Civil society organizations in North Africa and the Near East: to ensure the right of the marginalized and people with special needs to work
Civil society organizations (CSOs) of North Africa and the Near East, meeting in Beirut on 19–21 February 2018, were invited FAO and hosted by the GAIA Association as part of the strengthening of the role of civil society in the upcoming 34th Near East Regional Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to be held in Beirut during April 2018. The organizations addressed the challenges of food security in their region, which has for years been plagued by protracted crises resulting from occupation and wars that have destroyed food production and food-system structures, forced millions into displacement and exile, led to human trafficking and hunger, and prevented many people to secure their food, medicine and health.
The participants strongly condemned all practices, whatever their origin, that lead to discriminating against citizens on the basis of religion, race, language or affiliation, stressing that the right of return of the displaced is not subject to any statute of limitations. They called on all parties to work hard to ensure displaced persons’ safe return to their lands.”
They also considered that water and food are a basic human right enshrined in all international treaties and conventions that all governments must respect, adding also recognition of a human right to land, and called for the rights of citizens, especially women and young people, to a dignified life.” They called for “all spheres of local, national and regional decision-making to respect the rights of children and prevent all forms of exploitation that deprive them of the normal life of a child.”
The meeting also called on all institutions to take care of the marginalized and those with special needs and to ensure their right to work and a dignified life, especially expressing their solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle against the Zionist occupation. They also called for the peaceful resolution of armed conflicts in North Africa and the Near East, the immediate cessation of policies that use hunger as a weapon and destroy civilian infrastructure in the region, declaring their solidarity with the struggles of the peoples of the world for a better future.
Civil society organizations have a core, expertise and initiatives required to reform and evaluate policies, as well as to improve the food situation in the region,” they asserted. However, they noted also that CSOs do not yet enjoy a real partnership with the various actors, while “their role should be a major contributor to food policies and strategies in the agricultural sector, including at the state level.”
The participants reaffirmed their interest in partnering with FAO in these important issues to fight hunger and poverty within a holistic approach. As the countries of the region are bound by international law, the CSOs identified the need for states “to hold to account those responsible for the crises and shocks that test the resilience of our societies.” Finally, they pledged to a more-regular partnership with FAO to make the greatest effort to reduce hunger and poverty, in general, in our region.
Photo: Participants representing civil society in the regional consultation with FAO. Source: GAIA Association.