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18 September 2006

The Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, issued the following statement today:

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food completed his visit to Lebanon from 10 to 16 September 2006.

The Special Rapporteur expresses his gratitude to the Government of Lebanon for the full cooperation extended to him during the visit.

During his visit, the Special Rapporteur benefited from constructive dialogue with various authorities, namely the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Ministers of Agriculture, Health, Social Affairs, Energy and Water, as well as with the Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights, the High Relief Council and Members of Parliament. The Special Rapporteur also benefited from meetings with a wide range of United Nations agencies, national and international non-governmental organizations, academics and individuals. The Special Rapporteur traveled extensively, mainly in the south, talking directly to agricultural workers and their families.

During his visit, the Special Rapporteur obtained useful information that will contribute towards fulfilling his mandate to investigate alleged violations of the right to food in Lebanon during and after the recent conflict. In particular, the Special Rapporteur was apprised of the extensive direct and indirect damage caused by Israeli bombardment to agriculture and fishing, affecting the livelihood and access to sources of income of hundred of thousands of rural inhabitants and thousands of fishermen. In addition, the Rapporteur received consistent information on the serious impact the conflict has had on access to safe drinking water as well as on the irrigation system. This has exacerbated the precariousness of the access that rural people have to sources of income. The Special Rapporteur was also disturbed by the view of the destruction in certain areas of the country and by the large number of unexploded ordnance which remains in agricultural fields, preventing farmers from irrigating, harvesting and planting. The Special Rapporteur is very concerned that the long-term effects of this conflict on people’s livelihoods will be severe.

The Special Rapporteur will report on his findings and formulate recommendations during the second session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which opened today in Geneva.