Twenty-seventh FAO Regional Conferencefor the Near East

Doha, Qatar, 13 - 17 March 2004

Provisional Annotated Agenda


13-15 March 2004


1. Opening of the Senior Officers Meeting

2. Election of Chairperson and Vice-Chairpersons and Appointment of the Rapporteur

3. Adoption of the Agenda and Timetable


4. "Follow-up to the World Food Summit and the World Food Summit: five years later : Regional Dimensions

Following suggestions from several high level officials from Member Countries and from Regional Economic Organisations (REOs); FAO hosted a side-event on “Regional Food Security at Work” within the context of the World Food Summit: Five Years Later, held in Rome 10 to 13 June 2002. This side meeting: provided a forum for these Regional Organisations to present their own Regional Strategies and Programmes for Food Security. This roundtable meeting also allowed the REOs to share with the international community their vision and expectations with regard to agricultural trade facilitation, food safety measures and regional support to national efforts for the alleviation of hunger and poverty in rural areas. Three of these Organizations from the Near East Region participated effectively in this meeting, namely: Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), Council of Arab Economic Unity (CAEU), and the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU).

In order to ensure continued awareness and interest in Regional Programmes for Food Security; several Organizations expressed the desire to pursue the constructive dialogue initiated at the World Food Summit: 5 Years Later with the appropriate financial institutions and donors which are actively involved in their respective regions. In response to this FAO, in consultation with the Regional Banks, is organizing at these Banks Headquarters several meetings to discuss further the practical modalities for financing Regional Food Security Programmes that are envisaged by these Economic Groups. In addition, FAO is providing technical assistance to these Organizations to enhance their capacity to design and monitor such food security programmes.

5. Towards Improved Water Demand Management in the Near East

The Near East Region which is characterized by overall scarcity of water has and will continue to face an ever increasing demand for water. Therefore, this document provides a succinct review of the available options for Water Demand Management in Agriculture - the main user of water – including technical, managerial, economic, and other relevant aspects. It analyses the available options taking cognizance of the outcome of recent and on-going regional and international forums on water resources. Of particular reference is the Regional Conference on Water Demand Management”, sponsored by: FAO, UNEP, UNESCO, WHO and ESCWA, in December 2003; the Third World Water Forum (Japan, March 2003), the International Year of Fresh Water (2003), the FAO Regional and International Workshops on Irrigation Advisory Services, that were held in Tunisia and Canada (2002), and others. The document would finally conclude with specific recommendations on relevant policy implications that could be adopted for achieving appropriate water management options in the Near East Region.

6. Food Safety and International Trade in the Near East Region

Many countries in the Near East have the potential to expand food export. However, meeting technical standards for export products, in the context of the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement (TBT) remains a major challenge for most countries of the Region. Rejected food exports on the basis of health protection make this as a very important non-tariff barrier to trade and leading to substantial economic losses. In this context, actions to promote food safety and ways to determine how countries of the Region would implement them are central to this debate.

Food control systems present in most of these countries need to be up-dated in order to cope with some new challenges. Food inspection which relies heavily on end-product testing in most countries needs to be replaced by a more elaborate system which could capture all controlling factors relevant to food safety at each stage of the food chain or production. This requires the building of national capacity in modern approaches and techniques for food control systems, based on: risk analysis; updating food laws and regulations to comply with international requirements; strengthening the capacity of food laboratories in adopting advanced analysis techniques to cope with new hazards; the improvement of access to information on SPS and TBT; and the training of cadre to become more actively-involved in setting international food standards like those of the Codex Alimentarius.

7. Establishment of Animal Health Commission for the Near East and North Africa (AHCNENA)

The recommendation to create the Commission was unanimously endorsed by the 25th Regional Conference for the Near East held in Beirut, March 2000. The 2nd Session of the Near East Agriculture and Land and Water Use Commission (ALAWUC) held in Tehran, March 2002 also endorsed its creation. This ALAWUC Session reviewed with the Interim Secretariat the progress made and affirmed AHCNENA’s important role in promoting trade in healthy animals and safe animal products, based on scientifically-sound and efficient disease control intelligence and for information exchange through out the Region. The Commission Interim-Secretariat at the FAO Regional Office in Cairo managed to keep liaison with the Member Countries and with FAO for all issues of concern to animal health and protection. Among the progress achieved was: establishing a website for the Commission under (; maintaining a Network of Information with Member Countries Ministries and Research Centres, Veterinary Services, and other Live-stock Organizations and Establishments.

During the 2nd FMD Roundtable Meeting held in Cairo in October 2003, it was recommended that: “FAO to support the establishment of the Animal Health Commission for the Near East and North Africa (AHCNENA), which has been already endorsed by the Agriculture and Livestock Ministers of the Region. This Commission should become an important body working together with OIE/FAO Regional Steering CommitteThis is not in a format that represents a recommendation.e”. Therefore the Regional Conference is invited to review and finalize a proposed draft of the “Agreement for the Establishment of the Regional Animal Health Commission for the Near East and North Africa (AHCNENA), which is included in the NERC/04/6 document. However, for realizing the Commission creation, an official endorsement from the relevant Governmental Authorities in Member Countries has to be secured. An FAO Trust Fund modality for implementation could be proposed, and the Regional Office in Cairo would continue to serve as the Commission Interim-Secretariat.

8. Side Events:

a. Round Table on Financing Agriculture

Agriculture in the Near East Region made noticeable development during the last 3 decades of the 20th Century. Public investment was a major factor contributing to such development. However, with the introduction of the Economic Reform and Structural Adjustment Programmes, governments started to give priorities to balancing their budgets and control their internal debt, which resulted in significant decreases in public investment in agriculture. At the same time, the foreign direct investment (FDI) flows from industrial to developing countries slowed down. On the other hand, the flow of private investment was also sluggish and could not compensate for the loss in public investment and FDI. These factors constitute the major challenges facing sustainability of agricultural development in the Near East Region. A round table would be organized for member countries and some regional funding agencies to discuss challenges facing agriculture, specify priority areas for investment and consider possible options for financing agriculture in adequate and timely manner. A background document covering all the above issues would be presented to provide guidelines for stimulation of discussion.

b. Sub-regional Strategy for Food Security in North Africa

As a follow-up of the World Food Summit, a special session would be convened for member countries in North Africa to discuss the sub-regional dimension of food security and specify the requirements and actions for formulation of sub-regional food security strategy, programmes and policies to complement national efforts and harmonize plans of member countries for the mutual benefits of all.


9. Information Notes

a. Forests and Tree Contribution to Environment, Water and Food Security

This information note examines the contribution of forests to environment, water and food security. Environmental issues such as desertification, land and water quality degradation, and air pollution; all have their negative impact on the environment of urban centres of most Near East countries and are expected to be more critical in the immediate future. The attendant problems like water stress, sand encroachment on agricultural land and human settlements, downstream siltation of dams and canals, acid rain, and water-borne health hazards, etc; would be reflected in the reduction of crop and animal production, drop in hydro-electric generation, food insecurity, and degradation of quality of life for both rural and urban communities of the Region. Sustainable Forest Management including Watershed Management, Tree-planting in Agro-forestry Systems, Wind-breaks, Shelter-belts, Urban Forests, as well as green spaces and trees outside forests in general; could be viable actions to ameliorate the situation The 26th Session of FAO Regional Conference held in Tehran in 2002 urged Member Countries for action towards activating policy, institutional and economic support to regional and national forestry and tree planting initiatives in the Region.

b. The Role of Rural Micro-finance in Sustainable Agricultural Development

Agriculture in the Near East Region is dominated by small scale producers who are farming small plots of land that do not produce enough to meet the needs of their families. It has long been recognized that sustainable increase in the productivity of land is among the most important factors for raising the income and standard of living of farmers; improving food security, at both household and national levels,; ensuring sustainable agricultural development and reducing rural poverty. Raising productivity is constrained by limitation of financial resources at the disposal of farmers who have meagre capital resources and limited access to credit from formal banking sources. Without necessary financial resources, it is rather difficult to introduce the required improved technology and to purchase the needed inputs that are essential for enhancement of productivity.

The unsuccessful repeated attempts by most countries to widen the limited coverage of the formal banking systems, to agriculture in general and small scale farmers in particular, has encouraged the search for alternatives that are viable and complementary to the formal banking system. Micro-Credit has proved to be an effective tool for small scale farmers and rural poor, including women, to gain access to financial resources and services.

This information note is intended to draw the attention to small scale farmers’ financial needs and explore possibilities of satisfying some of those needs through providing micro-finance. It reviews micro-finance from abroad perspective examining characteristics and constraints and lessons learnt from past experience.

It further identifies the scope for improving the supply of micro-finance by formal and informal intermediaries to small scale farmers and rural poor. It will conclude by recommending major guidelines relating to the required policy framework and an enabling environment for sustainable and effective micro-credit.

c. Promoting Agricultural Research and Extension for Sustainable Development in the Near East: A Framework for Action

This information note is based on four studies, commissioned during 2002 by FAO Regional Office and the Research, Extension and Training Division on the needs, constraints and opportunities, as related to areas of agricultural research, extension and technology development in the Near East Region. The findings of the four studies are consolidated into a Framework for Action that was intended as an interactive and collaborative undertaking for national, sub-regional and regional actions. It highlights global forces that are shaping-up political and institutional arrangements for research and extension world-wide; analyses specific constraints and challenges facing agricultural research and extension institutions in the Region; and describes measures for future action, in an effort to reform and develop research, extension and technology transfer for sustainable development and food security. It is hoped that this Framework would offer a concrete basis for actions to be undertaken by countries of the Region, by FAO and other international organisations, as well as interested donors and other stakeholders.

d. Policy Framework for Mainstreaming Gender in Agriculture and Rural Development in the Near East Region

The FAO Conference adopted in November 2001, a Gender and Development Plan of Action for the period 2002-2007. Its main goal was to help rural men and women achieve sustainable development and food security by promoting gender approach in the formulation process for rural development policy programmes and projects. This document is global in nature and should be adapted to the Near East regional context and priorities. Furthermore, Member Countries are encouraged to strengthen their National Capacities in the field of methodologies and tools such as socio-economic and gender analysis programmes, in order to make rural development programmes and projects more efficient and responding to the roles, needs and priorities of rural women and men.

e. The International Year of Rice 2004

The International Year of Rice promotes the awareness and guidance for the crop sustainable development, been the staple food for more than half of the world’s population. Through increased awareness of the rice system; food and agricultural policy as well as technical, economic, social and development goals would be better focused by all stakeholders involved in the sustainability of food production systems. The general objectives of the IYR year are to:

f. FAO Strategic Framework for Bridging the Rural Digital Divide

The "Programme for Bridging the Rural Digital Divide to reduce Food Insecurity and Poverty" makes the case for a new Strategic Programme through which FAO would coordinate an international partnership to address the rural digital divide. The Programme aimed at strengthening human and institutional capacities to harness information and knowledge more effectively for, as a tool for agricultural and rural development. This proposal responds to a real gap, which is not yet addressed in a cohesive way by the international development community. The rural digital divide is not only concerned with improving infrastructure and connectivity, but rather is a multi-faceted problem of ineffective knowledge exchange and management of content, lack of human resources and institutional capacity, compounded obviously by often tight financial resources. The following broad domains of intervention are proposed: firstly, mobilization of information content in digital form in FAO's Member States and the international community; secondly, capacity-building, institutional development and human resources development focusing on improving access to, and the use and application of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in agriculture and rural development ; and lastly, improving the effectiveness of FAO's own operational work in the areas of information and communication management.

g. Initiative to Support the Review and Update of National Strategies and Policies for Food Security and Agricultural Development : Perspective from the Near East Region

Towards the end of 2002, FAO launched the "Initiative to Support the Review and Update of National Policies and Strategies for Food Security and Agricultural Development." This Initiative aims providing support to Member Countries in the process of monitoring and revising of existing policies and strategies. Such updating exercise would be nationally-owned and involving full stakeholders participation, with FAO playing a supportive role. This initiative could provide countries and their development partners with new opportunities to focus their efforts on hunger reduction, food security, and rural development. The initiative implementation is expected to be guided by a conceptual framework on "National Agricultural Development and Food Security Strategies and Policies," which was prepared by FAO.

The present document offers a summary of the major elements and components that emerge from FAO implementation of these initial two steps: (i) completing a Country Questionnaire; and (ii) preparing the Country Policy Profile (CPPs). Findings show that all sub-regions of the Near East would have relatively large food deficits by the year 2015, except Turkey. Three sets of constraints pertaining to the limited natural resource base, in-adequate policies, and in-complete institutional reforms are found to hinder achieving sustainable agricultural development. The policy and institutional reforms represent the critical areas which warrants immediate action. Even in the rare cases when found to be properly formulated, low national capacities hinder their efficient and effective implementation.

10. Report of the ALAWUC Meeting

Brief report on conclusions and recommendations of the ALAWUC 3rd. Session which is held back-to-back with the 27th. Regional Conference.


11. Adoption of the Report of the Senior Officers Meeting

12. Closure of the Senior Officers Meeting



16-17 March 2004


1. Inaugural Ceremony

2. Election of Chairperson, Vice-Chairpersons and Appointment of the Rapporteur

3. Adoption of the Agenda and Timetable


4. Statement by the FAO Director-General

5. Statement by the Independent Chairman of the FAO Council


6. Report of the Senior Officers Meeting

7. Action Taken on the Main Recommendations of the Twenty-Sixth Regional Conference for the Near East and the FAO Activities in the Region During 2002-2003.

8. Report of the NGO’s Consultation


9. Proposed list of topics to be considered at the Twenty-Eighth Regional Conference


10. Date and Place of the 28th. Regional Conference for the Near East

11. Adoption of the Report of the Regional Conference (including the Senior Officers Meeting Report)

12. Closure of the Conference