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Re: Call for experiences and good practices in the use and application of the Voluntary Guidelines for the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security

Marzella Wustefeld
Marzella WustefeldWHOSwitzerland

Title of the experience   

The UN Decade of Action on Nutrition – a window of opportunity for the realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security and nutrition

Geographical coverage


Country(ies)/Region(s) covered by the experience

Relevant for all countries, as nearly all countries are affected by the multiple burden of malnutrition

The Nutrition Decade fosters national, regional and global policy dialogue to facilitate and enhance local action, which in turn aims to maximize impact at all levels. The Work Programme highlights that a localised approach that involves civil society is important to ensure Member State ownership of initiatives and policies; to adjust to the different political structures and environments in which nutrition initiatives need to be taken; to address the vast geographic and socio-economic differences within a given society; and to ensure that solutions are equitable, inclusive, people-centred and “leave no one behind”.

Your affiliation

Marzella Wüstefeld, Department for Health and Development, WHO

UN organization

How have the VGRtF been used in your context? Which specific guidelines of the VGRtF was most relevant to your experience?

Ensuring the right to adequate food extends far beyond merely ensuring the minimum requirements of energy needed for survival but includes access to food that is nutritionally adequate. Increasingly the right to adequate nutrition is being recognized as an essential element of the right to food and the right to health. Specific reference is made to guideline 10, in addition the Nutrition Decade Work Programme also addresses most of the other guidelines. 

Today, nearly one in three persons globally suffers from at least one form of malnutrition: wasting, stunting, vitamin and mineral deficiency, overweight or obesity and diet-related NCDs. In 2014, approximately 462 million adults worldwide were underweight, while 1.9 billion were either overweight or obese. In 2016, an estimated 41 million children under the age of 5 years were overweight or obese, while 155 million were chronically undernourished. Nutrition-related factors contribute to approximately 45% of deaths in children aged under 5 years (mainly due to undernutrition), while low- and middle-income countries are now witnessing a simultaneous rise in childhood overweight and obesity.

The work programme highlights explicitly that coherence between trade and nutrition policies is vital. Trade policies and agreements should support implementation of nutrition policies and programmes and should not negatively impact the right to adequate food in other countries.[1] , which is also addressed in guideline 2, 4, 9 and 19.

[1] UNGA Resolution 68/177, paragraph 25

Brief description of the experience

Recognizing the growing threat of malnutrition in all its forms, and their serious and lasting developmental, economic, social and health impacts for individuals and their families, for communities and countries, the United Nations General Assembly, on 1 April 2016, adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition from 2016 to 2025. This Nutrition Decade aims to ensure universal access to healthier and more sustainable diets – for all people, whoever they are and wherever they live, including the most vulnerable ones and those in emergencies and conflict situations.

The Nutrition Decade presents a unique opportunity for intensified accelerated actions to ensure a coherent, inclusive and transparent response to malnutrition, embedded within the human rights. 

As the Work Programme highlights, the Nutrition Decade provides an enabling environment such that national, regional and international policies and programmes respect, protect and fulfil “the right of everyone to have access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food, the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger consistent with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other relevant United Nations instruments”.

Who was involved in the experience?

All Member States and their partners.

The Nutrition Decade is very much a time for ALL stakeholders to take ACTION across the 6 interconnected action areas.

How were those most affected by food insecurity and malnutrition involved?

The Work Programme of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition was developed through a participatory and transparent process. A platform of public interest civil society organizations and social movements that have actively engaged in the preparatory process for the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) and continue to advance its follow-up also submitted a collective position “Manifesto” to highlight the principles on which the Decade should evolve, their expectations and how they are engaging.

The Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) for relations with the CFS actively participated in online consultations to help shape the Nutrition Decade, including by providing specific text to enrich its Work Programme. Participants from 48 countries responded through 189 individual contributions. Their added value and concerns were also presented by way of speakers’ interventions in the several events organized to promote the Nutrition Decade, and captured in the UNSCN flagship publication UNSCN News 42 – A Spotlight on the Nutrition Decade.

Main activities

Recognizing that the underlying causes of malnutrition are complex and multi-dimensional, the activities under the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition focus on 6 interconnected Action Areas:

Action area 1: Sustainable, resilient food systems for healthy diets

Action area 2: Aligned health systems providing universal coverage of essential nutrition actions

Action area 3: Social protection and nutrition education

Action area 4: Trade and investment for improved nutrition

Action area 5: Safe and supportive environments for nutrition at all ages

Action area 6: Review, strengthen and promote nutrition governance and accountability

Reflecting both the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) Framework for Action, the Nutrition Decade provides a platform for country-driven SMART commitments towards the shared goal of ending hunger and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030, embedded within human rights.  

Governments and their partners are encouraged to make SMART Commitments to Nutrition Action, that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound. Thereby country-specific commitments do reflect national priorities and depend on the country’s nutrition situation, and current food and health systems.

In addition and under the Nutrition Decade, countries interested to move forward on a specific topic are encouraged to establish and lead Action Networks. These are groups of countries with shared policy and programme ambitions and that will catalyze further leadership, knowledge sharing, and action.


A fixed timeframe of 10 years from 2016 to 2025

Results obtained/expected in the short term, with quantitative aspects where feasible (estimate of the number of people that have been or will be affected)

The results obtained and activities implemented within the framework of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition are being summarized in biennial reports jointly compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) that are presented to the Governing Bodies of the two co-facilitating UN agencies WHO and FAO. Furthermore, the biennial progress reports are presented to the CFS at its Annual Session and to the UN Secretary General who is invited to inform the General Assembly about the implementation of the Decade.

The progress report presented to the CFS44 is available at the CFS website at


Results obtained/expected in the medium to long term, with quantitative aspects where feasible (estimate the number of people that have been or will be affected)

The aim of the Nutrition Decade is to accelerate implementation of the ICN2 commitments towards the prevention of all forms of malnutrition, achieve the global nutrition targets and diet-related noncommunicable disease targets by 2025 and contribute to the achievement of related SDG targets by 2030. 

The Global Nutrition targets and diet-related NCD targets are documented in:

Results obtained – most significant changes to capture

There are more and more countries that are making policy and financial commitments to improve nutrition. Stakeholders are working together with a good unifying coherent policy framework.

What are the key catalysts that influenced the results?

The two innovations of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition are that countries are encouraged to make SMART commitments, implement them and report regularly about their actions, and new ways of collaboration between countries through engaging in Action Networks.  

What are the major constraints/challenges for achieving the Right to Food?

Political will, technical capacities and efficient accountability systems are needed to reach the global nutrition and SDG targets.

As articulated in SDG17, ensuring effective accountability requires a clear understanding of and advancement in data collection as well as systematic tracking systems at both the country and global levels.

What mechanisms have been developed to monitor the Right to Food?

Nutrition is inherent element of the right to adequate food.  A dialogue on accountability, in line with declarations on aid effectiveness (Accra Agenda, Paris Declaration) and the Framework for policy coherence for sustainable development1, is being established with all relevant initiatives and platforms aimed at soliciting commitments in nutrition and related fields.

1) The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2016), Better Policies for Sustainable Development 2016: A New Framework for Policy Coherence, OECD Publishing, Paris.

What good practices would you recommend for successful results?

Very promising ways forward are indicated by Brazil and Ecuador who became the first countries submitting their SMART commitments for concrete actions on nutrition within their national strategies and policies for sustainable food systems that can contribute to ending malnutrition in all its forms;

Moreover, Norway has set the example of leading an action network on Sustainable Food from the Ocean for Food Security and Nutrition;

The Director Generals of WHO and FAO, in their joint communication, encouraged all Member States to step up efforts, in accordance with the Nutrition Decade Work Programme.

Links to additional information

ICN2 Rome Declaration on Nutrition:

ICN2 Rome Framework for Action:

UN General Assembly, through its Resolution 70/259:

Work Programme of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016-2025:


[1] UNGA Resolution 68/177, paragraph 25