Opening remarks by DSG Teo at the Food Summit

21 APRIL 2010




Your Excellencies
The Prime Minister of Vanuatu; Hon Edward Nipake Natapei
Distinguished Ministers of Pacific Island countries and territories
Heads of Regional and International Organisations
Ladies and Gentlemen

I am indeed most honoured and privileged to be part of this occasion. And to represent the Forum Secretary General; Mr Tuiloma Neroni Slade who is unable to be here because of another regional ministerial commitment. He asked me to, and I do so, convey to you all his sincere apologies and extend to you all his warmest congratulations and best wishes for your historical meeting this week.

2. Thank you, to the organisers of the Summit for availing this opportunity to the Forum Secretariat to provide some remarks at the opening ceremony for this historical gathering.

3. Food security was recognised as an issue of increasing importance by the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ meeting held in August of 2008 in Niue.

4. At that meeting, the Leaders acknowledged the high importance of food security as an emerging development issue, an issue which poses challenges for the future well being of people across the region.

5. They also called on all countries to maintain open markets and, where possible, to increase the production and supply of healthy food. The Leaders, furthermore, committed their governments to immediate action to address food security issues, not only nationally but, where possible, regionally through a range of measures across key sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, trade and transport.

6. At the heart of that commitment, the Leaders readily accepted the notion that the issue of food security could not, and must not be viewed and considered through the confines of the health standards of the diet of the people; or through the lack of supply of healthy food. Food security is no longer simply a health issue, it is a development issue and one that is multi-sectoral in nature and must be viewed in it broadest scope.

7. Therefore, to adequately address food security, a multi-sectoral approach or a whole of society approach is imperative and must be pursued.

8. Your historical gathering this week at the Pacific Food Summit is testament to that multi-sectoral approach; and to your governments’ commitment to exploring not only national solutions but also, where they add value, regional solutions to food security.

9. Present today, a vast range of stakeholders from the government ministries of; health, agriculture, environment, commerce, and planning; from regional organisations, UN agencies and civil society; and from the food industry stakeholders from distributors and retailers to regulators and monitors.

10. Each and every one of you is an important component (or actor) of this multi-sectoral approach. And all are encouraged to contribute constructively to the development of the framework for actions; that we all have been charged to develop with the view to endorse at the end of the week.

11. Access to affordable, nutritious food is a basic human right.

12. Over the years, food consumption habits have certainly changed and more Pacific people today rely on imported foods such as rice, flour and noodles to meet our basic dietary needs. For some of our Pacific nations such as my own Tuvalu, this is particularly true due to the scarcity of land and the poor soil quality of available land.

13. The 2008 jump in food prices was a wakeup call to countries that rely heavily on food imports. It also renewed the necessity for a call to urgent action. The Pacific region with its small-scale trading economies and high reliance on imported food is considered to be particularly vulnerable to these effects.

14. This vulnerability has been highlighted by the dramatic increases in food prices seen within the region in the past few years. Now more than ever, concerted effort needs to be channelled into food security as the lack of, and supply of nutritious food and the increasing low quality of some imported foods threatens our Pacific livelihood.

15. Furthermore, climate change and the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters continue to compromise our agricultural and marine systems, making it difficult to sustain local food production.

16. Urbanisation and high population growth rates, also put strain on customary land ownership structures and practices which largely revolve around cash cropping and sustainable farming. In some Pacific nations, conflict continues to be a major factor in waning food supply.

17. So the challenge of food security in the Pacific region is not only urgent but enormous. It challenges all of us present here this week to work together, and with each other to develop a practical and realistic Framework for Actions on Food Security. One that hopefully will effectively coordinates and orchestrates our collaborative efforts and resources to respond to address food security issues.

18. The proposed Framework for Actions on Food Security, in my humble view, is a step in the right direction. It is premised on a multi-sectoral approach. It will offer all stakeholders a platform for coordination and information dissemination; provide a mechanism to effectively combine efforts and resources across sectors; reduce duplication of efforts; and build on collective experiences and institutional memory.

19. Above all, the propose Framework will require the commitment, leadership and cooperation of all stakeholders. The Pacific region is one area in the world where regional responses to development challenges have had a high level of success, especially in areas where regional (or collective) responses add value to national efforts in addressing those development challenges.

20. Our region and our countries and territories need to be more strategic in our collaborative approaches to overcome the challenges posed by our geographical disadvantages in terms of distance and isolation, and the smallness of our economies and their narrow resource base. Effective pooling of resources and regionally coordinated initiatives, such as those under the Pacific Plan and the Cairns Compact for strengthening development coordination, are imperative as they can add value and provide greater benefits to our fragile food systems.

21. The Forum is a strong advocate for collective responses and the need for effective coordination of development resources. This together with good governance practices will strengthen our efforts to respond to the issue of food security; which will in turn improve the quality and standard of living for the people of the Pacific.

22. The Pacific Plan provides a robust regional framework for collaboration and cooperation and it is my hope that the values and principles espoused in the Pacific Plan will guide the development of the framework for actions on food security in the Pacific and our deliberations at this important Summit.

23. I believe that a food secure Pacific will go a long way to achieving part of the vision of the Forum Leaders affirmed in the Pacific Plan that “the Pacific region can, should and will be a region of peace, harmony, security and economic prosperity, so that all of its people can lead free and worthwhile lives”.

24. I thank you and wish you all great success

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