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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
26.09.2013
FSN Forum

The exchanges have been going on for three weeks and I have to say it has really been a lively discussion and it has already tackled an impressive number of topics, with a quite a variety of points of views. I would very much urge you to share more of your insights and ideas on the forum, given the importance of the issues at stake. In particular, there are a number of issues that have not been tackled so much yet and I would very much like to see more of your reflections about these:

- First of all, I feel our discussion has very much focused on agriculture production as growing crops but that not enough attention been on other agricultural activities, such as livestock production, fisheries and forests, for instance, three sectors whose contributions to good nutrition are huge. Please do not hesitate to share more stories and examples from this broader agriculture perspective!

- Similarly, there is not one but different forms of malnutrition. They all need to be fought although they don’t always necessarily require the same interventions and policy tools. Some solutions are common but there are also (prevention and treatment) solutions that are specific to wasting, stunting, different micronutrient deficiencies, overweight, obesity, etc., and also specific to countries or local contexts depending on the causes of malnutrition. I hope you can also contribute to the discussion from this point of view…

- Many contributions have explicitly or indirectly mentioned the importance of raising citizens and consumers’ awareness about healthy diets and good nutrition and related behaviors. Would that also be possible to share more good stories and examples about (successful) behavior change strategies? We know that such strategies are highly context-specific but it is always inspiring to hear what has been working from different parts of the world and different contexts…

- We know women have a key role to play to raise levels of nutrition… We also know that the workload of women and gender imbalances in decision-making power (such as on household income allocation) strongly affect nutrition. It would be very interesting to read more about how civil society organisations and private sector actors are responding to this crucial issue.

- In terms of private sector actors, some contributions have distinguished agricultural companies (involved in agricultural production and working with farmers or agricultural workers) and food companies (producing food products further down the value chain and more in relation with consumers). However, there are numerous actors in between that also deserve our attention to make agriculture systems more nutrition-sensitive, from the traders to the manufacturers and processers up to the retailers, etc. Some companies are also vertically integrated along the whole food chain - does this position give them more opportunities to enhance (or to neglect) the nutrition potential of their products at different steps? Also, many private sector companies from other sectors are involved in activities that clearly have an impact on nutrition, such as companies providing water and sanitation facilities, pharmaceutical companies, etc.

- The issue of environmental sustainability has been largely tackled, from the sustainability of production (with agroecology practices, for instance) to that of the whole food systems, up to the sustainability of diets. Some countries have recently moved forward to establish sustainable dietary guidelines. I was wondering whether CSOs and/or private sector companies which have been involved in or have analyzed such processes would be in a position to share their views: how was it developed? what were the different positions? is it targeting both food producers and consumers? how far does it regulate the action of the (ultra-)processed food industries? how will it be implemented and monitored?

- The price of food has been focusing the attention of national decision makers for centuries. The recent increases and higher volatility of food prices have also lead to many initiatives at national and global levels. Nutritious, healthy foods and diets tend to be more expensive for family budget. The most vulnerable, who are more affected by under-nutrition, are also spending a higher proportion of their income on food. Thus rising food prices represent a clear threat to the access to quality, nutritious diets for the family members that need it most. However, the link between the level of food prices and the prevalence under-nutrition is not easy to establish. Are there recent worth sharing experiences from civil society or private sector on witnessing, assessing and/or combating this?

- This forum has also the goal to provide inputs for the ICN2 conference. Two recent contributions have suggested important issues (such as rights-based approach to nutrition, trade, governance and regulation of conflict of interests in the nutrition sector) that would have to be discussed at the 2014 conference, as well as during the preparatory 2013 technical meeting. You can find the draft agenda of the preparatory ICN2 meeting here (http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/agn/pdf/ProvProg_PTMN_template___2_.pdf). There are already spaces to discuss topics such as partnerships and governance (at country level), influence of agro-food policies, the issue of policy coherence, etc. Please do share more of your views on this agenda!

- Finally, I would like to read more contributions on the question (underlined in the introductory text) of monitoring the impacts of agricultural programmes on food consumption and nutrition. Are there experiences from CSO or PS companies you would like to share? Clearly, we need to build strong evidence of the effectiveness and cost efficiency of our actions and not base our decisions on ideological assumptions or theory only. Although, this is clear that different forms of evidence are needed and can complement each other, as recently underlined by P. Pinstrup-Andersen on his comment of the Lancet article on nutrition-sensitive interventions (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2813%2961053-3/fulltext?_eventId=login) as well as on L. Haddad’s blog (“the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence” http://www.developmenthorizons.com/2013/07/ids-transforming-nutrition-summer.html)

Hoping to read exciting new contributions in the next days of this discussion!

Etienne