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Providing assistance to its Member Countries for the formulation and analysis of their agricultural and rural development policies is a standing mission of FAO. Beyond responding to the countries’ requests, policy assistance feeds into the cumulative experience of the Organization which it shares with all others as part of its role in offering a neutral forum to help the international community progress towards a hunger-free world.

FAO's policy assistance is continuously adjusting to the changing conditions under which policies are elaborated. Such conditions include, inter alia, the extent and modalities of the role of the state in the conduct of the national economy; the needs and expectations of agricultural producers and food consumers; the increasing extent and sophistication of the links between agricultural production and the downstream processing and marketing chains; the development of international rules and norms related to trade, food safety and environmental concerns; as well as the ongoing progress in science and technology, including information technology.

Cooperation yields most lasting results when Member Countries, at their request, are assisted in developing their own capacity for policy formulation, monitoring and analysis. The analyses reported in this volume are an outcome of a multi-year collaboration of FAO with the Syrian Arab Republic, made possible by the unwavering support of the Italian Government. It led to the establishment of the National Agricultural Policy Centre (NAPC), an institution of a new style in the Syrian Arab Republic. Within the context of the far-reaching process of economic reform undertaken by the Syrian Government, the NAPC is called to play a major role in designing the new policy framework for the food and agricultural sector.

The set of studies summarized in this book have been elaborated under the Italy-funded Project GCP/SYR/006/ITA, operated in the Syrian Arab Republic by the FAO Representation, in the course of the preparations for the establishment of the NAPC. A panel of high level experts from a number of countries elaborated the studies, in collaboration with Syrian experts, as contributions to the national effort towards a reshaped agricultural development strategy. The publication aims at a wide dissemination within Syrian readership, and towards readers from other countries in the Region and elsewhere, who will get a chance of acquainting themselves with the Syrian agriculture sector - one that was, so far, little known outside the borders. Yet the Syrian Arab Republic is one of the very few countries, in the Near East, to have reached food self sufficiency, a strategic objective for the country. The book reviews the conditions that have permitted this achievement alongside very respectable results in terms of food security and inter-sectoral equity; it underlines the challenges that the country is now facing with a population that continues growing fast, and with environmental constraints that become tighter every day; it addresses the new policy demands of managing the adaptation to a progressively liberalized economy, as exemplified by the decision of the Syrian Arab Republic to request admission to the World Trade Organization (WTO), while preserving the positive social features inherited from the sector's history.

We are confident that the reader will find here fresh information, thought-provoking content, and insights into the prospects for a critical sector in a country in transformation, from which lessons of broad interest can be derived.

Santiago Funes
Policy Assistance Division

Mahmoud Taher
FAO Representative in Syria

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