ICN2 Preparations, Part 1 – Private Sector Contributions

Posted by on June 30th, 2014 | 0 Comments »

By Ann Steensland, Senior Policy Associate, Global Harvest Initiative

Malnutrition undermines economic growth, perpetuates poverty and contributes to non-communicable diseases – the leading cause of death globally.  More than half the world’s population is adversely affected by one, or more, forms of malnutrition: under-nutrition, over-nutrition (obesity), or micronutrient deficiency. Malnutrition exists in all countries and all socio-economic classes. 

On June 20th, representatives of the private sector and civil society gathered in Rome to discuss the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) which will take place in November 2014.  ICN2 is a high-level ministerial conference jointly organized by FAO and WHO with the goal of developing a flexible “Framework for Action” that strengthens institutional policy coherence and coordination, mobilizes resources, and enhances international cooperation to improve the nutritional status of millions of malnourished people, especially in developing countries.

Photo credit: FAO

Photo credit: FAO

Last week’s consultation was an opportunity for the private sector and civil society (collectively known as non-state-actors or NSAs) to present their suggestions for the ICN2 outcome documents to the FAO member states. The Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) policy framework emphasizes the importance of involving the private sector in agriculture and food and nutrition security systems. Ann Steensland, GHI Senior Policy Associate, and Olivier Espeisse, EU and Africa Government Affairs Director for Elanco (a GHI member company), were part of the private sector delegation.

The consultation was opened by Jose Graziano de Silva, Director General of FAO, who emphasized that, “the price tag of malnutrition is too high” and that ending it “needs to be a collective effort involving the international communities and non-state actors.”  The director general’s remarks were followed by presentations from the civil society and private sector representatives and comments by the member states.

Assuring sustainable pathways for sufficient, nutritious and affordable food for 9 billion people by 2050 requires conserving soil, water and natural habitat; adapting to climate change; and improving people’s living conditions and incomes. For more on the Global Agricultural Imperative see GHI’s 2013 GAP Report.

The private sector delegation, led by J.B. Cordaro from Mars, Inc., emphasized the private sector’s commitment to contributing to a successful outcome for ICN2.  “The private sector is where most people access the products and services to meet their needs,” he said, “This is especially true for food and nutrition.”  As a result, “business has a direct and indirect impact on nutrition” all along the food value chain, from food fortification, to promoting safe infant and young child feeding practices, to improving access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, to promoting healthier choices to consumers.

Private Sector delegation presents it report to the FAO member states. Photo by Ann Steensland.

Private Sector delegation presents it report to the FAO member states. Photo by Ann Steensland.

To this end, the private sector “has unique and useful resources” to help tackle nutrition issues, as well as “a responsibility to be part of this great effort to end global hunger” and malnutrition.  The delegation expressed its commitment to “partner and collaborate with other stakeholder to help implement” the ICN2 outcomes and offered several suggestions and changes to the current documents:

  • Include language that recognize the need for a diversity of agricultural systems, farming practices, technologies, and farmers, in order to achieve balanced diets.
  • Recognize that food systems need continuous changes models, not reform to one single place or moment in time.  Discussions should be about “improving” systems to achieve our goals.
  • Emphasize the critical role of public-private partnerships and the need for a policy environment that builds trust among all sectors through a strategic, transparent, and impact-driven approach.
  • Emphasize the need for diversity in food systems, addressing food and nutrition needs in ways that are suitable for local situations and specific challenges.
  • Addressing obesity and non-communicable disease by focusing on balanced diets and healthy lifestyles, rather on individuals foods.

Science-based technologies and innovations across the value chain play an important role in reducing malnutrition by improving the nutrient value of foods, ensuring food safety, reducing food waste and loss, and increasing the production of nutritious foods, such as the so-called orphan crops.  GHI recommends that ICN2 prioritize increased investments in agriculture R&D that improves nutritional content of staple crops and conserves nutrition in the value chain. 

While the final decisions on the content for ICN2’s Framework for Action lie with the governments participating in the process, there will be opportunities for the private sector, civil society, and parliamentarians to present their positions on the Framework for Action to the plenary session of the ICN2.  (Events for non-state-actors to discuss and formulate their presentations will be held in the days prior to the ICN2. Dates, times, and locations have yet to be finalized.)

Part II of this blog will review the member country responses to the concerns and suggestions of the non-state actors and outline the next steps in the ICN2 process.

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