TUNIS, 9th December, 2016 (WAM) — Income inequality and a rising rural-urban divide compounded by political instability, are the most challenging issues in the Near East and North Africa, says a new report released today in Tunis by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Boosting the role of agriculture is vital to tackling poverty and inequality and for fostering economic development in rural areas, the report adds.

Rural Development Report 2016: Fostering Inclusive Rural Transformation is a rallying call for policymakers and development practitioners to win the global war against rural poverty. This systematic and rigorous analysis of the rural sector gives a greater understanding of what key investments and policy reforms should be prioritised so that people and nations can benefit and transform rural areas in developing countries.

“Understanding how rural development can alleviate rural-urban poverty gaps is key. Inclusive rural transformation isn’t some abstract phenomenon – it’s a choice and governments and development partners need to come together to make it happen,”

said Perin Saint Ange, Associate Vice-President of IFAD. “We, at IFAD, are striving to make agriculture the real engine of growth within diversified economies.”

The report provides insight into the regional and country-specific challenges in the Near East, North Africa, Central Asia and Europe (NEN) and the varied pace of development in the region. State fragility and armed conflicts over the past three decades have displaced many people in the region. As a result, countries with chronic fragility may urbanise prematurely as people tend to seek both security and jobs in urban areas, thereby neglecting agriculture.

In the Near East and North Africa as a whole, youth unemployment, at 30 per cent, remains higher than in any other region in the world.

“The cost of lost opportunities for young people is compounded as today’s excluded youth become tomorrow’s poor,” said Khalida Bouzar, IFAD’s Director of the Near East, North Africa and Europe Division. “It is essential to raise awareness, especially among youth, that agriculture and agribusiness could significantly absorb the rapidly growing and young labour force into the formal economy. Our aim is to put all rural people in the driver’s seat of their own future,” she added.

WAM/tfaham