The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) coordinated a technical meeting to promote and build government capacity for rural poverty reduction through social protection policymaking in the NENA region.

Social protection and social policies that protect the poor are limited in the NENA region, especially in rural areas where over 70% of poor people live and depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihoods. Renewing social contracts by strengthening the linkages between social protection and rural development represents a unique opportunity for addressing the needs of these people.

Maurice Saade, FAO Representative in Lebanon, stated that “Lebanon, as every country in the NENA region suffers from not only poverty but also from inadequate socio-economic development due to recurring crises caused by either natural or manmade shocks”. He added that the political instability in the region generated an increasing movement of refugees affecting to a large extent both economically and socially Lebanon, as much as the other hosting countries, ensuring that “FAO will continue to support Lebanon and other countries in the region and advocate with donors for developing the agriculture sector and enhancing the resilience of rural communities.”

FAO is well-positioned to use social protection as a mechanism for a sustainable rural development and rural poverty reduction. Its Regional Initiative on Small-Scale Family Farming (RI-SSFF) was instrumental for establishing the organization role on social protection in the region.

Alfredo Impiglia, Delivery Manager for the Regional Initiative on SSFF, FAO commented: “This seminal technical meeting is important for raising awareness and building the capacity of governments in the region. Fostering an understanding of social protection mechanisms is especially critical for the Near East and North Africa given that this region maintains the highest average unemployment level in the world. The mechanisms used for social protection can complement rural development programmes in order to increase agricultural productivity and protect rural livelihoods.”

This technical meeting forms part of the RI-SSFF’s engagement plan on social protection. As a result of this intervention, FAO’s member countries have begun to develop strategic approaches on social protection as a tool for rural poverty reduction and rural development. They are also better informed on the role that FAO in supporting their development of such strategies.

Natalia Winder Rossi, Global Social Protection Team Leader, FAO added: “Social protection is instrumental to enhancing the economic and productive potential of poor rural families. Such programmes has been successful for poverty reduction in many parts of the world. FAO produced a report in 2016 that gave an overview of the regional trends and impacts of social protection in the NENA region that can serve as a basis for implementation in the future.”

The technical meeting took place on the 29-30 March 2017 and was attended by around 60 participants, including ministerial counterparts from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, West Bank Gaza Strip, and Yemen.

Source: National News Agency