The Regional Strategies and Programmes should reflect the framework for the collective priorities of the member countries. Regional Strategies should include the elements needed to support the national efforts to address priority areas of concern to the member Governments and civil societies. These regional strategies and programmes should be based of addressing areas where collective actions will be more efficient and cost-effective and the output meets the needs of all participating countries. Meanwhile, as the regional strategies and programmes are agreed upon and resulted from active participation of member countries, then their implementation will be through the recognition and reflection of such collective effort in the country programmes and strategies.
Accordingly, the national strategies and programmes should also reflect the regional priorities and agreed upon collective actions or measures. That is, member countries would be formulating an overall strategy for the group and each country would be responsible for the appropriate implementation of its role within the strategy. However, formulating and implementing such strategies and policies is of a multidimensional nature and requires effort and time to achieve pragmatic steps on the ground that would enable their implementation and guarantee their success. This is especially true when designing strategies and policies for sustainable developing agriculture and achieving food security. Therefore, the gradual approach adopted by the existing REG, seem to be appropriate. To start with, injecting appropriate links among national strategies and policies should be assessed.
There are two types of linkages: the direct links (policy coordination), and the indirect ones. In turn, the indirect links are divided into functional cooperation and institutional coordination.
Policy coordination is considered as a direct link and is the first type of linkages among policies of member countries. It aims at synchronizing these policies as a first step towards the formulation of common/regional policies. Major means of policy coordination are summarized in the following sections.
Harmonization of Trade Policies
Trade is known to be one of the low capital-demanding and quick rewarding economic activities. Therefore, to have countries get the benefits of cooperation at an early stage, it is advised to start policy coordination by harmonization of trade policies. This could be achieved through the gradual unification of tariffs and designing common standards to permit the smooth flow of commodities between member countries. Harmonization of other policies would, then, follow.
Common Policy Decisions
There are some common policy decisions that might be taken at early stages of economic cooperation. Examples in this respect include the gradual implementation of unified tax polices and common code of conduct for the exchange rate management. However, appropriate studies should be undertaken and hasty decisions should be avoided in order to come avoid taking wrong policy decisions.
Integration of Policies
Integration of policies means having separate but supplementary policies among member countries. This would start for specified areas such as enhancing foreign investment and developing foreign trade. Here, the objective of the policy integration is to reach policies that would enhance cooperation among member countries without competing with each other vis-a-vis other countries. This would be followed by formulating and implementing common policies in specified fields. Examples include common policies among member countries for seed in production and distribution and stocking for food security.
Once all of the above steps have been completed, the stage would be ready to the formulation of common strategies and policies, which represents the final objective of the policy coordination among member countries.
Functional cooperation represents an indirect type of linkages among member countries' policies/strategies. In this respect, policy/strategy linkages originate from the need to have coordinated policies/strategies in the fields where functional cooperation is to be effected. Fields of functional cooperation include (but are not necessary limited to) statistics and information systems, education and research, managing common resources, creating river basin and groundwater organizations, and combating common problems.
Statistics and Information Systems
Availability of good and reliable statistics and information is indispensable for the formulation of good strategies/policies. Cooperation among member countries in these fields would include the establishment of regional statistics and information networks. Such a system would represent the information base necessary for the formulation of good common/regional strategies and policies.
Education and Research
Cooperation in education would lead to the exchange of experiences as a means to develop the education system and services. On the other hand, benefits of cooperation in research include avoiding duplication of research activities, expanding experimentation fields to cover larger areas and different ecological systems thus, broadening the application of research results.
Managing Common Resources
Cooperation in managing common resources enable solving problems between neighbouring countries and achieving optimum utilization of common and trans-boundary resources.
Creating River Basin and Groundwater Organizations
While this factor constitutes a type of cooperation in managing common resources, the importance of the full and cooperative utilization of shared surface and groundwater resources justifies such separation. Such organizations would organize and monitor the cooperation in the utilization of shared water resources to the benefit of all concerned countries.
Combating Common Problems
Common problems include livestock and plant diseases that could be transmitted among countries, even if they do not have common boundaries.
Institutional Coordination is also considered an indirect linkage. The term 'institution' embodies different connotations of economic, political, legal, social and cultural origin. However, it is used here to mean a law, rule or formal procedure commanded by authority as a permanent rule of contact. Consequently, institutions derive their legitimacy and validity from higher authority or from widespread social acceptance originating from customs and practices established by society. They are of vital importance as they serve higher causes. The objectives of institutions are to effect, generate, regulate or sanction acts, transactions or productions of a particular kind. Hence, there is some power vested in institutions.
Coordination among institutions is required to enable the smooth flow of economic activities among member countries. It represents another indirect type of linkages among member countries' policies/strategies. Again, policy/strategy linkages originate from the need to have coordinated policies/strategies in the fields where institutional coordination is be affected. Fields of institutional cooperation include (but are not necessarily confined to) the changing role of the state, marketing and financial institutions, property rights, regulatory frameworks and institutions governing international dimensions.
The Changing Role of the State
The new role of institutions implied by the transition to the market economy emphasizes changing the role of the state and the linkages among and between different sectors of the economy. This transformation views the state as:
There are no clear-cut rules setting the boundaries of the new state. This depends on the peculiarities in each country, past experiences and the state of structural adjustment. Generally, as a rule of thumb, the state should avoid doing anything that the can be done more efficiently by private agents.
The transition to the market system involves sizeable changes in marketing and trade institutions. The need is there to entrust and develop markets and market mechanisms as a basic tool for growth and development. This implies opening up markets, deregulation and abolition of barriers to market entry and exit, and allowing market forces to effect the distribution of limited resources among competing needs and uses. Maximizing economic efficiency will lead to rational costs and returns, sustainable economic behaviour and non-discriminating and non-distorting policies and decision making.
The pricing system is a device for the exchange of property rights. These rights imply that only the particular entitled person has the authority to decide how the resource should be used. Therefore open-markets and freely functioning pricing systems cannot be established unless property rights to resources are established. It would also seem improbable that people and other agents using resources would be inclined to rationalize the use and conserve resources without entitlement to such resources. This raises the importance of clear property rights and the need to 'legalize' ownership of resources and informal rights, as well as regulate how such rights can be exercised.
Again, the transition to the market system involves sizeable changes in financial institutions. In most of the developing countries banks are almost the only source for financing investment. Therefore, developing new financial institutions and instruments is much needed to enlarge organize sources of investment to support development.
The need for appropriate regulatory frameworks emerged from developments at the international level and from the privatization process, as a means for dealing with externalities and ensuring the smooth transition to market environment. The design and implementation of regulatory institutions should take into account the following:
The International Dimension
The international environment should be taken into account for closing the gap between external and internal prices and returns to resources. Key areas of concern include:
Based on the above, most of the countries and the REOs seem to agree on the following as the major areas to spearhead the process of linking regional with national priorities in the Near East:
The following Priorities are also crucial to some countries:
To identify a regional initiative for a REO to be implemented at a regional level, such initiative should be tested against meeting all or major part of the following Criteria:
The main thematic areas and criteria followed for identifying project profiles within the RPFS should be based on the following:
The formulation of the Programme presented in this report followed the "programme approach", which recognises the interrelationship among the different agricultural activities and sub-sectors. This is also important for intensifying awareness of the policy makers and administrators of the significant holistic approach to agricultural rehabilitation and the necessity of continuously looking for linkages among activities that are necessary for realising cost effective, consistent and orderly rehabilitation.
The formulation of an agricultural development programme for the Near East Countries has also taken into consideration the country's technological and socio-economic realities and its surrounding environment. Near East Countries are currently pursuing macro-economic and sector reform measures. Most of the countries are pursuing long term strategic planning for economic and sector development. Harmonization of the strategic planning techniques, methodology, data base and indicators are important for future co-operation and possible economic integration among the countries of the sub-region.
Some sub-regions in the Near East has resource potentials and sparse and could become a structurally food surplus region. Yet, it has been caught up in a spiral of food surpluses and deficits, unsatisfactory growth performance and dramatic problems of poverty and access to food and other basic needs especially in rural areas. The level of aggregate per capita food supplies has barely kept pace with total energy requirements and conceals wide regional and household disparities. The Near East Countries is rethinking its agricultural development strategy to establish clear goals aiming at relatively high agricultural growth rates; enhanced household food security; promotion of traditional agriculture; optimum use of agricultural resources and of environmentally sound practices; and careful preparation of an agricultural investment map, giving special attention to regional agricultural specialisation based on spatial comparative advantages.
The Governments of the countries of Near East are carrying out institutional reforms and experiencing changes in governance by strengthening decentralisation through enhancing decentralisation, privatisation and reduced state control. The government's role is moving towards reducing direct intervention and be of a more catalytic nature that would concentrate on conducive measures and facilitating actions, such as socio-economic services, infrastructure and development of human resources, needed for stimulating and guiding spontaneous economic activities to the right direction. The countries of the sub-region are pursuing this in different degrees, speeds and sequences. The private sector, supported by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), is expected to have a larger role in the development process.
It is also considered important to support formulation of a national human, institutional, productive and environmental capacity building strategy to manage development and implement macro- and sector-economic reforms and build-up programme planning and management capacities, at both national and State levels, by streamlining arrangements for and providing training in national execution, policy formulation and analysis, project planning and implementation, aid management and co-ordination, and monitoring and evaluation.
As part of the poverty elimination strategy, all concerned international forums called for the protection and regeneration of the environment through afforestation and reforestation. Maintaining the natural ecological balance will guarantee sustainable output from the land and the natural resources, the efficient utilisation of water and other natural resources. Public awareness campaigns will be organised on environmental conservation, and the proper utilisation of chemicals, which may adversely affect the environment if misused.
The pattern of development and investment in the Near East Countries had till the recent past been sharply skewed towards the modern irrigated and mechanised rainfed sub-sectors. The dominant traditional rainfed sub-sector has been marginalised. This has not only led to lower returns on investment and lower growth rates in the economy, but also magnified regional disparities and created social tensions and civil strives which further drained the country's scarce financial, human and material resources needed for development. Balanced regional development is, therefore, imperative for an effective national economic and social reform with agriculture as its fundamental base. Although the principle of comparative advantage will be up-held, it is expected that as the marginal return in irrigated agriculture declines, it will be more attractive to invest in rainfed and dry areas which may provide comparable economic and social benefits particularly with regard to conservation of natural resources, employment, income generation and equitable income distribution, and food security.
In conclusion and in order to identify a regional initiative for a REO to be implemented at a regional level, such initiative should take into consideration the following: