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HelpAge International's Comments on
THE ROME ACCORD - ICN2 zero draft political outcome document for 19 November 2014
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this document. Please find below our comments on paragraphs 4-23.
Like some of the other commentators, we would like to see a stronger grounding of the political outcome document in a human rights framework. This requires more explicit references to nutrition being a crucial element of the human right to adequate food and nutrition as well as references to states being obliged to protect and fulfil this right and citizens being right holders, rather than merely being ‘consumers’. Human rights violations that cause or contribute to malnutrition should be mentioned in the document too.
Comments on paragraphs 4-20
There needs to be a stronger commitment to protect and improve nutrition outcomes throughout the whole life cycle
The right to adequate food and nutrition applies to all, including to people of all ages. It is encouraging to see that paragraph 5 proposes to take into account the different nutritional needs during the ‘life cycle’. The text then however only singles out women and children as having specific needs. Similarly, paragraph 7 only mentions nutrition targets for children under 5 and women of reproductive age. To do justice to a rights based approach however, we need to commit to better understand, protect and improve the nutritional status throughout the whole life cycle (including in old age).
To this end, there needs to be a commitment to improve the evidence base on the nutritional status of people beyond reproductive age (especially with view to under-nutrition) by routinely including them in food and nutrition surveillance and by age-disaggregating data. We recommend adding such a commitment to paragraph 20. In the same vein, there needs to be a commitment to provide targeted support to people of all ages in need of nutritional support. This should be added to paragraph 15.
There needs to be a stronger commitment to social protection
The document focuses on the food system in its traditional sense (food production, storage and distribution) and neglects the crucial role of social protection systems for improving and protecting nutrition outcomes. While the ICN2 technical preparatory meeting in November 2013 devoted several sessions to social protection in support of nutrition outcomes, the political outcome paper is very quiet on this topic. There are only two vague references to social protection in paragraph 12 and paragraph 13.
Given the frequent livelihood shocks and stresses that poor households in low and middle income countries experience, a sole focus on improving productivity, improving availability and affordability of healthy food is insufficient to ensure that poor households have secure access to healthy food and that they reach sustainable improvements. The majority will face times where their ability to produce food or their ability to generate a cash income is undermine and healthy nutritious food is out of their reach. Reliable social protection systems that guarantee access to basic services and minimum income security across the life cycle are crucial for bridging this gap.
We therefore recommend adding a clear commitment to support social protection systems. References to this should be made in paragraphs 12 and 13 and ideally a standalone paragraph on social protection should be added too. It is thereby important to advocate for social protection systems that guarantee social security throughout the life cycle.
Comments on paragraphs 21-23
In line with the comments made above, we, firstly, recommend to state a clear commitment to improve the nutrition of people throughout the whole life-cycle. This would be part of the introductory sentence of paragraph 21.
Secondly, we recommend to add a standalone sub-paragraph to paragraph 21 on the commitment to support reliable social protection systems that provide access to basic services and basic income security throughout the life cycle.
It is good to see the increased interest in the marginalisation of women smallholders and the need for better support and land reform. A closer look at this topic shows that we need to take into account the ageing of farming population and the specific forms of discrimination that older female farmers face.
HelpAge’s recent analysis of agricultural censuses in low- and middle-income countries shows that farmers in these regions are ageing. Older women represent a growing share of the farm population. In Uganda in 2009 for example, women over 55 years represented 7.5 per cent of the female farmer population. This proportion has been increasing in the past ten years.
Older women farmers represent an important part of the agricultural workforce. In Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America the proportion of economically active women over 60 who derive their livelihood from agriculture is higher than that for younger women. Data from the most recent labour force surveys, show that in sub-Saharan Africa, 58.7% of older women are employed in agriculture, while only 43.4% of the 40-59 years old and 38.3% of the 15-39 years old derive their main livelihood from agriculture . Older women are thus more dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods relative to other age groups .
At the same time, their access to land and other property is threatened by discriminatory inheritance rights and practices that leave them with little or nothing when their spouses die. Programmes and policies supporting female smallholders need to take these age -related vulnerabilities into account and actively seek their redress.
A detailed report of the above findings will be published online on HelpAge’s website shortly.
Social Protection to protect and promote nutrition
Reflections from HelpAge International
Submitted by Andrea Vilela (Social Protection Policy Adivser) and Tessa Vorbohle (Food Security and Livelihoods Adviser)
HelpAge International welcomes the focus on social protection as a key thematic issue to play into the preparations for the ICN 2. We welcome the shift to a more sophisticated understanding of the potential for social protection to enhance nutritional outcomes and recognise that there is rightfully a new emphasis on enhancing nutritional outcomes as social protection gains prominence as a preferred mechanism for delivering Aid and responding to crisis.
However, we are concerned that the concept note in its current state neglects the question that lies at the very core of the discussion: What concept of social protection do we apply? This bears the risk of falling back on dated conceptions of social protection that are instrumentalist and temporary in nature.
Despite recent high level support for rights based definitions of social protection as recognised by the G20, EU, Sociall Protection Inter-Agency Cooperation Board, and the Recommendation 202 on Social Protection Floors approved by 184 Governments at the 101st International Labour Committee in 2012, social protection still often tends to be interpreted in instrumentalist, short term and programmatic ways, entrenched in a safety net approach. Social protection floors are nationally defined systems that guarantee access to basic services and income security across the lifecourse.
The ICN 2 has a crucial role to play in highlighting the need for comprehensive rights based approaches to social protection such as national Social Protection Floors to protect and promote nutrition.
What are the main issues for policy-makers to consider in the design, formulation and implementation of nutrition-enhancing social protection measures?
A key consideration is ‘coverage’ and achieving political will for significant investments necessary to achieve comprehensive social protection. Policy makers should consider the importance of achieving a social protection for all that provides access to basic services and basic income guarantees across the life-course. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food states
“While the benefits of social protection are well acknowledged, they are too often unavailable. According to estimates from the International Labour Organization (ILO), seventy-five to eighty per cent of the world population does not have access to “comprehensive social security” protection to shield them from the effects of unemployment, illness or disability – not to mention crop failure or soaring food costs.” http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Food/20121009_GFSP_en.pdf
A key issue for policy makers is to clarify the conceptual basis of social protection and close the space for ambiguity regarding objectives. The objectives of social protection should not be over-emphasise, or be reduced to individual outcomes. The emphasis is on achieving coverage and ensuring no-one is left behind. It is important not to overemphasise technical design options and programmatic responses at the expense of establishing comprehensive social protection floors.
For example the PSNP in Ethiopia is widely cited as a successful social protection programme and it is utilised as a modality for the National Nutrition Strategy which aims to reduce stunting by 4% in 2 years. However, despite being one of the largest social protection projects in Africa, the current coverage does not address vulnerable households in other locations, including those vulnerable to sudden onset shocks. UNICEF have also highlighted the need for social protection to cover urban areas where urban poverty is increasing. There have also been calls about the “need to move beyond a crisis agenda towards a longer-term solution to malnutrition”.
National social protection floors (rather than separate stand alone programmes) provide a framework through which the broad range of factors that impact on food and nutrition security can be addressed in a coherent way as well as meeting the twin track objective referred to in the concept note.
Another and partly related aspect is that of protecting and improving nutrition “throughout the lifecycle” as mentioned in the concept note. The right to adequate food applies to people of all ages. Yet, in reality, people in old age are invisible in nutrition statistics and are by and large excluded from programmes that address acute malnutrition. Moreover, regular safety net programmes seldom cater for the specific nutritional needs of people in old age. Adopting a rights based social protection approach to protect and promote nutrition requires policy makers to address this dimension of inequality
What are the key institutional and governance challenges to the delivery of cross-sectoral and comprehensive social protection policies that protect and promote nutrition of the most vulnerable?
The foremost governance challenge facing the expansion of social protection for all is an absence of political commitment and prioritisation of social protection by Governments. This is in part responded to through the international mechanism for social protection articulated by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights in their call for a Global Fund for Social Protection. This is conceived of in recognition of the broad and high level international support for rights based social protection and the need to support low income countries who face administrative capacity constraints and highly instable export revenue dependency. There is more to be said on means of implementation and potential additional benefits of such an international social protection mechanism.
At the national level, HelpAge acknowledges and supports the observations of other submissions to this online consultation that emphasise institutional challenges and call for cross-sectorial dialogue on social protection policy and practice.
In your experience, what are key best-practices and lessons-learned in fostering cross-sectoral linkages to enhance malnutrition and poverty reduction through social protection?
There are promising experiences in many countries where inter-ministerial committees have driven the development of social protection policies to meet a range of interests (including nutrion security). These seem to work best where there commitment and leadership from Planning and Finance Ministries as well as utilise broad consultation mechanisms to ensure the inclusion of civil society voices and expertise.
With all this in mind, it is important not to overstate the role of social protection in achieving the nutritional outcomes sought at the national level. It plays a distinctive role in supporting increased consumption and supporting small holder farmers, but in reality targeted nutritional strategies are best build on top of a social protection floor. This might include complimentary programming but don’t let pursuit of perfection be the enemy of the good.
By this we mean, a focus on technical innovation and additional bolt-on’s can distract from the fact that coverage and investment in basic protection is a first step. Basic social protection is a blunt instrument to address many objectives – poverty elimination, redistribution, state building through governance outcomes and social dialogue – HelpAge therefore, in line with the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors, encourages that the ICN 2 strongly endorses and utilises the language of the social protection floor as a basis for discussion and clarity on the subject.
“Social protection systems have the potential to contribute to the realization of basic human rights, such as the rights to food, education and health, and to combat systemic inequality. Building from this, social protection provides States a means to support marginalized groups, tackle the immediate problems of child hunger and malnutrition,”
 Taylor 2012