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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Beginning with “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?” and taking up the question, “What is missing?”, the draft seems to lack logical cohesions one would like in the sequence; what are our aims, and then how do we propose to achieve them. There is a mixing of these two, i.e., ends and means that might lead to confusion and inefficiency.

When I refer to organisations, I only mean the people who man them, and not in the sense of ‘legal entities’.

I shall quote from the First Draft to build a frame of reference that embodies the logical hierarchy of sequential actions that must be undertaken with sufficient skill to achieve at least some of the objectives the document describes. My point of departure is the super-ordinate goal of the ‘Decade’, viz., “to end all forms of malnutrition and leaving no one behind.” Envisioning “a world where all people at all times and at all stages of life have access to affordable, diversified, safe and healthy diets.”

I think we all agree that the above objective subsumes malnutrition in all its manifestations, including the excessive intake of some nutrients leading to obesity and the associated diseases caused by non-infectious agents. At this point, it would be wise for us to leave the medical aspects of malnutrition to health professionals, and concentrate more on how we may initiate and execute a coordinated joint action with them against ill-effects of malnutrition.

Of course, our super-ordinate aim subsumes a variety of goals   which the First Draft describes in terms of percentage reductions. These specific instances and some others would have been better placed at the top as the general nutritional objective, followed by its more specific manifestations. I shall not labour this point, and will proceed to the next stage.

Obviously, we are here concerned with how may we best achieve our objective. Once we have clearly identified the goals our overall objective would justifiably subsume, we can move onto deciding the best available means of achieving them and their areas of impact. I think it is at this point the current draft displays its weakness, because it does not distinguish clearly between ends to be gained, and then go onto determine how and where to act.

This is tricky indeed. Personally, I think it would be wise to outline where to act first, because the authority needed and the type and extent of competence required to carry out a given action varies with how a goal instantiates itself at different socio-political levels. However, we can resolve this difficulty by displaying how each level of authority or interest grouping may contribute to achieving our objectives as follows:

Top level- global authorities:

Eg. Un, FAO, WTO, etc.

Here may one list how these institutions may contribute in diverse ways within their range of action. For instance, WTO could refrain from imposing trade regulations that require countries to permit import, manufacture and sale of unhealthy food and beverages while promoting that of their opposite.

International interest groups:

Some Ngo’s.

Multinational food companies.

There is an inherent conflict of interests between these two groups. The dilemma is that compromises between them could only slow down the current increase in both forms of malnutrition, but not their long-term resolution. One may be averse to look the stark reality in face, but, it does not change the big picture.

For the sake of completeness, it must be noted that NGO’s may not agree on either the kinds of goals or on the order of their importance with respect to what we are trying to achieve here. In short, what we most require at this level is a general agreement on the goal to be pursued, and then a set of policies in the relevant areas  like agriculture, employment, trade, education, health, etc., which are in harmony with respect to our goal.

The regional level:

EU, etc.

Action it is appropriate for the regional authorities to undertake will have a greater specificity with reference to our objectives, and will take into account the region-specific considerations. Obviously, the relevant regional policies should be harmonious with respect to the regional variation of our overall goal.

Reconciling the conflicting aims of NGO’s and trade interests at regional level is not categorically different from those mentioned above.

National level:

Depending on the degree of political devolution, national, regional and local government authorities will be able to make contributions of increasing specificity with reference to the local food culture.

Provided that the NGO’s or any other volunteer groups agree on goals and their priorities, they could make a very significant contribution here.

Once again, when we deal with commercial interests, we encounter the same difficulties at a more specific level. For instance, it may involve attempts to replace/deprecate the local food culture by ‘high powered’ promotion of food and drink of questionable nutritional value.

Next, we have the specific public institutions like the ministries, educational institutions, the relevant research units, agricultural extension services, etc., whose contribution depends on skilful implementation of sound policies in harmony with what we intend to achieve.

Now we come to the final and the crucial target groups, viz., actual producers of food, independent retailers, small catering establishments (cafes and restaurants) and most of all, the people who are the end-users, i.e., all of us.

The draft ought to make this gradation among who should undertake  the actions necessary to achieve our objective, for generally speaking, a farmer may not be the best person to formulate national agricultural policy, nor yet a minister of agriculture  competent to cultivate that farmer’s fields. So, we need to assign each required action to those most competent to carry them out. It will be seen they follow the rule, higher the authority greater the generality of action which requires having a sound overall view of the problem, while at the operational terminus, one needs greater /agricultural technical competence.

The draft describes some of the ‘how’s’, but not very clear about to whom they are assigned. Obviously, it would be helpful if it lists the ‘how’s’ assigned to the international, regional and national (local) institutions respectively.

What I have in mind is something like the suggestion below:

International (global):

FAO/International organisations shall …

 “Support all countries’ efforts to address all forms and causes of malnutrition;”

“Stimulate the effective translation of the ICN2 commitments and the 2030 Agenda for SDG-2into concrete, nationally-determined policies and programmes;”

“Promote harmony within and among the relevant policies at international, regional and national levels to combat all forms of malnutrition, including through improved monitoring and reporting of relevant policy impact at global, regional and national levels;” (I have re-ordered the logical priorities, and believe this ‘how’ on policy should lead the list)

I should add to this list---

To promote fair trade in victuals at international, regional and national levels;

To ensure highest priority given to the availability of financial and other appropriate resources required for food production;

I think it will be agreed that the above non-exhaustive list   describes the assignment of ‘how’’s at the highest level of authority at the three levels we have discussed. Before proceeding to how our objective may be attained at national level, it is necessary to consider the question of partnerships, which let me repeat is one of the ‘how’s’. We may use to achieve our aim.

Leaving out its link to our goal:

“…. through Catalysing and facilitating alignment of on-going efforts of multiple actors from all sectors, including new and emerging actors, to foster a global movement to achieve the above objective.”

First, we run into the problem of sovereignty and constitutional restraints. Other things being equal, international, regional and national policies are to be laid down by the ‘elected’ representatives of the people.  Even if their disinterestedness could be guaranteed, to what extent non-governmental bodies may be allowed to influence this policy-making process is subject to legal and constitutional restraints.

Secondly, one has to determine at what level such partnerships could make a worthwhile contribution. Subject to the provisions outlined below, some partnerships may help us at intermediate level of operations and down. This corresponds to what happens after the general strategies have been carried out to implement the required policies. I have expanded on this point here:

Question: 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?

As I have outlined above, the draft will benefit from describing a categorical hierarchy of goals, i.e. main aim followed by its increasingly specific manifestations.

Then, it ought to consider who should do what to achieve our aim. This ‘who’ consists of several levels of authority, technical competence, and sources of financial and material resources needed for the task. I have already commented on their assignment with reference to what action those who occupy each level of responsibility may justifiably undertake.


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?

Should it embody the modifications suggested here, I think it would be considerably enhanced. However, I am not very sanguine about the proviso, “”existing institutions and available resources,” for many of the existing institutions will have to be altered, and the available resources considerably increased if we are to achieve our objective.


Do you feel you can contribute to the success of the Nutrition Decade or align yourself with the proposed range of action areas?

I’d be happy to offer my analytic and synthetic skills to improve the shape and consistency of the programme, or in any other way they may prove useful to object of the “Decade”.


Do you have specific comments on the section on accountability and shared learning?

Material for shared learning could be an invaluable asset provided that it is relevant for an area under conditions existing there. These include the local food culture, unemployment rate, infra-structure, educational opportunities, etc.

As an example of untenable shared learning material, it is difficult to see what scientific justification could be presented in support of global numerical recommendations on nutrients, height, weight, bio-mass etc.

The reason for this is obvious; we need nutrients for various anabolic and catabolic processes, and their requirements vary with reference to age, sex, type of work, during pregnancy and nursing, illnesses, climatic conditions, etc. Hence, they cannot be standardised upon any scientific basis. Moreover, there is reason to believe that what constitutes our dietary needs have a certain racial component, which can be associated with the climatic conditions and the food available under them. Very high protein and fat content of the diet on which peoples of the Arctic Circle subsist and their physical features illustrate this. A similar bias towards protein-rich diet with considerable fat content is observable among nomadic peoples.

With best wishes!

Lal Manavado.