KATHMANDU, 17 May 2002 (Food and Agriculture Organization) -Twenty-five Asia-Pacific countries wrapped up two days of ministerial level talks on food security here today, agreeing on the urgent need for renewed political commitment to reduce hunger in the region.

The talks were to formulate the region's position for a forthcoming world summit on food security organized by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to mobilize political will and resources to speed up hunger reduction.

The 26th FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific, which began with three days of senior officers' discussions on 13 May, was one of the last of FAO regional conferences prior to the June 2002 gathering of world leaders for the World Food Summit: five years later (WFS: fyl).

After two days of ministerial level discussions, the Kathmandu conference agreed on the need for "more effective policies and strategies, and increased dedication in implementing programmes to accelerate the progress of agricultural development and ensuring food security for all".

It also noted the potential for a Global alliance against hunger to further mobilize political will in combating hunger and looked forward to operationalizing the concept during WFS: fyl. The alliance was first proposed by German President Johannes Rau in October 2001 and has since been endorsed by leaders of several nations.

The meeting reviewed a variety of hurdles to meeting the goal of the 1996 World Food Summit to reduce by half by the year 2015, the number of undernourished people in the world.

Particular attention was drawn to challenges arising from growing populations and food demand, globalization and emerging trade arrangements, natural and man-made disasters, civil strife, lack of rural infrastructure, shrinking farm lands, degradation of forests and declining fish stocks.

The problems of small island developing states were highlighted with the ministers noting that many of these countries face food security challenges that are as serious as those faced by people inhabiting fragile mountain ecosystems.

The ministers agreed on a broad range of strategies to reduce hunger and rural poverty. Domestic food production and stockholding, fair and equitable trade, sustainable management of natural resources, participatory approaches and partnerships with local communities, empowerment of the rural poor, especially women, effective research and development, rural credit, appropriate mechanisms of biotechnology and indigenous knowledge were highlighted as important for achieving food security.

The ministers also heard a statement submitted by representatives of civil society groups from the Asia-Pacific region who held parallel talks on regional food security.

Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga and the United States of America are attending the FAO conference in Kathmandu. Observers from the Holy See, Netherlands, representatives of UN specialized agencies and several intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations are also present.