UN Decade of Action on Nutrition
Comments from the Private Sector Mechanism
The Private Sector Mechanism welcomes the opportunity to provide comments on the work programme of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition. Several PSM members have already commented individually, this is a summary of our views.
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?
The PSM supports the overall aim of the Work Programme to provide a clearly-defined, time-bound operational framework for governments to adopt and implement nutrition-related initiatives to create sustainable food systems and enabling environments that promote healthy dietary practices and support the fulfillment of ICN2 commitments and achievement of the diet-related NCD targets by 2025 and the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. PSM supports a Work Programme that is guided by the principles of inclusiveness and we are encouraged that the current draft work programme recognizes recognises that addressing all forms of malnutrition and NCDs requires the commitment of all sectors and of a wide range of stakeholders, including the private sector.
2. 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?
The PSM supports the selection of the 6 priority areas. On trade, we would like to point that trade policy frameworks that foster open, dynamic, and competitive economies increase food security and improve nutritional outcomes. Trade is an essential tool for ensuring commodities and food can be effectively and affordably distributed when and where they are needed and for promoting economic opportunities for producers, in particular smallholder farmers and SMEs. Trade also creates opportunities beyond the farm because of the potential for value-added employment in food processing, marketing and distribution. Trade policies also have a knock-on effect on farmers’ and countries’ decisions to invest in agriculture and to adopt new technologies. Open markets and private enterprise are critical for development and are an important part of achieving SDG 1 and 2. Trade liberalization protects national food markets against domestic shocks, and thus insulates vulnerable consumers from price volatility, by allowing more food to be imported in times of shortage and exported in periods of plenty. Standard setting is of key importance to trade. Global standards need to be science-based and developed through broad-based consultations. The Codex Alimentarius plays a critical role in food trade, as the most important international standard setting body in the areas of food safety, quality and fairness. It enables trade in agricultural products to benefit producers, importers and consumers.
3. Do you feel you can contribute to the success of the Nutrition Decade or align yourself with the proposed range of action areas?
In order to effectively achieve the Decade of Action’s goals, we believe that the private sector should play a key role in helping people everywhere to achieve and maintain balanced diets and healthy lifestyles. Improving food security worldwide requires the collective effort of all stakeholders. We support actions for sustainable food systems that promote healthy and safe diets and strategies that integrate nutrition and food safety objectives into food and agriculture policies and strengthen local food production and processing. We believe that real progress can be made only through a constructive, transparent engagement between Governments, international organizations, the private sector and civil society. The Private Sector Mechanism is committed to working with all stakeholders to contribute to the success of the Decade.
4. 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?
The PSM continues to advocate for a focus on foods and diets rather than single nutrients in any policy development and activities, other than where specific micronutrient deficiencies need to be addressed through targeted food fortification and/or supplements. Foods and diets are far more than the sum of their individual nutrients. Nutrients are not consumed in isolation and it is inaccurate to generalize about the effects of a single nutrient without considering the food matrix in which it is present. In some countries, dietary guidelines are shifting away from recommendations based on nutrients or foods in isolation and now focus primarily on healthy eating patterns.
In addition, we wish to underline the added value of focusing on stimulating concrete nationally-determined policies and programmes with the objective of creating sustainable food systems and enabling environments that promote healthy dietary practices. A localized approach is of utmost importance in order to ensure member state ownership of initiatives and policies in the context.
We wish to support HarvestPlus comments when they note that “Two important issues/topics that we think are missing from the action areas are: (a) both in situ and ex situ conservation of agricultural biodiversity – which is crucial for the development of productive and nutritious varieties/breeds of crops and livestock that are adapted to ever-changing and agroclimatic conditions, and (b) biofortification, i.e., development and delivery of micronutrient-enriched staple food crops, which has been proven to improve vitamin A and iron deficiency status. Both conservation of agricultural biodiversity and promotion of biofortified crops merit inclusion under action area 1 (sustainable, resilient food systems for healthy diets). UNSCN might consider consulting/collaborating with the Convention on Biological Diversity on (a), and with HarvestPlus on (b). Both of these topics should also be included among the potential topics for the development of commitments and the establishment of action networks, listed in table 1.”
Finally, we do not understand Table 1 in Annex: Potential topics for the development of commitments and the establishment of action networks. We are not sure what this is meant to be, how the list was compiled and how it is supposed to be used. The list of topics sounds eclectic and not based on any particular piece of research. We would recommend deleting it from the work programme at this stage, unless clarification is given into how it was developed, what the rationale and criteria were for selecting the topics and how they are meant to be used.
5. Do you have specific comments on the section on accountability and shared learning?
We are encouraged to see that the Work Programme recognizes that actions taken by governments and other stakeholders must rely on the latest scientific evidence. The PSM also strongly believes that policy initiatives must be supported by strong scientific evidence.
 OECD 2016 agricultural ministerial summary https://www.oecd.org/agriculture/ministerial/statements/ag-ministerial-2016-summary.pdf