Thank you for giving the US Council for International Business the opportunity to provide comments on the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) zero draft political outcome document for 19 November 2014.
The US Council for International Business (USCIB) would like to thank the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for the opportunity to submit comments to the online discussion on the political outcome document of the Second International Conference on Nutrition. USCIB is the American affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC) to the OECD, and the International Organisation of Employers (IOE). As such, we work closely with intergovernmental bodies, including the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Labor Organization (ILO), United Nations bodies and vis-à-vis foreign business communities and their governments.
In addition, we would like to highlight that USCIB is a membership based organization which operates under bylaws that provide the framework under which we consult with our own stakeholders. Our processes are transparent. We provide views and inputs which are built through a consultative process and reflect a consensus among our large membership. We therefore hope that the FAO reads this submission as well as our previous one within this context.
Although an online consultation will solicit some input, we would like to suggest that the FAO and the WHO create a more targeted approach to engaging with stakeholders, including the private sector. We recommend a formal consultation with stakeholders, including the private sector, to have a more robust and complete discussion on these important issues related to nutrition.
We found that the stakeholders participation in the technical meeting for ICN2 which was held in November of 2013 as being extremely useful. If fact, several countries including the US, the Netherlands and others were supportive of our engagement at the technical meeting. We therefore look forward to our participation in the ICN2 later this year.
In general, we would like to recommend that the outcome document reflect that the private sector can contribute in the area of nutrition through its innovate products, its science and technology know how, as well as good production and management practices, which can be increasingly harnessed through effective partnerships with research institutions, farmers, policy-makers, and civil society.
Furthermore, the private sector plays a critical role in further strengthening markets, economic growth and livelihoods. While private sector involvement is key, there is also a need for government collaboration, particularly in helping ensure greater policy coherence, such as reducing barriers to trade.
As we expressed in our comments in the previous submission to the FAO online consultations, USCIB would like to underscore that advancing health and nutrition requires a multi-stakeholder approach that reflects the complexities of the issues. There is no quick or simple solution to addressing challenges such as obesity, under-nutrition and disease. While we believe that the private sector has a role in producing healthy and nutritious food. In fact, the private sector role is much broader than food production. It can do its part to combat obesity and other challenges for example, by continuing to innovate and make available healthier choices and help to educate and inform consumers of those products. However in addition to the private sector, it is equally important to address issues that impact the community’s ability to thrive such as poverty, hunger, gender inequality, water access and sustainable agriculture.
Given, the positive and unique role that the private sector has in nutrition, we could recommend that the zero draft document reflect that perspective rather than a negative one especially with regards to processed foods. The assumption that processed foods are lacking in nutrient density and therefore categorically non-nutritious is unwarranted. In fact, Scientific and technical achievements through the food system including food processing, allows people to have access to diverse, abundant supply of food that is safer, tastier, more nutritious, more convenient and relatively expensive than would otherwise be the case.
With regards to paragraph 14 of the zero document, we believe that the role of government is to help consumers by “raising awareness and ensure access to choices” as opposed to “empowering consumers to make” choices. With regards to paragraph 18 and 21, USCIB would like to edit the statement that the governments should take responsibility for leadership on nutrition. This statement is rather vague and doesn’t give any real direction to governments. Therefore, we would like to suggest that as it relates to nutrition, governments should take responsibility for leadership on informing consumers about the importance of nutrition and a balanced lifestyle.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to comment. We look forward to engaging further as we get closer to ICN2.