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A statement by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva
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19 November 2014

Second International Conference on Nutrition

Opening Statement

 

Excellencies,

Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization,

Members of FAO and WHO,

Distinguished delegates,

Non-state actors,

UN colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you all for answering the call made by FAO and W-H-O to discuss nutrition and to give this issue the attention it deserves.

We are meeting 22 years after the first ICN took place in this very same city.

Over the past decades, we have made progress. However, malnutrition still claims the lives of millions of people and robs millions more of a dignified life.

Total numbers of undernourishment have fallen by 210 million since 1990. However, over 800 million people remain chronically hungry.

The prevalence of stunting in children has fallen from 40 to 25 percent, but 160 million children are still affected.

At the same time, two billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies.

And 22 years ago we had not anticipated that there would be such a massive increase in obesity: over 500 million adults are obese today, in the developed and developing world.

Many developing countries, especially middle income countries are facing the multiple burdens of malnutrition simultaneously: undernourishment, hidden hunger and obesity.

Malnutrition affects individuals, families, and societies as a whole. Its human, social, environmental and economic costs are overwhelming.

We have all the knowledge, expertise and resources to overcome all forms of malnutrition. In fact, there is already enough food in the world for everyone to eat adequately.

However, this availability of food has not translated this into healthy nutrition for all.

Today, we recognize the need to reshape our food systems.

Our challenges are clear:

First, to ensure global food security and nutrition, implying sufficient food supply for all, now and in the longer term.

Second, to translate this into healthy nutrition for all people within our lifetime.

And, third, we must achieve these goals in environmentally, socially and economically sustainable ways.

To meet these challenges we must recognize that nutrition is a public issue. And treat it that way.

We need both the public and private spheres need to interact in the public good. And we need to strike a balance between the interests of producers and consumers.

We also need to pursue more sustainable, inclusive, and healthier food systems, encompassing from production to consumption.

And this has to be a joint and coordinated effort.

Governments must lead the way to better nutrition for all. Within governments, this effort must involve different sectors, including health, agriculture, education and social protection.

We need the full engagement of parliamentarians. They make the laws and set the budgets that will support better nutrition.

We need civil society organizations. They ensure the voices of the hungry are heard. They help us to set our sights high.

We also need the private sector onboard. And they have assured us that they are willing to be part of our effort.

For this reason, I am very pleased that all stakeholders have been part of the ICN2 process.

The UN System also has an important role to play.

Not only FAO and W-H-O that co-organize this Conference, but the UN System.

This includes our Rome-based partners IFAD and WFP. It also includes UNICEF and other agencies, programs and funds whose work touches upon nutrition and with whom we have a strong history of partnership.

This is a joint effort and we are committed to delivering to you the best support we can.

FAO has a special interest in nutrition. It is at the heart of our mandate.

As you walked into the lobby of our building you might have seen the marble slabs with the Preamble of our Constitution, written in 1945.

It tells us how nations came together to create FAO with the purpose of raising the levels of nutrition and standards of living of their citizens, and contributing to a world free from hunger.

For FAO’s first Director-General and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Sir John Boyd Orr, ending hunger was the first step on the road to fulfilling the promise of freedom from want”, one of the four freedoms articulated in 1941 by then United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

This remains as true today as it was back then.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Food security and adequate nutrition for all are pillars for the future we want.

That is why the Zero Hunger vision resonates among all of us.

This morning, you will be invited to endorse the ICN2 outcome documents: the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and the Framework for Action on Nutrition.

Together, they are the starting point of our renewed efforts to improve nutrition for all.

But they are not the finishing line. Our responsibility is to transform the commitment into concrete results.

ICN2 is the opportunity to take a big step in the right direction.

I hope that during this conference you will announce targets that go beyond the internationally agreed goals.

In doing so, you will also be contributing to the post-2015 sustainable development agenda and to the establishment of the Decade of Action on Nutrition.

Expo Milano is also part of the road that we are on.

Let us work together to be as the generation that made hunger and malnutrition a part of history.

Thank you very much for your attention.