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Conclusions and Outlook for 2016

The outlook for the Arab region for 2016is not much improved, particularly if conflict persists. However, there is hope that the mounting evidence of the costs of inaction will sway decision makers to support policy reforms to improve governance, fight corruption, and increase the competitiveness of Arab economies (World Bank 2015b). Three high-priority areas for policy intervention to improve food and nutrition security in the Arab countries are (a) peace-building through development activities at local and national levels, (b) education and subsidy reforms to improve nutrition, and (c) research and improved data gathering and analysis on rural development and food security.

Peace-building through development activities at local and national levels. Consensus is emerging on the need to aggressively innovate in pursuit of peace through development. Although overall and permanent peace may remain elusive, there is growing agreement on the need to prioritize and sustain food security assistance—innovation is needed to go beyond the temporary emergency relief measures. In October 2015, the Committee on World Food Security agreed to a set of nine principles and implementation strategies, known as the Framework for Food Security and Nutrition in Protracted Crises, designed to guide governments and assistance agencies in stepping up their development engagement, including in conflict zones (CFS 2015).

Education and subsidy reforms to improve nutrition. Outside of conflict areas, following the model of the emerging success in Egypt, for example, governments should focus on ending harmful subsidies and strengthening safety nets in order to improve nutrition for the truly poor and food insecure, including addressing the double burden of malnutrition.

Research and improved data gathering and analysis. Ultimately, there is hope that more inclusive and participatory societies will emerge from the present regional chaos. Sound data and information for decision-making on rural development and food security—as well as demonstrable solutions suitable for scaling up—are needed. Development of these tools while the turmoil is still ongoing may even hasten peace. The turmoil started in peri-urban and rural areas—perhaps if rural development is addressed, that is also where it will end.

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