviation.
12. The IYR Secretariat will be grateful to receive the guidance from the Council regarding the effort to sustain the momentum of the implementation of the International Year of Rice 2004.
National Organizing Committees
4. Burkina Faso
7. Costa Rica
8. Côte d’Ivoire
10. Democratic Republic of Congo
11. Democratic Republic of Korea
12. Dominican Republic
21. Lao People’s Democratic Republic
31. Sri Lanka
34. United States of America
36. Viet Nam