President of the Arab Network for Food Sovereignty, Razan Zuayter, and General Manager of the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature, Mariam Al-Jaajaa, made critical interventions in the preparatory meeting of the FAO Regional Conference. They made these in the presence of the Assistant Director-General of the FAO and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa, AbdulHakim Elwaer. This is in order to exchange ideas and consult on the priorities of the agenda of the Regional Conferences of the FAO (13 July 2021).
During her intervention, Zuayter stressed the need to empower small-scale farmers by securing their access to production inputs such as land, seeds and water. She pointed out that these farmers are the most crucial link in achieving food security, calling for increased efforts in building resilience and solving the root causes of food insecurity to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.
This demands the involvement and support of civil society networks representing food producers, small-scale farmers, fishers and owners of livestock, in addition to seeking to build their efficiency to prepare them for participating in setting priorities, strategies, implementation plans, monitoring and accountability of food systems (to include effectiveness, resilience, sustainability).
Zuayter advocated for cooperation between the countries of the region at the level of integration by developing joint strategies to achieve food sovereignty. She also called for the immediate cessation of conflicts, strife, and intra-state wars. This is in addition to calling attention to peacebuilding as a condition for achieving food security and utilizing the Framework for Action for Food Security and Nutrition in Protracted Crises (CFS-FFA).
The FAO Regional Representative supported the adoption of the interventions put forth, especially points related to strengthening partnerships with farmers and the intra-state wars.
General Manager of the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature, Mariam Al Jaajaa, criticized the failure of not allowing civil society organizations to participate in the Food Systems Summit (FSS), especially in Action Track 5 of the event related to wars and conflicts, in which representatives of conflict-affected communities were absent. She also called for more focus on the root causes of conflicts and linking them to early warning systems to prevent wars.
She stressed that Action Track 5 of the summit, which will be held in September 2021, should address the practices of influential countries, not only those affected by the conflict, to include authority over the behavior and obligations of countries inside and outside the borders of the conflict zone.
Recommendations shared by the meeting participants will be used to formulate the agenda of the upcoming Regional Ministerial Conference (February 2022). A meeting of the preparation committee for the conference will be held at the end of 2021.