Beirut-Cairo, 4 April 2019 (ESCWA)--The first joint meeting of Arab ministers of agriculture and water held at the League of Arab States (LAS) today concluded with the adoption of Cairo Declaration that called upon all Arab governments and partners to institutionalize regional coordination mechanisms and harmonize policies across both sectors to face the impacts of climate change, land degradation, and water scarcity.
It also stressed the need to increase investments in agricultural water management and to avail from innovations, data management and analysis, and exchange of expertise. They urged to increase coordination among partners and guarantee efficient harmonization and integration of policies across the two sectors in sustainable development strategies.
The ministerial meeting is the first of its kind and was organized by LAS in cooperation with the Beirut-based United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in the region, and the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD) at the end of the Land and Water Days held on 31 March-3 April in Cairo.
In his opening remarks, the Director-General of FAO, Mr. José Graziano da Silva, outlined the impacts of water scarcity and stressed the urgent need for appropriate partnerships and frameworks as well as innovative practices that address climate change impact on water and agriculture.
The Director of Sustainable Policies Division at ESCWA, Ms Roula Majdalani, highlighted natural, economic, and social challenges facing food and water security in the Arab region due to factors that include climate change, extreme weather conditions, land degradation, and political turmoil.
“Achieving balance between food security and water security, reducing the water gap and improving food security are all possible through the enhancement of institution frameworks and the adoption of proper and green technologies,” she added.
According to the 2017 joint report of ESCWA and FAO, Arab Horizon 2030: Prospects for Enhancing Food Security in the Arab Region, the agriculture sector consumes nearly 80 percent of the total water resources of the region and only contributes to 7 percent of the gross domestic product. Despite a decrease in water usage efficiency in agriculture, everyone agrees that this sector is vital to achieve food security and stability to local communities, whereas around 40 percent of the population depend on agriculture for their livelihood.
For his part, the Assistant Secretary-General of LAS, Mr. Kamal Hassan Ali, stressed the need to achieve sustainable development in water and agriculture sectors in the Arab states and urged to adopt a comprehensive framework and share the responsibility of finding solutions.
The meeting featured opening statements of Jordanian agriculture minister Ibrahim Sobhi Al Shahahede, Kuwaiti minister of oil, electricity and water Khaled Ali Fadel, and AOAD Director General Ibrahim Adam El Dukheri who also signed a memorandum of understanding with his counterpart in FAO to strengthen their partnership in areas including food security in conflict-affected countries.
The ministerial meeting is the culmination of the Land and Water Days organized by FAO, ESCWA, LAS, and AOAD in Cairo with the participation of over 300 officials and experts to discuss the integrated management of natural resources to mitigate climate change effects and ensure access to water, energy and food in a human rights-based approach that takes into account socioeconomic factors and country specificities, the nexus between water security, food security, and energy, and much more.
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