GSO Commentary — GSO Considers Follow-up Dilemmas for Action on Nutrition

The GSO has participated in small-group meetings with both FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva (on 16 April 2015) and WHO Director of Nutrition for Health and Development Francesco Branca (on 23 April 2015) to discuss follow-up strategies for the Second International Conference on Nutrition. Both the FAO and the WHO have follow-up proposals before their governing bodies – the World Health Assembly in May and the FAO Conference in June. Civil society groups are interested in ensuring that both food security and health concerns are integrated into advocacy and action to promote better nutrition worldwide. In addition, efforts are under way to increase dramatically the resources that are being devoted to undernutrition in particular. At the Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and IMF on 16 April 2015, a new “Power of Nutrition” multi-donor trust fund was launched to multiply resources from both private and public sources through matching offers.

One of the concerns addressed at the Geneva-based meetings with FAO and WHO officials was how to involve civil society and private sector into the follow-up efforts. There is a revitalized and functioning Committee on World Food Security (CFS) that meets annually in Rome and has various task forces that meet through the year to develop advisory policies, such as guiding principles and codes. It has Civil Society and Private Sector Mechanisms for channeling these perspectives into its deliberations but limits actual voting in the CFS to member states. From the FAO perspective, this seems to be a useful arrangement to add nutrition concerns to the CFS programme. Some civil society groups see this as a useful way for nutritionists to connect to other issues and be more holistic, but others are skeptical of how receptive an organization that is run primarily by ministries of agriculture would be to embrace a credible healthoriented perspective on nutrition. In any case, it seems likely that the Standing Committee on Nutrition, which has been the main apparatus for inter-agency coordination of nutrition in the UN system, will have a key role. It has been operating within the WHO for the past several years, but it had been based in Rome previously and might be “rotated” back to assist the CFS on nutrition issues.

Another issue that has come up in these discussions is a proposal for an “International Decade of Action for Nutrition” which had been included in the outcome documents for ICN2 in November 2014. While there have been informal consultations over a draft resolution at the UN General Assembly sponsored by Ecuador and Bolivia, the latest reports from the UN indicate that this proposal has been set aside. The timing would appear to be unfortunate, given the dominant focus on negotiations for the Post-2015 Development Agenda in the UN General Assembly. The idea may be taken up again after the September Summit in one of the UNGA committees. There is considerable interest in finding the appropriate “umbrella” to bring the various sectors concerned about nutrition to pursue an activist strategy, and this will be debated at both the WHA and the FAO Conference.

In the meantime, we are impressed to learn that a new “Power of Nutrition” multi-donor trust fund was launched on 16 April 2015 in Washington, DC, to be headquartered in London. Its mission is to unlock one billion dollars in new financing “to transform children’s futures on a scale that few can achieve alone”. Initial commitments amounting to approximately $200 million have come from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the World Bank Group Trust Fund, UBS Optimus Foundation, and the UK Department of International Development. UNICEF is also an implementing partner. The fund will be a catalyst to multiply resources through matching offers, with the World Bank Group’s International Development Agency pledging to match at least another $100 million. This will be a partnership of investors and implementers, open to new private and public investors interested in funding “large-scale, high-impact programmes” in countries that are among the worst affected in undernutrition. One hopes that the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement will facilitate the kind of multi-stakeholder cooperation that this new fund hopes to promote.