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Right to food: first visit to the Syrian Arab Republic by a UN Special Rapporteur

GENEVA (27 August 2010) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, will visit the Syrian Arab Republic from 29 August to 7 September 2010, in what will be the first mission to the country by an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council.

“This mission should serve to help identify human rights based measures to achieve food security in Syria,” said Mr. De Schutter, whose visit takes place as the country faces the fourth consecutive year of drought affecting approximately 1.3 million people.

“I will devote particular attention to vulnerable groups, including small-holders, agricultural workers, refugees, internally displaced, minorities, women and children,” stressed the UN Special Rapporteur, who will visit Syria at the invitation of the Government. He will meet with officials, UN agencies and human rights defenders.

Since 1987, the Syrian agricultural sector, which is located in the historic Fertile Crescent, has witnessed dramatic changes, including the reduction of governmental subsidies and the opening to international trade. “I will study with great interest the agricultural policies put in place by the Government in recent years and will discuss them with a wide range of actors,” Mr. De Schutter said.

The visit takes place as Syria is in the process of negotiating its accession to the World Trade Organization, and an association agreement with the EU, both of which may potentially have significant impacts on agricultural policies in the country.

The Special Rapporteur will visit different regions, including the north-east which is most affected by drought and where the agricultural crisis has led to large-scale migration from rural to urban areas.

A press conference will be held on Tuesday, 7 September 2010, at the Four Seasons Hotel Palmyra Hall in Damascus.

ENDS

Olivier De Schutter was appointed the Special Rapporteur on the right to food in May 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. He is independent from any government or organization.

Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/food/index.htm and http://www.srfood.org

OHCHR Country Page – Syrian Arab Republic: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/SYIndex.aspx

For more information and press inquiries, please contact:
Geneva (French) – Beatrice Quadranti (Tel: +41 79 444 39 93 / email: bquadranti@ohchr.org )
Geneva (English) – Yoonie Kim (Tel: +41 79 444 49 17 / email: ykim@ohchr.org)
Damascus (Arabic) – Khalid al-Masri (Tel: +963 93 3494267 / email: khalid.al-masri@undp.org