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Re: The contribution of the private sector and civil society to improve nutrition

Etienne du Vachat facilitator of the discussion, France
07.10.2013
FSN Forum

Dear all,

It is very impressive to see the interest aroused by this discussion until the final hours... I would first like to thank all participants for the number and quality of contributions. I think it shows to what extent, coming from very different countries and backgrounds, we are all strongly involved in the fight against malnutrition, against all forms of malnutrition, and therefore against the deep inequalities that continue to impede many children, women and men from ensuring "a fulfilling and dignified life free of fear”.

I would like to address four points:

  • First of all, the interests (and challenges) of this discussion were related to the great variety of the issues that it aims to cover. As underlined in many different posts, both “civil society” and “private sector” are two general concepts within which the diversity of actors, visions, approaches, sizes and scales is huge… thus making conceptualization challenging. Similarly, malnutrition is complex, multifaceted and multisectoral by nature and there are very numerous potential levels of action to improve nutrition through our food systems. All this has offered us a lively, rich discussion, with many points of view sometimes converging, sometimes complementary and sometimes downright opposed. We need to acknowledge this diversity, which is a great strength, as a basis for building consensus.
  • Many concrete experiences and examples of programmes, partnerships and initiatives have been shared and I think this was one of the main added-value of this discussion. Most of the concrete experiences that have been mentioned are relatively local or sub-national initiatives that would often deserve to be scaled-up and shared at a higher level, providing that there is evidence of their successes. In this regard, transparency and public accountability of such initiatives are essential. This is particularly the case for the Public-Private forms of partnership that have raised concerns throughout the discussion. From a civil society perspective, accountability is more than just a word. Collectively, we need to reflect about what kinds of accountability will create an “enabling environment” with both regulations and incentives for the private sector to behave better. That is: accountability from who (parent companies, subsidiaries, retailers, etc.)? To whom (to employees, to public authorities, to local communities including the most nutritionally vulnerable, etc.)? And on what (how to make companies more accountable on their impacts on the right to food and nutrition? or on their contribution to its determinants, such as access to land, water, sanitation and hygiene, healthcare services, decent work, quality education and above all affordable, diverse, nutritious foods – including adequate, transparent information on the latter)?
  • As a contribution, when it comes to assessing the extent to which different agricultural programmes and policies are actually contributing to improving nutrition, I would suggest to refer to the Global Strategic Framework (GSF), developed by the CFS (Committee on World Food Security, whose 40th session is opening today). It provides very clear guidelines on the monitoring of initiatives that relates to food and nutrition security, including in its paragraph 93 on the “five principles that should apply to monitoring and accountability systems” (www.fao.org/docrep/meeting/026/ME498E.pdf). Additionally, the “Key recommendations for Improving Nutrition through Agriculture” developed by FAO following a literature review (http://unscn.org/files/Agriculture-Nutrition-CoP/Agriculture-Nutrition_Key_recommendations.pdf) also provide useful criteria, specifically related to nutrition and agriculture, applying to both the field intervention and the policy framework levels, such as: explicitly integrating nutrition objectives, focusing on vulnerable populations, incorporating nutrition promotion and education, etc. It is important to underline that there is no single easy solution (or ‘magic bullet’, such as nutrition value adding for instance). In fact, each criterion taken alone might not be able to achieve strong results. But taken together, they are the roadmap to success because they are interrelated and mutually reinforcing.
  • Finally, the outcomes of this discussion would have to be taken on board by the organizing committee of the upcoming ICN2 Preparatory Technical Meeting 13-15 November 2013 and the 19-21 November 2014 conference, in order to inform the agenda and set-up of both meetings. Many interesting experiences would be worth sharing, many different views would need to be reflected (and debated) and several topics raised in this discussion would need to be addressed in the agendas of the two meetings. Improving the links between the ICN2 and the work of the CFS which is the most inclusive policy forum for food security and nutrition issues that mostly focuses on agriculture,  has also been recommended. In terms of process, an option to consider would be for the ICN2 to have a Civil Society Mechanism (CSM), similar to that of the CFS, which would allow formal participation of civil society organisations to the conference. More information on the process through which the recommendations made in this forum will feed into the preparation of ICN2 will certainly be shared in the coming weeks.

Thank you again for having brought your own points of views and experiences to the discussion. I look forward to continuing this lively dialogue on the way to the ICN2 and after.

Warm regards,

Etienne