Re: The contribution of the private sector and civil society to improve nutrition

Dr. Claudio Schuftan PHM, Viet Nam


Let me be one of the first to contribute to this forum. Allow me to do so by, as a devil’s advocate, zeroing in on what I do have strong different views than what is expressed in the background invitational write-up.

You say: We subscribe to the view outlined in the topic note that all sectors must work together for this common goal and look forward to your feedback on the issues raised. I would like to let readers know that as PHM, FIAN, IBFAN-GIFA and ICCO we wrote a letter to the moderators a week ago requesting that the consultation be split into two since we are of the opinion that the private sector has different motivations than civil society and should contribute to the consultation questions separately. (Readers may ask moderators to publish that letter). Yes, work on this topic all sectors must, but only sometimes together and sometimes in sharp opposition (e.g., big food).

You say: The role of social safety nets in protecting nutrition is also recognized as are direct measures targeted at reducing stunting and addressing acute malnutrition. On June 13, in this same forum I posted: “Let us now, once and for all, stop talking about safety nets! This is what leads to mere tinkering within the system. The ongoing casino capitalism with its global restructuring, creates the problems, and food and nutrition professionals are supposed to pick up the pieces? Just so that poor and marginalized people do not revolt? Who is cheating whom here? We need to stop victimizing poor people and then throwing them bread-crumbs. What about changing the system that makes safety nets for poor people necessary to begin with? So, is the role of social networks universally recognized?

You say: …our work needs to be founded on inclusive broad based development and sustainable economic growth. Do you mean sustainable redistributive economic growth?

You say: the World Bank reminds us that investing in nutrition makes sense from an economic point of view as every dollar invested generates a return of up to $US30. How often do we need to repeat, especially in this forum, that investing in nutrition makes sense, because it is a human right, NOT because it makes sense from an economic point of view!

You say: Smallholder farmers as private sector entrepreneurs…No problem here. But when you call the private sector to contribute to this debate with civil society it will be big private sector that will take the opportunity. Small farmers can incorporate as  social movements and be on the civil society side of the debate.      

You say: promote policies which will enable the private sector to continue to innovate and invest in the food and agriculture sector. What do we think with be the ratio bigbusiness:small entrepreneurs investing in food and agriculture? Look at land-grabbing, at junk food, at vertical integration of the agroindustry (Monsanto, Syngenta et al). The end balance will tilt towards malnutrition producing investments, don’t you think?

You say: All sectors must work together for this common goal. Nobody is as smart as all of us. Do I have to remind readers that big business consistently tries to outsmart us? Think about it: we mostly react, not proact…

You say: public-private partnerships (PPP) that combine the individual strengths of respective sectors can collectively help build food and nutrition security through socially responsible, market-led investments and growth. This, I probably found the most biased in the background write-up. Just look and the work IBFAN, PHM, FIAN and others (not forgetting Judith Richter) have done to decisively debunk this myth. Many of us have been vocally critical of the SUN initiative precisely because of this.

You say: Private companies, civil society, knowledge institutions and government (the golden quadrant). Can I respectfully ask where this quite deceiving appellation comes from?

You say: to reach the underserved consumer. Going back to what I say above, who reaches them most? Are we not losing a battle here?  And finally,

You say: ensure the post-2015 MDG agenda includes nutrition security as an explicit part of food security. Readers should also know that many of us are now switching to much more accurate term ‘nutrition sovereignty’ which we are trying hard to introduce in post 2015 deliberations.

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Ming City