New global momentum to eradicate malnutrition

Second International Conference on Nutrition pushes commitments and concrete action

21 November 2014, Rome – The time is now for bold action to shoulder the challenge of Zero Hunger and ensure adequate nutrition for all, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today in closing remarks to the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2).

“Malnutrition is the number one cause of disease in the world,” Graziano da Silva  said, adding: “If hunger were a contagious disease, we would have already cured it.”

The conference brought together representatives from over 170 governments –including over 100 ministers and vice ministers– who affirmed their commitment to establish national policies aimed at eradicating malnutrition in all its forms and transforming food systems to make nutritious diets available to all. Over 2200 participants attended the meeting, including 150 representatives from civil society and nearly 100 from the business community.

Pope Francis, Queen Letizia of Spain, Nadine Heredia, First Lady of Peru, King Letsie III of Lesotho and Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of the United Arab Emirates addressed the conference as special guests.

“We have before us a decade of nutrition,” Graziano da Silva added, referring to the upcoming Expo Milan 2015 with  its theme “Feeding the planet, energy for life.”

He  noted that food and nutrition security will also figure prominently in the United Nation’s post-2015 development agenda, which will replace the Millennium Development Goals that are coming to an end next year.

“This Conference on nutrition is the beginning of our renewed effort,” he said. “It will be acknowledged for having brought nutrition into the public sphere, making it a public, not a private, good.”

"The political commitments made at ICN2 – the first to include solutions that will address malnutrition in all its forms, from hunger to obesity–  are landmark. We look forward to working with Member States and FAO to move ahead without delay, through policies and actions that will change the lives of millions," said Oleg Chestnov, WHO's Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health.

Throughout the three-day conference organized by FAO and WHO, Graziano da Silva and WHO Director General-Margaret Chan stressed the importance of collaboration across sectors  to respond to the nutrition challenges of the 21st century, but made it clear that the fight against malnutrition ought to be led by national governments through concrete commitments and benchmarks.

At ICN2  governments adopted the Rome Declaration on Nutrition, along with a  Framework for Action that provides far-reaching recommendations for national policy-makers to combat malnutrition and put healthy diets and environmental sustainability at the centre of food production and distribution, from farm to fork.

The documents are the culmination of nearly a year of deliberation that included inputs from civil society and the private sector.

The Director-General recognized civil society and business as essential allies in combatting malnutrition for their respective roles in holding governments accountable and delivering food to consumers.

New nutrition fund

“We need adequate finance to be able to put into practice the ICN2 Framework for Action ,” the Director General reminded delegates. “That is not a minor issue.”

To support governments in transforming  commitments into concrete actions, FAO established the Action for Nutrition Trust Fund. The fund will mobilize resources for programmes and projects that foster enabling environments for nutrition, promote sustainable food systems and nutrition-enhancing trade, increase nutrition information, improve food safety and make nutrition part of stronger social safety nets.

To ensure accountability post-ICN2, the fund will also help countries build robust mechanism to monitor progress on their nutrition commitments.

The steering committee of the trust fund will be hosted by FAO and consist, among others, of major donors, civil society and private sector representatives.

Photo: ©FAO/Alessandra Benedetti
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva during his closing ICN2 speech.