Monday, March 14, 2016

CSO Statement to the 33rd FAO Asia Pacific Regional Conference

Honourable Chairperson, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates and Observers, Ladies and Gentlemen

1.      We, 54 representatives of small farmers, landless, rural women, fishers, agricultural workers, pastoralists and herders, indigenous peoples, consumers, youth and NGOs representing 39 national, regional and international CSOs coming from 17 countries met in conjunction with the 33rd FAO APRC. We thank the FAO for this opportunity for civil society to tell you our stories.

2.      Your statistics and our stories tell us that our food and agriculture system is not only broken, it is also slowly killing us.

3.      Across the region, we are losing farmers rapidly to suicide, poverty and hunger. In India, 300,000 farmers committed suicide from 1995 to 2014. From 2003 to 2013, 5 million family farmers left agriculture in Indonesia; in India, 2035 farmers are leaving agriculture every day. In Australia, there were over 55,000 pig farms in the 1960s – there are now just 600. With the loss of every family farm comes a social cost for rural communities and more profit in the pockets of a shrinking number of large, transnational corporations.

4.      We have modern slavery of fisher folk on commercial trawlers, and of workers in processing facilities. Rural women remain invisible and undervalued, despite their key role as food producers, seed savers, farm workers, custodians of families, and household providers.

5.      Unfair international trade rules and free-trade agreements such as the TPP limit small-scale producers’ access to markets, and where we gain market access, we suffer from low prices as a result of unequal bargaining positions.

6.      Hence, there is an urgent need to move away from chemical-intensive, monocultural, climate change-causing mode of production to diverse agroecological farming systems that are regenerative, organic, resilient and nurturing. There are many examples of successful agroecology in the region, even in Australia, with the rise of multi-species holistic planned grazing.

We, the CSO community, strongly call on our governments to:

1.      immediately implement the recommendations of the Multi-stakeholder Consultation on Agroecology for Asia and the Pacific.

2.      provide capacity building for smallholders and community-owned cooperatives to control value chains, and implement scale-appropriate regulation to enable small-scale producers to produce, process and distribute our products.
3.      strengthen local food systems by implementing local procurement and distribution policies that favour ecologically- and socially-just supply chains within local, regional and national governments.

4.      Acknowledge family farmers’ global contribution by endorsing the call for an International Decade on Family Farming by the UN and review the commitments made in previous years to cooperatives, soils and other areas of food and agriculture that have been acknowledged by the UN.

5.      Protect consumers by ensuring that food is safe, nutritious, diverse and sustainably-produced, free of pesticides, antibiotics, and GMOs.

6.      Rigorously pursue human rights violations in the food and agriculture sector, with serious efforts to ensure corporate accountability, including punitive measures for violators. Relevant existing instruments include: the UN Declaration on Human Rights, ICARRD, the UN Draft Declaration on Peasant Rights and Other People Who Work in Rural Areas, the Voluntary Guidelines on Governance of Land Tenure and Small-Scale Fisheries.

As CSOs, we are committed to working together with FAO. Specifically, we call on the FAO to:
1.      Ensure continued meaningful participation of social movements and CSOs in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of FAO policies, legally binding agreements, strategic programs and FAO developed guidelines, especially at national level.

2.      Support independent CSO monitoring and reporting of compliance and state of affairs.

3.      Maintain sufficient time and space in the agenda for robust interventions from CSOs during the APRC. 

Ladies and gentlemen, why do the young people go to the city? They go for opportunity – for a decent livelihood. But when they get there, life is more expensive, and there is no connection to the land, and to life. And so they want to come back. But they cannot without opportunity.

To attract the young people back to agriculture we must provide access to land, control of value chains, and access to markets. We must join together and fight corporate control of what must be democratic food systems. Our future depends on it.

Thank you for your attention to the concerns of civil society. We hope that the Member States and FAO consider our recommendations in the regional program priorities and implementation.


Action Aid (AA)
Asian Farmers Association (AFA)
Asian Partnerhsip for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Asia (AsiaDHRRA)
Asia-Pacific Network for Food Sovereignty (APNFS)
Asian Rural Women’s Coalition (ARWC)
Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSN)
BARIO - Malaysia
Cambodian Federation of Agricultural Rpoducers (CFAP)
Center for Environmental Justice (CEJ-Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka)
Center for Social Research and Development (CSRD)
Center of Environmental Law and Community Rights (CELCOR-Friends of the Earth Papua New Guinea)
Consumers’ International
DHRRA Malaysia
Farmer and Nature Net (FNN)
Friends of Earth International (FoEI)
Greenpeace South East Asia
International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)
International Federation of Rural Adult Catholic Movements (FIMARC)
International Movement of Catholic Agricultural and Rural Youth (MIJARC Youth)
Indonesian Peasants Union (SPI)
Kesatuan Nelayan Tradisional Indonesia (KNTI )
Korean Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM-Friends of the Earth Korea)
Kumpulan Organik Kelantan
La Via Campesina (LVC)
Malaysian Agroecology Society for Sustainable Resource Intensification (SRI-MAS)
National Association of Mongolian Agriculture Cooperative (NAMAC)
Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network (PENGON-Friends of the Earth Palestine)
People's Coalition for Fisheries Justice (KIARA)
Pesticide Action Network – Asia and the Pacific (PAN-AP)
Pro Public (Friend of the Earth Nepal)
Sanctuary for Indigenous and Peasant – Sarawak (PANGGAU)
Self-Epmployed Women’s Association (SEWA)
Southeast Asian Council for Food Security & Fair Trade  (SEACON)
South East Asia Fish for Justice (SEAFISH)
Third World Network (TWN)
Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI-Friends of the Earth Indonesia)
World March of Women Pakistan
World Rural Forum (WRF)

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Keynote Address of ADG-RR Kundhavi Kadiresan

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning!

It is a great pleasure for me to be with you for this Civil Society consultation for the 33rd Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific. The investment of your time in the next two days and your contribution to this meeting will constitute an invaluable input to the Regional Conference in Asia and the Pacific.

First of all, I wish to remind you of the good news! Our assessment at the end of the MDG period showed that the Asia and the Pacific region dramatically reduced extreme poverty. It met the Millennium Development Goal of reducing the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by half in early 2010, well before the target date of 2015. The region also achieved the MDG 1c target of reducing the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by half. Furthermore, it achieved the largest reduction in the number of undernourished people in the world. These are remarkable achievements we should be proud of.

Let me be clear. While these achievements reflect the efforts of our member governments, they are also reflective of your achievements.  The work of Civil Society Organizations has been vital in the progess made so far.

However, I am sorry to say, the world, and this region in particular, is still facing a number of challenges. In the areas of FAO’s mandate, the major challenge is ensuring food security to a growing and urbanizing population that is also becoming more prosperous in economic terms and demanding more nutritious, safe and diversified food. At the same time, we are faced with less land and water available for food production, uncertainty due to climate change, unpredictable food prices and labor shortages in rural areas. We also face frequent natural disasters that take away precious lives and destroy farms and houses people have built through a life time of hard work. Within the past year, just to name a few, we have seen the destruction and consequent suffering caused by a massive earthquake in Nepal, the flooding in Myanmar and in my own home town of Chennai, India, and last month’s Cyclone Winston in Fiji.

FAO’s assessment in 2015 showed that 795 million people around the world do not have access to a sufficient supply of dietary energy to live a healthy life. Of these, 490 million, or nearly two-thirds, live in the Asia and the Pacific region. But the problems run deeper than this. Several billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, and in many countries, the prevalence of stunting in children  below five years of age is greater than 40 percent. In addition to undernutrition, obesity is also a serious problem in the Pacific, and it has led to an increase in noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). While obesity is currently much less prevalent in Asia, rates are increasing rapidly. These problems cannot be solved by just producing more grain, as important as that is.

At the same time, achieving food and nutrition security is no longer an issue of insufficient global supplies, particularly in this region, but mainly of lack of access to the means to produce or purchase food. Investing in rural development, establishing social protection systems, building rural urban linkages and focusing on boosting the incomes of the critical agents of change – smallholder family farmers, foresters, fisher folk, rural women and youth – is key to achieving inclusive and equitable growth while tackling the root causes of poverty and hunger.

FAO believes that it is possible to eradicate hunger by 2030. But governments and FAO cannot achieve this without the help of civil society organizations such as yours.  Our coordinated approaches  require a combination of pro-poor investments in sustainable agriculture and rural development and social protection measures to immediately lift people out of chronic undernourishment and poverty. We need to transform our current input-heavy food systems to make them more sustainable – including reducing food waste and loss – through better management and improved techniques in agriculture, livestock, fisheries and forestry. We also believe that the battle to end poverty must be fought in rural areas, where people depend directly or indirectly on farming, fisheries or forestry for incomes as well as food.

Ladies and Gentlemen
As I said earlier, your work is vital. Your work often-times points out the gaps that few others are addressing. In order to do our work, we need your work.

Indeed, in Asia and the Pacific, FAO has been working for many years with a number of CSOs in technical areas, emergency field operations, training and capacity building, and advocacy of best agricultural practices. More and more, we see that CSOs have been playing an important role in the global, regional and national inter-governmental policy-making, consultations and decision-making processes, treaties and governing bodies facilitated by FAO, including the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), and APRC. In particular, we have noted remarkable contribution and interest from CSOs for the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) and the recent Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on Agroecology for Asia and the Pacific. We believe that our collaborations will glow further in coming years.

From the experience gained together, we are convinced that taking due consideration of the views of civil society stakeholders in the region would enhance and broadened FAO Member Countries’ decision-making authority.

Today and tomorrow, you are here to exchange civil society’s views, representing various constituencies, on the technical issues we will discuss at the APRC. Given the wide range of interests and direct insights of the situation, needs, and aspirations of diverse constituencies you are representing, I am confident that your collective wisdom will contribute and enrich discussion which could lead to sound conclusions and implementable recommendations for endorsement by the distinguished Ministers.

I wish you a productive and successful Meeting, and I look forward to having Civil Society’s constructive contribution to the Regional Conference discussions.