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Forum global sur la sécurité alimentaire et la nutrition • Forum FSN

Re: Open discussion on the first draft work programme of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition

Wenche Barth Eide
Wenche Barth EideDepartment of Nutrition, University of OsloNorway
  1. Does the work programme present a compelling vision for enabling strategic interaction and mutual support across existing initiatives, platforms, forums and programmes, given the stipulation of Res 70/259 that the Decade should be organized with existing institutions and available resources?

That nutrition has been bestowed with a “UN Decade” assignment  is a serious and honorable matter and should reflect the responsibility this entails of really drawing on the wider United Nations framework  as informed by its Charter.  While appreciating that this is to be an action programme, the nutrition community must recognise some of the fundaments of the United Nations and build them into the frame for the Nutrition decade and fit the action areas accordingly.

 

  1. What are your general comments to help strengthen the presented elements of the first draft work programme of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition?

I miss an introduction or preamble which problematises in short and crisp language, some of the major causes of malnutrition at different levels, hereunder as related to skewed economic and other power relationships, and forms of exploitation that lead to poverty as the key underlying determinant of food inseurity, hunger and undernutrition and to a large extent also poverty-based obesity and related NCDs. The responsibilites of the corporate sector and other economic interests should already at the beginning be tabled as potentially conflicting with people’s interests,  also to make it more meaningful to establish an action network for managing conflict of interest.

The Decade coincides with signs that human rights as a basis for food security and nutrition progamming, implementation and monitoring is again on the rise, informed particularly by the human right to adequate food and diet-related health but also other relevant human rights. While the ICN2 was weak on this, the Nutrition Decade is the occasion to bring human rights more systematcally  to the fore in fighting all forms of malnutrition.  The draft programme has an explicit opening for this in paragraph 14: “The Nutrition Decade will provide an enabling environment such that national, regional and international policies and programmes respect, protect and fulfil human rights obligations in accordance with the progressive realization of the right to adequate food and nutrition and other related human rights.”

However, this statement is meaningless unless further operationalised for what the human rights obligations listed (now reckoned as part of international human right law) would mean in practice at each stage in the “action”. It is fully possible to carry out that exercise and it should be done as part of the  further developent of the work programme . Inspirations can be found in the excellent work carried out by the FAO Right to Food Unit since 2005, and in more recent inititives by several departments of WHO, including Nutrition for Health and Development Department.

  1. Do you feel you can contribute to the success of the Nutrition Decade or align yourself with the proposed range of action areas?

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  1. How could this draft work programme be improved to promote collective action to achieve the transformational change called for by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the ICN2 outcomes? What is missing?

Members of the Norwegian-based research and action network FoHRC – Food, Human Rights and Corporations, would in principle be ready to engage in discussions how elements of a rights based approach (as developed by the UNDG and specified further for the right to food by FAO); could bring new dimensions to the conduct of action on nutrition within the areas proposed. The relative length of the decade (9 years) offers the opportunity for testing human rights theory and values against practical realities, drawing on experiences from policy/programming and grassroots initiatives as would already be documented. Master students trained in both nutrition/PHN and human rights might be available for part of this work, also in their own interest.

And why not establish a separate Action network for operationalising a human rights based approach to action on nutrition?  Or, combine this with the one proposed on Conflict of interest? One should also remember that one of the key values in human rights thinking and practice is the accountability of duty-bearers.

A special case of a human rights approach is the work of the UN regarding business and human rights (UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011), emphasising Member states’ established obligation to protect their population from any harm done by a third party e.g. business, and at the same time the need for business to respect human rights in their operations and business relations.

FoHRC tries to operationalise these principles for the food-related business sector, which should be of interest to all concerned with the need for the food industry to end harmful practices (e.g. unethical marketing to children) and begin respect the human right to adequate food and diet-related heath.

  1. Do you have specific comments on the section on accountability and shared learning?

The Independent Accountability Panel seems to be the potentially most important mechanisms for accountability in the area of women and children’s (nutritional) health.

On shared learning, there will be a general need for sharing/learning new knowledge and experiences across sectors. In the case of human rights and nutrition, two very different sets of knowledge (legal and biomedical) and practice must be shared and synthesised for mutual understanding of how to handle nutrition challenges through a rights-based approach.  The work programme should take account of this.