Apia, Samoa, 13 May 1996
Agriculture Ministers from the South West Pacific Region present for the FAO Regional Conference met today in Apia, Samoa. This was the first time that such a regional meeting had taken place.
The Ministers who attended the meeting included: Misa Telefoni Retzlaff from Samoa; Baron Vaea from Tonga; Vaine Tairea from Cook Islands; John Falloon (Minister for Forestry, Representing the Minister for Agriculture Lockwood Smith) from New Zealand, David Mai from Papua New Guinea; Vincent Boulekone from Vanuatu, and Senator David Brownhill (Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister for Agriculture John Anderson) from Australia.
The meeting was opened by the Director-General of FAO, Mr. Jacques Diouf. Ministers thanked him for his presence and opening comments. Hon. Misa Telefoni Retzlaff was unanimously elected Chairman of the meeting.
The Ministers agreed that the opening of the FAO Sub-regional Office for the Pacific Islands in Apia symbolized the increasing cooperation among regional nations on agriculture, fishing and forestry issues.
Specific areas where increased cooperation was likely to produce mutual benefits were identified. These areas included:
- complementing and coordinating the work of other international organizations to minimize duplication and maximize countries' limited resources;
- attracting additional funding from international financial institutions to the region;
- influencing the agricultural policies of the region to encourage the market forces which will stimulate growth, including increased investment, and reform of transport and taxation. This implies undertaking an analysis of the policy reform requirements of member countries (including the costs imposed on agriculture by other sectors);
- working together to ensure that countries' fisheries resources are managed in a sustainable way. Ministers agreed they would not wish to see the pursuit of food security result in the exploitation of vulnerable marine resources;
- pursuing the practical implementation of sustainable forest practices. Ministers considered a good example was provided by the recent formation of an ad hoc working group on sustainable forest management in the region which arose from the FAO Asia Pacific Forestry Commission meeting in January 1996;
- raising the profile and status of agriculture as an important sector of the economic life of countries and as a desirable area of employment opportunities;
- ensuring that sufficient education and training opportunities in agriculture are available in the region and are used to best advantage by member countries;
- improving the pest free status of crop production to facilitate trade by developing effective plant protection and quarantine systems. This includes support of work undertaken under the auspices of the Pacific Plant Protection Organization;
- considering the expansion of FAO membership in the region;
- increasing exchange of technology and information between the agriculture sectors of member countries.
The Ministers noted that an example of recent cooperation was the recently held Technical Consultation of South Pacific Small Island Developing States on Sustainable Development in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The Ministers also to account of the brief on the outcome of the Consultation, a copy of which is attached.
The Ministers agreed that the meeting had been constructive and useful. They considered that it would be productive to hold further such meetings in future and that an annual meeting would be a possible objective. It was noted that meetings could be held in conjunction with FAO Regional Conferences or other relevant international conferences.