CSOs Declaration at the 34th FAO Regional Conference for the Near East and North Africa

7-11 May 2018

We, the civil society organizations of the Near East and the North Africa region, gathering in Beirut from 19 to 21 February 2018 at the invitation of FAO and hosted by the GAIA Association to develop the contribution of civil society to the 34th FAO Regional Conference held in Rome from the 7th to the 11th of May 2018.

The Near East and the North Africa have for years been plagued by protracted crises resulting from occupation and wars that destroyed food production structures, forced millions into forced migration, led to the emergence of human trafficking, hunger and the inability of many to access medicines, safe and healthy food. Therefore:

  1. We strongly condemn all practices, whatever their origin, that lead to discrimination against citizens on the basis of religion, race, language or affiliation;
  2. We affirm that the right of return of the displaced and the crimes causing the displacement does not fall short of time, and call on all parties to ensure their safe return to their areas of origin and the restitution of their land;
  3. We affirm that land, water and food are fundamental human rights, embodied in international treaties and human rights instruments that all governments must respect, protect and fulfill;
  4.  We call for ensuring the human rights of women and young people in a decent life, especially since the situation of women in our region is one of the worst in the world. We still need to ensure representation at all levels of decision-making locally, nationally and regionally;
  5.  We call for the respect, protection and fulfilment of the rights of children and the prevention of all forms of their exploitation in work and circumstances depriving them of normal childhood;
  6.  We call on all working institutions to take care of the marginalized and those with special disabilities and ensure their integration into society and their right to a decent life;
  7.  Express our absolute solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle against Zionism and the Israeli occupation;
  8. We call upon countries and organizations of the region to impose economic, food, agricultural and academic boycott on the Israeli occupying state to compel it to respect international law and abide by its resolutions with respect to Palestine and call for the peaceful resolution of armed conflicts and wars in the Near East and North Africa;
  9. We also affirm our opposition to all forms of occupation and our solidarity with the rights of the Saharan people to freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources. In no case shall a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence;
  10.  We call for the immediate cessation of practices that use hunger as a weapon and the destruction of civilian infrastructure in the region;
  11. We declare our solidarity with the struggles of all the peoples of the world for a better future, free from hunger and malnutrition.

We emphasize that civil society organizations are an indispensable source of expertise and initiatives required to reform and evaluate adopted policies, in addition to strengthening food sovereignty in the region. Their role should be acknowledged as a major contributor to food policies and the formulation of strategies for the agricultural sector at the state level. Therefore, we call on FAO to recognize NGOs as full agricultural-development partners concerned with the implementation of programs at the state level.

We call for such consultations to continue, not only once every two years, on the occasion of a fixed agenda of the Regional Conference, and that civil society organizations should be the reference bodies during the inter-sessional period. Based on the fact that civil society organizations are a key component of society and full partners in food and nutrition policy implementation and outcomes. The agenda items and the upcoming conference documents also should be linked to the recommendations and outputs of the previous regional conference, such as the rights of women and small farmers.
We call on governments in the region to review privatization programs and agricultural investment policies, including the Euro-Mediterranean partnership programs, and free trade agreements, that have impacted food conditions negatively and threaten the livelihood of small food producers as a result of bad practices of transnational corporations in land grabbing, exercising monopolies over seeds and agricultural assets, contaminating water sources, and the commodification and speculation in foodstuffs.

We note that this preparatory conference, discussed the following priorities and main themes of the coming 34th session of the regional conference:

Agroecology: The consultation emphasized the importance of FAO’s contribution to the development of agricultural systems in the region, noting that agroecology seeks to realize the human right to food, by preserving food diversity and improving nutrition, combating climate change, water scarcity and supporting small producers, building a social system that fosters participation in knowledge-production, promoting women’s status and regulating the market. Agroecology also contributes to the maintenance of local genetic heritage, but the challenge to develop it must be at the level of an integrated system that includes all components of the diet and ensures sustainability.
Agroecology should move from the margins to the center of existing agriculture policies, including state and FAO support and development of existing agroecology systems in the region.

We recognize that the region is rich in experience, through traditional knowledge and practices in agriculture and food production, and we look forward to more-thorough and comprehensive studies toward the achievement of food sovereignty of the region.

We encourage FAO to implement and develop the agroecology approach and to call on countries to comply with all relevant international human rights instruments. In this context, we also hope that this approach will include respect for the rights of women, children and marginalized social groups, whether in rural or urban areas. We ask for the continuation of FAO’s policy in this regard after its decline on the agenda of the Regional Conference since 2014.

Agricultural transformation: We emphasize that agriculture plays an important role as a promoter of social development through the creation of employment opportunities and the reduction of migrationو
in general, and rural migration, in particular. It should also be noted that migration is not among the priorities of the next conference agenda and is currently a pressing issue. This requires a focus on the root causes of problems to develop strategies to address existing challenges, bearing in mind the impact of wars and internal conflicts on the provision and use of food as a weapon against people as a driver of displacement. We also note that all of our states have ratified the promise that “in no case shall a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.”

One Health: We stress the importance of the United Nations’ efforts with the World Health Organization (WHO) to address transboundary pests and diseases of plant, animal and fishery, and to be part of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 3: ” Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” and its target 3.d: “Strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks.”

We support FAO’s systematic efforts to implement the policy products issued by the CFS within the specificities of our region, and in each country. We also note the need to include pollution caused by war and industrial activities that have contaminated our agricultural areas, as well as the danger of mines and UXOs in farmland. We urge the necessary systematic preventive and corrective measures that are the responsibility of states and United Nations organizations.
We reaffirm our interest to cooperate with FAO on these issues to combat hunger, malnutrition and poverty within a comprehensive approach, considering that the state of the region are duty bound under international law to hold accountable those responsible for the crises and shocks that test our resilience.

 

photo credit: FAO

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