Coordinated Action Urgently Needed for Asia-Pacific Region to Deal with Food, Energy and Financial Crises and Climate Change

High-level meeting's recommendations to be shared at global and regional initiatives to deal with crises

Asia and the Pacific need urgent, comprehensive and coordinated action to deal with the food, energy and financial crises, and climate change – as the convergence of the crises will undermine the region's development gains and its future prospects.

That was one of the key messages from a high-level meeting which ended today in Denpasar, Indonesia, aimed at finding strategies and solutions to prevent the present crisis becoming a development emergency. The recommendations are contained in a document – known as the Bali Outcome Document – which will be used to provide a framework for regional action in handling the triple crises.

The High-level Regional Policy Dialogue on "The Food-Fuel Crisis and Climate Change – Reshaping the Development Agenda," jointly organized by the Government of Indonesia and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), attracted a wide-ranging group, including policy-makers, finance experts, civil society leaders, climate change specialists, private sector entrepreneurs and agriculture innovators. The two-day event was the first time that the issues of the food, energy and financial crises, and climate change, were addressed in a comprehensive and integrated manner in the Asia-Pacific region.

"The Bali Outcome Document emphasizes the need to strengthen regional cooperation among member countries and share experiences in dealing with this complex issues," said the Secretary-General of Indonesia's Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Hasanuddin Ibrahim, at the meeting's closing. "By adopting this document, we have a common direction on the strategies and policies to cope with the complex and interrelated issues on food-fuel-financial crisis."

He added that the policies outlined in the document need firm commitment from top leaders of all member countries along with private sector, academia, and civil society organizations; as well as the continuous support and facilitation of international and regional organizations such as ESCAP, the regional arm of the United Nations.

ESCAP's Executive Secretary, UN Under-Secretary-General Noeleen Heyzer, said she would take the Bali Outcome Document to the heads of state and governments of ESCAP's 62 members, and to all global and regional initiatives that tackle the crises and climate change. In addition, the document will also be used to inform various inter-governmental regional processes, including the ASEAN-UN Summit in March, 2009, and the ministerial discussions scheduled to be held during ESCAP's 65th Commission Session in April, 2009.

"I attach great importance to the Bali Outcome Document and I know its relevance in transforming the life of the people in the region," Dr. Heyzer said. "I note with great satisfaction that the need for regional cooperation in all areas of concern came out as a major modality for acting together in dealing with the threats to development."

The Bali Outcome Document includes a range of regional recommendations and actionable initiatives for addressing food, energy and financial security in the context of climate change.

On the financial crisis, participants called for regional cooperation in several areas, including strengthening the mechanisms for balance of payments support and trade financing. They said it was also necessary to address regulatory deficiencies and to curb speculation in commodity markets.

In relation to food and energy security, the participants' recommendations included the need to strengthen the region's food security via a comprehensive framework encompassing sustainable agriculture and forestry, climate change adaptation and mitigation, social protection and well-functioning markets. They also called on governments – particularly those of developed countries – to share policies and experiences in the developing of new and renewable energy technologies, in an effort to improve the region's energy security.

In particular, participants urged ESCAP to strengthen and expand technical cooperation for reinforcing national food security programmes, undertake initiatives for preventing and reacting to crises caused by price volatility and to develop and implement a sustainable energy security framework for Asia ands the Pacific.

In addition to the adoption of the Bali Outcome Document, Wednesday's segment of the High-level Regional Policy Dialogue included discussions on the perspectives of small island states, some of the countries most affected by the crises.

The Solomon Islands' Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, Mr. Alfred Maesulia, told the participants of climate change's specific impacts on his country. They include increased intensity and frequency of cyclones, increased flooding and storm surges and growing coastal erosion. He added that Pacific island nations need the knowledge and experience of those nations with experience in boil-fuel development and consumption; and that a feasibility study could be required to explore the viability of using coconut oil as a fuel for power generation.

Kiribati's Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Mr. Terieta Mwumwenikeaki, said the future options for his country, and other small island states, hinge on integrated national approaches to address the food and energy crises and climate change; the effectiveness of regional cooperation in tackling these issues; and, the assistance provided by the international community and donor agencies in this regard.

The High-level Regional Policy Dialogue on "The Food-Fuel Crisis and Climate Change – Reshaping the Development Agenda" was opened by the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Dr. N. Hassan Wirajuda, and a keynote address delivered by Indonesia's Coordinating Minister of People's Welfare, Mr. Aburizal Bakri.

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The Bali Outcome Document will be made available on the ESCAP website: www.unescap.org.