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Press Release 98/25




Damascus, 26 March 1998 -- The Twenty Fourth Regional Conference for the near East concluded its work last night. Ministers of Agriculture and senior officials met here for five days to review progress made during the last two years and to chart plans for the next Biennium with the view of boosting their national capacities towards achieving food security.

The conference commended FAO and its Director-General, Dr. Jacques Diouf for actions taken to assist Member States in implementation of the plan of action of the World Food Summit, Rome 1996, aimed at securing food for all. It also stressed that the main focus of action lies at the country level, where governments have the primary responsibility for creating conducive economic and political environments that assure food security of their citizens, involving to this end all segments of civil society.

Furthermore, the Conference made an appeal against the use of food or food aid as a tool for political or economic pressure, in keeping with the right of all humans to have a sustained access to safe and healthy food. It also requires FAO to report on progress achieved in relation to cooperation with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the "Right to Food" issues.

The Conference welcomed the Results of the TeleFood Campaign of 1997, and supported plans for a wider campaign in 1998 aimed at raising awareness about the plight of the hungry and raising funds to help rural communities.

The meeting called upon Member States of the Near East Region to collaborate in the exchange of experiences regarding the implementation of FAO's Special Program for Food Security and the Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases; to actively participate in the "Regional Network on Rural Development and Food Security; and to support FAO's efforts for the establishment of a Network for this purpose.

The Conference also appealed to Arab and Regional funding agencies, particularly the Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development, to cooperate with FAO, especially in funding Special Programe on Food Security projects, in line with the standard agreement already signed by FAO with the IBD, W.B. asnd other Asian-African funding institutions.

The Conference emphasized the need for balanced economic growth to reduce income disparities through improving access to food by disadvantaged segments of society, and the adoption of a participatory approach to development in order to broaden the involvement of rural communities at the grassroots level to include women and youth.

Member States of the Near East Region were called upon to promote the development of appropriate agro-industries for increasing the residue value added of agricultural crops , consequently, raise farms income, generate employment opportunities, reduce crop waste and losses, encourage exports of agricultural products as well as intra-regional trade which stood at a very low level at present.

The Conference called for simultaneous development of marketing and agricultural production and for the enhancement of marketing infrastructures as vital components of sustainable agricultural devleopment.




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