During the Rio+20 Conference, which took place in Rio de Janeiro on 20-22 June 2012, ESCWA joined hands with the German Agency of International Cooperation (GIZ), the League of Arab States (LAS), the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) and the Arab Network for Environment and Development (RAED), to evaluate food security in the Arab region, in a panel discussion that gathered around 50 participants. Discussions also identified potential ways to alleviate the growing food concern, which has turned to be one of the main economic, social, political and environmental challenges facing the region.
To highlight these concerns a short documentary was produced to show how youth from the ESCWA region perceive the issue of food security and safety. It was based on interviews of young persons from three selected Arab countries, namely Egypt, Lebanon and Yemen.
Featured at the event was Palestine’s Minister of Environment Youssef Abu Safieh who highlighted the poverty and undernourishment aspects of food security-food insecurity prevailing in the ESCWA region and how it affects mostly women and children in rural remote areas.
Other panelists included representatives of ESCWA, LAS, GIZ, AFED, RAED, and the World Farmer Organization, who stressed the need to account for the aspirations of the youth and explore avenues for employment generation through Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). They recommended providing greater support to farmers; adopting holistic food and agriculture development strategies to emphasize the development of agricultural markets, trade and supply chains; transforming farming into a profitable business in order to improve rural incomes; building on traditional technological know-how to improve and strengthen regional cooperation; and involving civil society to provide safety nets to those most affected by food insecurity.
The panel discussion participants also highlighted the growing concern of water scarcity, which was expected to worsen the food situation in the region, as well as the need to strengthen food related research and development. They also emphasized increasing child malnutrition as a result of inappropriate diets.
In conclusion, participants stressed the importance of continuing the dialogue on these issues and pooling efforts to maximize the outreach of programs and projects designed for promoting food security.
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