Seventeenth Session

Rome, 31 March-4 April 2003

The International Year of Rice

1. In response to the request made during the 31st session of the FAO Conference, the United Nations General Assembly, at its fifty-seventh session in December 2002, approved a draft resolution which declared 2004 as the International Year of Rice (IYR). The resolution, submitted by the Government of the Philippines and co-sponsored by 44 countries, invited FAO to facilitate implementation of the IYR, in collaboration with Governments, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Consultative Group on International agricultural Research (CGIAR) centres and other major international and non-governmental stakeholders concerned with rice development.

2. Observance of the IYR provides an opportunity to celebrate and promote the ecological, social and cultural diversity of rice-based production systems as a prism through which key global concerns can be addressed: poverty and hunger alleviation, under-nourishment, food safety, environmental protection, sustainable use of scarce resources, equity and evolving scientific applications for food production. The IYR is expected to promote efficient and sustainable rice development through combined and mutually beneficial action by the entire community of interests addressing the challenges and opportunities facing production, consumption, marketing and trade of this highly strategic food.

3. Many stakeholders at local, national, regional and international levels provide important contributions to rice development, and new approaches for meeting challenges are being introduced which can enhance development efforts. Recent improvements in global communications offer new methods and means for promoting technology transfer and adapting it to local situations. These provide opportunities for enhancing rice development through strengthening the linkages and collaborative mechanisms between partners, which will be basic features of the approach being taken to the formulation and observance of the IYR.

4. Planning and preparatory activities for observing the IYR have commenced. Within FAO, the Steering Committee of the International Rice Commission has been assigned leadership for coordinating the work. An International Working Group for IYR has been established and met 6-7 March 2003 in Rome. A concept paper, which includes the operational framework for preparatory and observance activities of all stakeholders, will be finalised and distributed in June. The required financial support for holding the IYR is being finalised for a fund-raising campaign. During 2003 assistance will be given to establishing national organizing committees and to the preparation of relevant papers and other documentation for use in implementing IYR activities.

5. Activities to-date have generated considerable support for the successful observance of the IYR. It is seen as a platform for addressing the increasingly complex political, economic, social, technical and environmental challenges confronting sustainable rice development which is of direct relevance to more than 50 percent of the world population.