The draft political outcome document for ICN2 starts out by stating that “threats of malnutrition are a major challenge to global development” and recognizes that the causes of malnutrition are “complex and multidimensional”. I fully agree with both statements.
Nevertheless I would recommend beginning the document with an explicit acknowledgement of the significant improvement achieved during the last two decades in various countries including some of the poorest. The prevalence of undernourishment in the world has declined from 19 to 12 percent 8in developing countries from 24 to 14 percent) and even the absolute global number has declined from 1.02 billion to 840 million. Improvements have also been observed in other forms of malnutrition. I do not propose acknowledging this progress as an expression of complacency, but as reference to the fact that enough is known about how to fight hunger and that there is no excuse for inaction.
Having said this I do agree with article 2 drawing attention to specific types of malnutrition which are still affecting millions of children, women and men in spite of progress. The quantitative dimension of the problem may even be understated in so far as Lawrence Haddat’s comment is correct that the impact of dietary risk on the global burden of disease and disability might even be higher than the 10 percent mentioned in article 4.
Regarding remedy policies the draft lists most important entry points, including not only the classical domains like food availability, access and utilization, but also various policy domains more related to nutrition, including health, education and consumer information as well as measures like social protection and school feeding which directly benefit the neediest. However, I still find the list of proposed policies unbalanced. It does not refer to policies aiming to strengthen the wider enabling environment needed to improve nutrition on a sustainable basis. For example there is little emphasis on poverty alleviation as part of strategies for equitable growth. References to research and innovation are missing. Moreover, while the need of providing access to safe food supplies is repeatedly underlined, access to safe drinking water is mentioned only once and the overall domain of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Health) is not included in spite of its vital relationship to nutrition.
A main weakness of the current draft is the vagueness of the proposed policy commitments. This leads me to the following suggestions:
· Instead of simply renewing past, yet unfulfilled, commitments of earlier high level events, the document should underline the willingness to learn from past failures and list the main reasons for unsatisfactory progress in fighting malnutrition, e. g. lacking political will to give food security a higher priority, lacking awareness that investment in improving nutrition has a high social, economic and political benefit or lacking voice of the poor and malnourished in the political process due to bad governance. Articles 6 and 7 simply “renew” earlier commitments. I would suggest reformulating these expressions to read “renew, strengthen and expand…”
· As also suggested by others each of the seven commitments contained in article 21 needs to be complemented by targets and indicators which can be monitored. Moreover, governments should express their willingness to be held accountable for progress in implementing these commitments.
In conclusion, the document is rather complete in addressing most major aspects relating to hunger and malnutrition in the world. To serve as a powerful basis for setting targets and holding governments accountable for the implementation of an effective Plan of Action the draft could be improved in several parts: recall that enough is known to achieve progress and that inaction has no excuse, improve the balance of proposed measures in favor of more nutrition sensitive policies, call for an honest and critical review of reasons for past failure in reducing all forms of malnutrition, complement the proposed political commitments by concrete targets and monitorable indicators that can serve as criteria to hold governments accountable .