Oct 16, 2017
ANND’s Statement on the Occasion of World Food Day

Yesterday was World Food Day. This year, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations will focus on the nexus between food security, rural development, and migration. FAO stresses the fact that, since World War II, millions of people have been forced to flee their homes and that we have become in dire need to create conditions that allow rural people, especially the youth, to stay at home while feeling safe and enjoying more resilient livelihoods. The Arab region can be considered as a showcase, given that in Yemen, an estimated 17.1 million people are now struggling to feed themselves.[1] In Syria, in 2016, an estimated 6.7 million people suffered from acute food insecurity and were in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, as anemia - for example - affected about one-quarter of adult women and children under the age of five.[2] In conflict-affected areas in Sudan, internally displaced persons continue to experience acute food insecurity to date.[3] In brief, the right to food security, which is defined as the right to have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet daily dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life,[4] is being continuously violated at a large scale in the region. This comes despite the several factors that could help ensuring food security such as increasing agricultural production to promote domestic sufficiency. Accordingly, in 2015, when world leaders made a universal commitment towards ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture within Agenda 2030 (Sustainable Development Goal 2), they have once again affirmed the need for doubling agricultural productivity by 2030. Nevertheless, agriculture remains a neglected sector within the Arab region. Countries in the region remain net food importers, volatile to food price hikes, and with lapses in agriculture. The sector’s value-added contribution to GDP has been decreasing, from 9.9% in 2000 to 6.9% in 2015. Trends in most Arab countries that import food from abroad do not necessarily stem from poor food production, but from the attempt to abide by neo-liberal economic policies promoting economic openness and trade liberalization. However, as the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier de Schutter (2008-2014), points it out: more liberalization will only lead to increased food insecurity and “States have to conserve their space and freedom to enact policies that protect local markets from food prices volatility on the international market. It is also essential for states to have the necessary flexibility to protect their market against abrupt and brutal import waves.”[5] In this context, the 2018 Arab Watch Report, a biannual indigenous resource tool developed by the Arab NGO Network for Development, will focus on food security, sovereignty and rural development. National papers complemented with thematic papers and regional analyses will shed light on the situation in the region with regard to agricultural policy choices together, with trade and investment policy reforms implemented. This will portray the situation of the right to food security in light of the agriculture sector being at the core of addressing poverty and inequalities. On World Food Day, ANND is pleased to announce the launch of preparatory work for 2018 Arab Watch Report, which will take place during an expert group meeting on the 3rd of November, 2017. Furthermore, ANND takes the occasion to reiterate its call for a new development paradigm in the region that ensures a rights-based revision of economic and social policies implemented in the region, especially agricultural policies. In this regards, ANND acknowledges ESCWA’s statement affirming that “increasing agricultural productivity and strengthening the food system —understood as the entire chain from the production to the consumption of food, as well as the nutrition and jobs it provides — offer solutions to some of the many complex and intertwined challenges facing the region.”[6]

[1] https://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/yemen-emergency-food-security-and-nutrition-assessment-efsna-2016-preliminary-results

[2] http://www.fao.org/state-of-food-security-nutrition/en/

[3] http://www1.wfp.org/countries/sudan

[4] http://www.fao.org/forestry/13128-0e6f36f27e0091055bec28ebe830f46b3.pdf [

5] http://www.upa.qc.ca/ScriptorWeb/scripto.asp?resulta t=176724, translation by ANND as quoted at http://www.annd.org/data/item/pdf/24.pdf

[6] http://css.escwa.org.lb/SDPD/3572/Goal2.pdf