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Addressing nutrition is primarily a public policy issue

FAO Director-General calls for guaranteeing healthy diets through legal and institutional frameworks

13 October 2018, Rome - As long as we continue to consider nutrition an individual problem of the people and not a state responsibility, we will not advance in the fight against hunger and malnutrition in the world, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today.

"Changing the legal and institutional frameworks is fundamental to change the productive structure and ensure good nutrition for all," he told representatives gathered at the annual forum of the Civil Society Mechanism (MSC) - a vehicle for the participation of non-governmental actors in policy formulation at the Committee on World Food Security (CFS).

"We often focus on increasing production, which will need to adapt to climate change and be more sustainable. But we must also focus on changing food systems and in adapting the legal and institutional frameworks that condition them and this is where we are more behind," the FAO Director-General added.

This requires the adoption of a multisectoral approach that involves not only governments, but also international organizations, civil society, the private sector and citizens in general, Graziano da Silva said, pointing to the value of the CFS as an inclusive platform for a diversity of actors. 

The FAO Director-General stressed that, in the last three years, hunger and malnutrition are on the rise again and that we are moving away from the commitments adopted with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Latest estimates show that, 821 million people suffer from hunger and, at the same time, we are witnessing an  epidemic of overweight and obesity throughout the world. The proportion of obese people in the world has gone up from 11.7 percent in 2012 to 13.3 percent in 2016, reaching 672 million adults.

Hunger is mainly experienced by people living in specific areas, such as those ravaged by conflicts, droughts and extreme poverty; yet obesity is much more widespread  and it is increasing all around the world. In particular, the increase in obesity growth is "absolutely out of control," Graziano da Silva said, noting that 8 out the 20 countries where the problem is growing fastest are located in Africa.

The FAO Director-General urged for a focus on "the superstructure that conditions production" of food, including institutions, the academic sector and research.

Graziano da Silva underscored that collective efforts towards healthy diets must include the creation of norms on labelling and the banning of some harmful ingredients, the introduction of nutrition in the school curriculum and the adoption of methods to avoid food loss and waste. He also emphasized the importance of establishing trade agreements that do not hamper access to locally grown, fresh and nutritious food from family farming.

"With hunger and malnutrition on the rise and the multilateral system questioned by some states that try to impose their logic of 'whoever pays more gets to decide more', this is a very important moment of reflection for civil society and indigenous people," Graziano da Silva said.

During the next two days, as part of the Civil Society Mechanism (MSC) forum, over 450 representatives of non-governmental organizations and other associations will meet in Rome to prepare for their participation before the CFS that begins on Monday.

Photo: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano
Graziano da Silva meeting with members of the Civil Society Mechanism.