Conflict has increased food insecurity in the Near East and to reverse this situation it is crucial to strengthen the resilience of poor, rural communities, including through social protection systems, said today the Director-General of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) José Graziano da Silva.

The FAO is hosting a Regional Conference for the Near East in Rome, attended by ministers and other top officials from more than 30 countries.

In his opening remarks da Silva said ““Even in conflict situations, there is much we can do to keep local food production, when we have in place those social networks and these social programs. systems functioning, and bring hope to affected populations.”

Graziano da Silva noted that up until 2013, the region was enjoying a period of overall decrease in undernourishment, but that since then food insecurity in the region has increased 15 percent especially due to some countries facing situations of prolonged conflict.

The level of undernourishment in countries facing conflict in the Near East and North Africa region is about 28 percent of their population – six times larger than in non-conflict countries in the region.

Graziano da Silva also noted that in 2016, there were almost 66 million forcibly displaced people in the world with nearly 25 million originating from just five countries facing conflict in the Near East and North Africa region.

FAO’s highest priority is to support countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goal Number 2 on ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition, and also promoting sustainable agriculture development, the Director-General said.

Also speaking at the conference, Amir Abdulla, Deputy Executive Director, World Food Programme said “we urge all parties in the conflict to look for a political solution and end the misery that has been inflicted on civilians. We need political solution to the humanitarian crisis, because trying to find a humanitarian solution to a political crisis will not work.”

The Conference Chair, Ghazi Zeaiter, Minister for Agriculture of the Lebanese Republic called for a peaceful solution to the crises in the region. “One third of the countries in the Near East and North Africa are home to or witness to conflicts”.

FAO Regional Conference for the Near East (NERC34) marks its 34th Session. This year, it will be held at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy, starting on 7 May 2018. The Conference begins with a Senior Officers’ Meeting from 7 – 9 May 2018 and is followed by a Ministerial Plenar o y Session on 10 – 11 May 2018.

Issues to be discussed include: Agroecology: Adapting to Climate Change in Semi-arid Areas for Sustainable Agricultural Development; Agricultural Transformation in the Near East and North Africa Region and the Challenge of Youth Employment and Migration; One Health: Addressing Transboundary Plant, Animal and Fish Pests and Diseases: A Case for Regional Cooperation; Results and Priorities for FAO in the Near East and North Africa Region.

Eliminating hunger is a United Nations (UN) system‐wide priority and a centrepiece of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. It is a central goal for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). FAO’s approach to eliminating hunger, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture in conflict and crisis settings rests largely on building resilience of households, communities, countries and ecosystems to shocks and conflict, through evidence‐based policies and scalable interventions that also contribute to sustaining peace and conflict prevention. With particular focus on achieving Zero Hunger in Somalia, Yemen and other countries affected by conflicts in the NENA region, the High Level Side Event of the 34th Session of the Regional Conference for the Near East is expected to: foster a shared understanding of the impact of conflicts on food security and nutrition; update audiences on FAO’s work and future plans in countries affected by conflicts in the NENA region; and develop recommendations for strengthening collective action, regional cooperation and international support towards achieving Zero Hunger in conflict contexts.

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