36th Session  of the FAO Regional Conference for the Near East

Baghdad (Iraq), Hybrid Event, 07/02/2022 - 08/02/2022


36th Session –Baghdad, Iraq, 7 -8 February 2022 

Healthy diets for a growing, increasingly urban population in the presence of water scarcity and advancing climate change necessitate urgent changes and transformations in the agrifood systems of the Near East and North Africa (NENA) region.  

In this light, the 36th Session of the FAO Regional Conference for the Near East (NERC 36) is held this year under the theme " Recover and Restart: Innovations for better, greener and more resilient agrifood systems to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”. 

#NERC36 is hosted by the Republic of Iraq. This year’s edition of the Conference is held in two segments; the Senior Officers Meeting that already took place from 10 to 13 January 2022 through a virtual modality, while the Ministerial Session will take place through a hybrid modality on 7 and 8 February 2022. 

The Ministerial Session of the 36th Regional Conference for the Near East (#NERC36) is open to all FAO members in the Near East and North Africa region, representatives of the United Nations Bodies and specialized agencies and to selected observers. 

During the conference, ministers of agriculture, partner organizations, sister agencies and senior officials of member countries will meet to elaborate on regional challenges and priorities related to this topic in the NENA region. This will ensure the effectiveness of FAO’s impact in the region and will help in defining its work priorities for the next biennium. 

These priorities will be determined through engaging roundtable and panel discussions with all member countries to identify best practices to transform agrifood systems and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. 

On 7 February, there will be a series of ministerial roundtables on issues of key importance for the future of the region’s agrifood systems. The purpose of the high-level discussions is to frame the deliberations and gather different perspectives from the member countries on priorities for action. 

This session will offer ministers the opportunity to provide their views on the subject, main areas for concern in the country, and how the country addresses these issues. The tangible outcome of the session will be a common vision on the way the countries of the region should address the issues, and opportunities for a joint action at regional level. 

On 8 February, a side event will discuss climate action and regional opportunities in the context of the forthcoming COP 27 and COP28 that will take place in the region. 

Ministerial Roundtables and Side Event :


Food security and healthy diets for all for better nutrition and a better life

Date: 7 February 2022
Time: 11.30-12.30 (Baghdad time, UTC+3)

The NENA region suffers from a triple burden of malnutrition with high rates of overweight and obesity and diet-related non communicable diseases (NCDs) along with high prevalence of stunting and moderate rates of wasting among children under 5 years of age, and micro-nutrient deficiencies. Conflict has been the main driver of acute food insecurity in the region for over a decade, accounting for 78 percent of the 48.7 million acutely food insecure people in 2020.

Agrifood systems in the region have contributed to these poor nutritional outcomes by failing to deliver safe, healthy and affordable foods in adequate quantities to all. There are gaps in institutional, regulatory and inclusion-related aspects in the regional agrifood systems. To meet the challenges of demographic changes, including high population growth and urbanization in the NENA region, and growth in demand for affordable, accessible, safe and nutritious food, policy makers will need to develop strategies that promote economically, socially and environmentally sustainable agriculture and agrifood systems and adapt them to serve an increasingly urbanised society.

The NENA region is also heavily dependent on imported food to meet the needs of a growing population. By 2030, the region will meet 63 percent of its caloric demand through imported food. Trade, therefore, plays a key role in meeting the food security and nutrition needs of the region and needs to be recognized and internalized in relevant policies as an enabler for food security and enhanced nutrition.

There is also a need to incentivize private sector investments in strengthening national and regional agriculture and food markets and value-chains. The role of science, innovation and on/off-farm technologies is also vital in ensuring sustainable growth in domestic food production, availability and access to healthy and safe food.

In order to support the NENA countries to promote food security and healthy diets for all, FAO’s efforts will focus on (i) fostering an agrifood systems approach; (ii) utilizing trade, investment and technology as enablers for food security and better nutrition, iii) mainstreaming nutrition in food production and consumption-related policies and incentive mechanism, and (iv) ensuring food safety and quality, and reducing food loss and waste, (v) adjusting the business models of agricultural enterprises and improving access to inputs, finance and markets, especially for those who are currently at a disadvantage, such as rural women and youth, migrants, and refugees. In this framework, FAO proposes to consider the adoption of a Regional Agrifood Systems Transformative Agenda; and the establishment of a Regional Food Security and Nutrition Observatory.

Building resilient rural communities for better production, a better environment and a better life

Date: 7 February 2022
Time: 13.30-14.30 (Baghdad time, UTC+3) 

The divide is growing between life in urban and rural areas in the NENA region. The majority of poor people live in rural areas, with poor basic services, low opportunities for innovation, limited access to productive infrastructure, services and value chains, and limited employment opportunities. 

In addition, multiple shocks and stresses impact the region. Conflicts, climate related disasters, transboundary animal and plant pests and diseases and the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as economic shocks exacerbate already high levels of acute food insecurity and malnutrition. Longer term stresses such as scarcity of water and arable land, climate change, land degradation and increasing population growth, fuel and aggravate multiple and overlapping shocks. 

In the NENA region, where 165 million people live in rural areas, achieving the SDGs means building resilient rural communities by investing in rural areas, creating employment opportunities, tackling social and gender inequalities and addressing multiple shocks and stresses in a proactive and holistic manner. An inclusive rural transformation approach is needed, starting with smallholders particularly women and youth. Interventions must aim at favouring economic inclusion, enhancing resilience capacities, increasing agricultural productivity and profitability through the sustainable intensification of production, effective rural services and viable market linkages, and fostering a vibrant rural economy. Countries must invest in the promotion of innovation, empowerment of producers’ organizations, and modern, market-oriented advisory and extension services, and improve access to education and job training for youth. They should also foster investments in human capital, shock-responsive social protection and agricultural insurance systems, infrastructure and services and leverage public-private partnerships in the development of more efficient and inclusive value chains. 

Achieving these objectives would not be possible without addressing structural fragility, long-term stresses as well as multiple and colliding shocks of the region’s agrifood systems. Building resilient agri-food systems and rural communities requires strategic a holistic approach to managing risks through strategic interventions aiming at: (a) understanding multiple risks (e.g. vulnerability assessments and early warning systems); (b) strengthening disaster risk and crisis governance; (c) reducing risks and vulnerabilities at farm and institutional though appropriate interventions such climate-smart agriculture, shock responsive social protection and agriculture insurance; (d) strengthening One Health approach against all biological threats especially animal and plant pests and diseases; and (e) enhancing anticipatory actions, emergency preparedness and response. Given the transboundary nature of most of the major risks and hazards affecting the region’s agrifood systems, regional collaboration is a key cornerstone for effective risk management.  

Green recovery and climate action for better production and a better environment

Date: Monday 7 February 2022
Time:  14.30-15.30 (Baghdad time, UTC+3) 

The NENA region is the most water- and land-scarce region in the world with agricultural land and water availability per capita far below the global average. Current trends in natural resources use in the NENA region indicate that the per capita availability of renewable water resources in the region has declined by nearly 75 percent between 1962 and 2017, and is projected to further drop to 80 percent in 2030 and to 84 percent by 2050, leading to higher levels of water stresses. Climate change is further exacerbating this trend through increased temperature, sea level rise, increased frequency of droughts and reduction in water availability.

Unsustainable practices that result in widespread land degradation, biodiversity loss, and deforestation, degradation of vegetation cover and depletion of aquatic and marine resources make increasing productivity while sustainably managing natural resources a major challenge. The limited arable land of the region is decreasing due to various drivers and stresses, causing substantial economic impact estimated at USD 9 billion per year. In areas practicing intensive agriculture, overuse of agrochemicals (pesticides and fertilizers), in particular is one of the major reasons for soil and water pollution. Six countries from the region rank among the highest 20 countries using fertilizers in the world.

For the region’s agrifood systems to contribute in achieving the sustainable development goals will require the region to undergo a transformative shift, bringing the issues of sustainability and resource efficiency to the forefront. There will be the need for a careful review of the sustainability of the region’s food systems and natural resources. In particular, countries will need to: Enhance water productivity and governance; enhance sustainable land management and governance mechanisms to reduce land and soil degradation promote nature-based solutions and recycling; scale up landscape restoration and conservation of biodiversity; adopt an ecosystem approach to fisheries and aquaculture; and scale up climate change adaptation and mitigation actions.

Green recovery and climate action for better production and a better environment

Date:  8 February 2022

Time: 11.00-12.00 (Baghdad time, UTC+3) 

With increasing temperatures and a rising frequency of extreme events such as drought affecting production conditions, there is an urgency for food systems to form the solution for adapting to and mitigating climate change. Analyses indicate that drought and water scarcity problems in the Arab region will be exacerbated under medium- to long-term climate scenarios. A large proportion of the region’s population practicing small-scale rainfed agriculture face particular risk, threatening current food production systems, food security and the livelihoods of agriculture-dependent communities.

The Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the primary opportunity at the global level to address climate change and for countries to commit to cutting emissions and implementing climate-resilient development. In 2015, almost all countries signed the Paris Agreement. At COP23, agricultural issues were boosted by the adoption of the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) which recognized the fundamental importance of agriculture for addressing climate change and called for Parties to take into consideration the particular vulnerabilities of agriculture to climate change and approaches to address food security.

The next two years, with the UNFCCC COP27 and COP28 being hosted by Egypt and the UAE respectively, there is an unprecedented opportunity for Member Countries to scale up efforts to implement climate action. Solutions addressing water scarcity, energy, and food systems have the potential to achieve mitigation and adaptation objectives in a way that contributes to the better production and better environment components of the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31. These should also include climate-smart agriculture solutions that build resilience and help agrifood sectors to adapt; enhancing the enabling environment for implementing climate action; and ensuring sufficient resources for stakeholders – from farmers to planners – to take timely action on medium to long-term priorities. This session brings esteemed ministers to discuss these opportunities at the two COPs.

This side event will review the risks to agrifood systems faced by Member Countries under climate change; identify the opportunities at COP27 and COP28 for enhanced action and advocacy for agriculture and food value chains as the solution to mitigate and adapt to climate change, towards more resilient food systems and food security; and discuss how FAO can better support countries to building pathways for climate finance and climate action.


News and Media
Statements from the ministerial meeting