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Nutrition Tops the Agenda for Government Leaders at Rome Conference
By Ann Steensland, Senior Policy Associate
More than half of the world’s population is adversely affected by one, or more, forms of malnutrition: under-nutrition, over-nutrition (obesity), or micronutrient deficiency. Malnutrition undermines economic growth, perpetuates poverty and contributes to Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in all countries and in all socio-economic classes.
To address this global crisis, hundreds of high-level government leaders from around the world are gathering next week in Rome for the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2). The focus of ICN2 is how to structure public policy to reduce malnutrition. Representatives of the private sector and civil society will also be on hand to discuss the critical roles they play in reducing malnutrition.
For the last year, Ann Steensland, Senior Policy Associate at the Global Harvest Initiative (GHI), has participated as a private sector observer in the negotiations of the ICN2 “outcome documents” which will be adopted by the member states next week. The ICN2 Political Declaration will outline the UN position on nutrition for the next ten years, at least. The Framework for Action will serve as a guide for country governments as they develop policy for nutrition, agriculture, and health.
ICN2 will move the UN from a health-based paradigm of addressing malnutrition to a more holistic “food system” approach. GHI has advocated for a “value chain” approach to “food systems” in the ICN2 framework. Economically, socially, environmentally, and nutritionally sustainable food systems need to do more than “supply” nutritious food to consumers – they must create “value” for the actors along the entire chain: from the scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs who are creating more productive and sustainable technologies, to farmers and producers, aggregators and processors, risk management providers, retailers, and consumers.
GHI has worked closely with the Private Sector Mechanism for the FAO to ensure that the outcome documents embrace a balanced approach toward the role of the private sector, trade, investment, markets, and intellectual property and resource rights in addressing malnutrition and NCDs. Thanks to support from the US delegation, as well as the delegations from Canada, Japan, Switzerland, and the EU we have seen positive changes in the documents toward a value chain approach.
The meetings next week are the culmination of more than a year’s work. This is a cause for celebration, and yet, the most important tasks are still to come.