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

George Kent
George KentDepartment of Political Science, University of Hawai'iUnited States of America


This is a comment on the first draft of the Work Programme of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition, 2016-2025, accessed at

The draft confuses long-term aspirations and concrete goals. Aspirations are about moving toward something, while goals are about actually getting to some well-defined destination by a specific time.

Paragraph 2 says that at the second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), “the global community committed to eliminate malnutrition in all its forms . . .”  That is a good aspiration, but as presented in this draft, the actual plan is to reduce malnutrition in all its forms, not eliminate it. Eliminating all forms of malnutrition is not a realistic goal.

Paragraph 1 points out that there are many forms of malnutrition: “undernutrition, vitamin and mineral deficiency, overweight or obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).” Grouping them all together could lead to very diffuse assignments of responsibility, limiting the potential for holding any agencies accountable with regard to goal achievement. In pooling these issues together, there is a risk that resources would be shifted to favor goals that are achieved more easily, reducing attention to ones that are more important.

The FAO and the Committee on World Food Security generally focus on food insecurity, roughly equivalent to undernutrition or hunger. Given its great importance, a serious commitment and plan could be formulated to eliminate this one form of malnutrition by a specific date, while calling on the global community to reduce the other forms of malnutrition.

Accepting this would mean retaining the sentence in Paragraph 3 that speaks about ending hunger by 2030, but modifying the following sentence so that it speaks about reducing other forms of malnutrition.

With this approach, it would be useful to establish separate lines of responsibility for the ending part of the overall agenda, and others for the reducing parts. Different UN agencies could be designated to take the lead for different parts.

This would be a radical change in the Work Programme. It would lead to a far more serious approach to addressing the challenge of widespread and persistent hunger.

If the consensus is that ending hunger is not a realistic goal, that should be said and it should be explained. Speaking as if it is a realistic goal when key actors are convinced it is not would be unfair to all concerned.


George Kent
Professor Emeritus,
Department of Political Science
University of Hawai'i
Honolulu, Hawai'i 96822

Author, Caring About Hunger