13 December 2016
Lebanon - Signature Ceremony of
Sub-regional Office and Projects
His Excellency Mr. Akram Chehayeb, Minister for Agriculture;
His Excellency Mohammad Al Machnouck, Minister for Environment;
His Excellency Monseigneur Gabriele Caccia, Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Lebanon;
Excellencies, Ambassadors, Regional Representative for the Near East Region, UN Resident Coordinator,
Representatives of the Lebanese Army and of the Security Directorates;
Colleagues of FAO;
It is a pleasure for me to return to this beautiful city of Beirut.
I would like to start by congratulating the People of Lebanon for the election of the President of the Republic, H.E. Michel Aoun, and also for the designation of the Prime Minister, H.E. Saad Hariri.
I hope that these developments will lead to an era of stability and prosperity for the Country.
I would also like to thank His Excellency the Minister of Agriculture of Lebanon, Mr. Akram Chehayeb, and the Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Louis Lahoud, for their continuous support to FAO and its activities.
Lebanon has always had a very special relationship with FAO.
This includes the legacy and special contributions of the former Lebanese Director-General, the late Edouard Saouma.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Lebanon is one of the 15 countries within the Near East and North Africa region that achieved Millennium Development Goal number 1 on Hunger.
But this excellent result does not reflect the full picture of the Near East and North Africa region.
The number of undernourished people rose from 16.5 million to 33 million between 1990 and 2015 in the region as a whole.
This is mainly because of the situation in Iraq and Syria, as well as in Yemen, where conflicts have led to a huge increase in the number of distress migrants and internally displaced persons.
Allow me to take this opportunity to congratulate the People and the Government of Lebanon for their great commitment and solidarity towards the displaced Syrians, as well as to other refugees.
So, the Regional Conference for the Near East and North Africa identified the importance of establishing a Sub-Regional Office to attend five specific countries: Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Iran and Syria.
FAO is grateful to the Government of Lebanon to have generously offered to host this office here in Beirut, and to contribute financially to it.
I would also like to recognize the efforts of the Permanent Representative of Lebanon to FAO, H.E. Karim Khalil. He has strongly supported this process from the beginning.
Let me also mention the former Minister of Agriculture H.E. Hussein Hassan, who I met in 2012. That was the first time the establishment of this is Sub-Regional Office was proposed.
The upgrade of Lebanon to a Sub-Regional Office comes at a very crucial time to support the five countries to overcome challenges and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
This Sub-Regional Office will be an integral part of the FAO Regional Office in Cairo, and will be headed by a Sub-regional Coordinator, who will also be the FAO Representative for Lebanon.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The situation in the sub-region is aggravated by longstanding challenges, such as water scarcity, soil degradation, the impacts of climate change and high unemployment, especially among youth.
The new Sub-Regional Office will seek to promote capacity development, knowledge exchange and partnerships.
We will focus on the identified priority areas for this sub-region, such as food security and nutrition, food safety, transboundary animal and pest diseases, resilience building and trade.
A multidisciplinary team of experts will be established to respond to the technical needs of the countries.
We will also continue our activities through the three regional initiatives:
building resilience for enhanced food security and nutrition;
and achieving sustainable small-scale agriculture for inclusive development.
Several projects are already being implemented.
This includes efforts to combat agricultural pests and animal diseases, such as the desert locust, Avian Influenza, coronavirus, and the red palm weevil, just to name a few.
I am also glad that FAO is deepening its activities in Lebanon in order to support family farming and create employment opportunities to benefit vulnerable populations.
Thanks to the generous support of the Netherlands, FAO will implement two new innovative projects in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture.
The first one will enhance employment opportunities for young people by giving them the conditions to obtain the necessary technical skills in agriculture and agribusiness.
The project will renovate seven existing public agriculture technical schools to provide high quality training and to respond to labour market demand.
The second project will support small-scale farmers to enhance their production capacity through land management and the adoption of sustainable water management practices.
The project will foster a climate-smart natural resource management approach.
Before concluding, I would like to share with you that FAO is reinforcing its focus on the implementation of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The Council also approved the creation of a specific Department to deal with climate change and biodiversity issues, to be called the Department on Climate, Biodiversity, Land and Water.
With this, FAO will be better placed to answer the call of the UN Climate Conference, COP 22, held in Marrakesh last month.
In Marrakesh, FAO launched the Global Framework on Water Scarcity, which supports countries to integrate climate change and sustainable water use into national agriculture policies. I invite Lebanon to participate.
We are also increasing FAO’s support for countries to assess climate finance, through the Green Climate Fund and other sources.
FAO’s vision is that climate action offers the triple win of tackling extreme poverty, hunger and climate change at the same time.
Thank you very much for your attention.