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1. Introduction

The paper was prepared for a High Level Meeting on "Regional Programs for Food Security: Towards Sustainable Food Security and Poverty Alleviation" convened jointly by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) , in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, during the period 8-9 October 2003.

FAO committed itself to assist countries and Regional Economic Organizations (REOs) in preparing Regional Programmes for Food Security (RPFS) in order to support national efforts for food security. The role of REOs has been recognized as a corner stone for success in the fight against poverty and hunger. In the World Food Summit (WFS) held in Rome in 1996, and the 2002 World Food Summit: Five Years Later (WFS:fyl) , and in several occasions, country leaders appealed for more cooperation and harmonization of their food security and agricultural strategies and policies in the context of regional integration.

Several REOs have requested FAO support in maintaining the awareness raised and interest generated on regional food security issues during the WFS:fyl, and expressed their desire to pursue the constructive dialogue initiated at WFS:fyl with the actively involved financial institutions and donors in their respective regions. In this context the IDB, as a leading international development finance Institution, and FAO agreed to jointly organize a high level technical workshop on "Regional Programmes for Food Security in the Near East: Towards Sustainable Food Security and Poverty Alleviation", during the period 8-9 October 2003 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

The paper deals with national strategies and RPFS design and implementation within the context of regional integration in the Near East. The paper's main objective is to highlight the conceptual and pragmatic issues pertaining to the interrelationship between national and regional strategies/policies to attain national and regional objectives within a harmonized frame. The paper suggests policy considerations for such policy harmonization and linkage.

The paper includes five parts. Following this introduction, part two introduces the concept and motives of regionalism, regional integration and the experience of developing countries as far as regional trade Agreements (RTAs) are concerned. The third part presents the national strategies and food security in the Near East region. Part four highlights the Regional Programme for Food Security (RPFS); giving background to FAO initiative, the major components of the RPFS and the experience in the Near East Region. Part five explores the interrelation between the RPFS and the national strategies, i.e the importance of linkages, type of linkages, priorities for collective action and lessons learned so far from previous experience in the region and concludes with some policy considerations for enhancing regional cooperation in the Near East Region.

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