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Near East countries gather to discuss shared food security priorities

FAO Regional Conference for the Near East opens in Rome

9 May 2016, Rome - FAO's Regional Conference for the Near East opened today with agriculture ministers and senior officials as well as representatives from civil society organizations and the private sector gathering at the agency's headquarters to chart out a roadmap for future work on shared food security challenges.

Some 150 participants at the conference, which lasts until 13 May, are set to discuss pressing issues related to agriculture, nutrition and rural development in the Near East and North Africa region, drawing out lessons learned in recent years that can be used to shape joint responses to common problems.

At the start of the event, a three-day-long senior officers meeting will entail detailed discussions on topics such as the contribution of livestock to food security, implementation of FAO's Blue Growth Initiative, and the empowerment of small-scale farmers and women. Progress made by FAO's regional office in implementing recommendations made at the previous such event in 2014 will be reviewed.

Programme and budget matters will also be looked at, including FAO priority activities in the region, particularly as regards three key initiatives: "Building Resilience for Food Security and Nutrition," "Small-Scale Agriculture for Inclusive Development", and "Water Scarcity." These initiatives respond to priorities for the Near East and North Africa identified by FAO Members in the region.

Speaking at the inaugural session, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa, Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, said:  "2015 marked the end of an important era of international cooperation for development, as the period the international community set to achieve the Millennium Development Goals came to an end. Initial assessment shows that the impact of that period on the Near East and North Africa region varied, and fifteen countries succeeded in realizing the millennium goal on hunger".

"Country-level achievements do not reflect the full picture in the NENA region, where repeated crises and wars led to an unprecedented rise in the number of refugees and internally displaced persons and to the deterioration of major economies in the region," he added.

High-level session

A high-level session will then convene on 12 and 13 May in which ministers of agriculture and other related sectors will be participating as well as representatives from observer countries, sister UN agencies, international governmental organisations and non-governmental organisations.

The ministerial sessions will discuss priority issues at the regional as well as country level related to agriculture, food security and rural development and will review the report of the senior officers' meeting.

The regional conference, currently chaired by the Government of Lebanon, convenes every two years to ensure the effectiveness of FAO's work in member states. It is the highest FAO governing body at the regional level and sets the agency's work agenda and budget priorities for the next biennium.

Photo: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano
A farmer feeding cows fresh fodder, Kafr el-Sheikh, Egypt.