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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
FSN Forum

First of all, l would like to thank all the contributors to this discussion for their very valuable inputs and reflections. Let me also remind those who have not contributed yet that this discussion will be on-going until Thursday next week and that your contributions are still expected and very much welcome!

What strikes me particularly is how much the contributions received so far are illustrating a great diversity of points of view and opinions, which is a real strength of this forum. In particular, the discussion and the examples raised have clearly underlined the greatest diversity and heterogeneity of actors that one can find inside each of the two groups “civil society” and “private sector”.

The main differences between civil society and private sector have been rightly reminded: they have different goals, methods, principles, constituency, audience, public or targets, etc. That said, many contributions have shared positive examples of good collaboration between civil society and private sector, where joint projects are able to maximize the added-value and contribution of each side, in order to raise levels of nutrition.

Others have made it clear that in many cases, the role of civil society organisations and private sector actors are very different and sometimes opposed. As Claudio Schuftan puts it: on nutrition, all actors must work “but only sometimes together and sometimes in sharp opposition”. In particular, the role of civil society organisations to work with or to lobby governments “to come with policies to regulate private sector” based on the experience and inputs of communities “in order to drive the private sector towards responsive practices to community needs” has been underlined by both Eileen Omosa and Monica A. Hernandez. The role of civil society actors to closely monitor (and denounce, if need be) the practices of private sector (such as in the case of aggressive food marketing that threatens nutritious diets) as well as government policies (example of iron supplementation to pregnant women in India) has also been illustrated.

Overall, this variety of actors and the huge diversity of the contexts remind us that, in the fight against malnutrition, there are many different models of collaboration and partnerships within and between civil society and private sector, with both positive and negative aspects. In particular, there is no one-size-fits-all or “silver bullet” form of “public-private partnerships” but each experience needs to be assessed by all the concerned stakeholders: in this, transparency and accountability to citizens and communities, in particular the poor and most marginalized people, is key, especially from a civil society perspective.

The framework of this discussion (with both civil society organisations and private sector actors invited to participate in the same discussion) might have orientated the contributions to focus more on examples of interaction or joint work involving both civil society and private sector. But of course, contributions on the respective roles and works of one or the other are also very much welcome.

Looking forward to reading more in the next few days,