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MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) - 01/03/2014
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(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) Representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) member states from the Near East and North Africa (NENA) wrapped up the 32nd Regional Conference at the headquarters of the UN agency in Rome on Friday

The five-day gathering culminated in a minister-level meeting which adopted a ministerial declaration on the regional food security challenges, with Kuwait being represented by Chairman of Board and Director General of the Public Authority for Agriculture Affairs and Fish Resources (PAAFR) Jassem Al-Bader

Kuwait, the chair of the NENA group, urged scaling up the efforts to tackle the critical issues of water management, food insecurity and building more resilient rural communities

Among those attending the closing session were FAO Director General Jose Graziano da Silva, assistant director general Abdulsalam Ould Ahmad, Kuwait's Permanent Representative and Chairperson of the Near East Group Yusuf Jhail, and Iraqi Minister of Agriculture and Chairperson of the 32nd Session of the Regional Conference Izzeddin Abdullah Aldola

The chairman of the session read the ministerial declaration setting forth the enormous challenges facing the NENA region such as food insecurity, scarcity of water, degeneration of farm land and climate change

There is a direct relation between food security, on one hand, and peace and security on the other, according to the statement

The statement noted that the attendees appreciated the positive transformations being made by FAO Director General since his took office two years ago to revitalize the working system of the UN agency

They also appreciate the measures being made by the FAO to support national efforts of its member states for water management, building the capacity in the field of food security, and curbing food waste

They approved three key proposals tabled during the talks

The first is a regional strategy framework to bring countries together to improve food security and nutrition

At present, the number of undernourished people in 19 out of the 21 countries of the NENA region remains high at nearly 43.7 million, or 10 percent of the total population

Reducing those numbers while coping with the ongoing population growth, increasing scarcity of natural resources and climate change will require much closer inter-governmental cooperation, the statement stressed

The framework endorsed today calls on governments to work together to address lagging productivity growth through increased investment in research and development; improvements to supply chain efficiencies that will reduce exposure to market volatility and other shocks; and strengthened safety nets and nutrition education programs

The creation of strategic regional cereal reserves to help offset spikes in commodity prices is another tool considered by the framework

"In today's globalized world, we cannot have food security in one country alone. We need to work together. That commitment, from all of us, is there. And that is the foundation we need to build a food-secure world," said FAO Director General in remarks at the close of the conference

In addition to the strategy framework, the group also green-lighted the expansion of FAO's regional Initiative on Water Scarcity beyond six pilot countries to the entire region

Under the initiative, countries will both concentrate on improving their water management practices at the national level as well as work closely together across borders to develop a collaborative approach to managing the vital natural resource

Per capita fresh water availability in the region has decreased by two-thirds over the past 40 years and is projected to decrease by 50 percent in the next 35 years if current trends in population growth and consumption patterns continue. Agriculture currently uses 85 percent of the region's available freshwater supplies

And the conference endorsed a regional initiative aimed at reducing food losses and waste

The NENA region relies on imports to meet over 50 percent of its food needs, yet it loses up to a third of the food it produces and imports

The conferees asked FAO to focus its efforts on helping countries address three priority issues: water scarcity, building resilience for enhanced food security and nutrition, and supporting small-scale agriculture

The Organization's budget allocation for activities in the region for the 2014-15 period amounts to USD 45.8 million, with estimated additional requirements of voluntary contributions totaling USD 95.5 million

Countries participating in the regional conference acknowledged the need to mobilize additional resources in support of food and nutrition security work, including through South-South Cooperation and partnerships, as well via a new FAO Regional Solidarity Trust Fund being established with an initial USD two million contribution by the government of Iraq

The Conference was attended by over 160 delegates, including 11 ministers, from 21 FAO members from the Near East Regional Group, as well as representatives of civil society, the private sector, other UN organizations and observer countries

The regional conferences, the highest FAO governing body at the regional level, are essential for ensuring the effectiveness of the Organization's work in the field and play a critical role in defining its work priorities


Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)

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