Conflict, the flow of refugees and migration are worsening food security in the Near East, along with constraints on food production and a growing dependence on imports, the head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) told a conference in Rome today.
“We know that there is an intrinsic link between peace and food security, and between hunger and conflict,” Director-General José Graziano da Silva said, as he opened the two-day ministerial segment of FAO’s Regional Conference for the Near East and North Africa.
“Peace is fundamental for food security and food security is fundamental for peace. We have seen how disputes for food and natural resources such as land and water have triggered conflict.”
He noted that worsening food security in the region is largely driven by factors such as conflicts, the flow of refugees and migration, especially of young people looking for opportunities in other countries.
“All of these are issues that are not withheld by national borders. They affect the region as a whole and have repercussions far beyond it as well,” said Mr. Graziano da Silva.
He also noted that the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target to reduce by half the proportion of hungry people between 1990 and 2015 is still within reach at the global scale and in the Near East and North Africa.
However, a “final push” in the last 672 days before the deadline is needed, he added.
Algeria, Djibouti, Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco and Turkmenistan are among countries that have already met the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target. In addition, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates already had undernourishment levels below 5 per cent in 1990, the baseline for the Goals.
The Director-General called on countries to support the implementation of three regional initiatives for the Near East and North Africa that FAO has launched in response to priorities identified by Member States – the Regional Initiative on Water Scarcity, the Regional Initiative on Building Resilience to Enhance Food Security and Nutrition, and the Regional Initiative on Small-scale Agriculture and Inclusive Rural Development.
Noting that 2014 is the International Year of Family Farming, he encouraged countries to increase support to family farmers in the region by ensuring access to adequate technologies, financial services, markets, and natural resources such as land and water.
He also encouraged countries to participate in discussions on the Committee on World Food Security’s proposed Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investments, which will help to ensure investments contribute to the development of family farmers.