ROME--Lending their political clout last week to bring attention to global child undernutrition, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin helped achieve what the international nutrition community has so desperately sought for decades: Elevating child nutrition as a leading global development priority.
Converging at the US-Irish event 1000 days: Change a Life, Change the Future at the margins of the UN General Assembly, leaders from all walks, including Nike Foundation President Maria Eitel, Concern Worldwide CEO Tom Arnold and GAIN Chairman Jay Naidoo, emphasized the importance of immediate action, solidarity, and building “smart partnerships” to combat child malnutrition today.
“We are witnessing a revolution in the approach to undernutrition,” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said at the event. As the world’s largest humanitarian agency, WFP is integral in the global fight against child malnutrition by helping ensure that millions of the world’s most vulnerable mothers and children receive the right nutritious foods.
Essential to achieving all Millennium Development Goals (MDG), speaker after speaker from Uganda, Brazil, Nepal, Canada, United Kingdom, and the European Commission expressed their commitments to child nutrition. They urged collective action, promoted country ownership as well as better accountability and results measurement.
“An event of this scale or magnitude even two years ago would have been simply unbelievable,” Executive Director Sheeran aptly stated. Sadly, at that time, the international nutrition system was cited as fundamentally fragmented and desperately in need of stewardship.
Then, faced with the burden of knowledge on the devastating impacts of poor nutrition, momentum began to percolate and steadily build across a broad spectrum of stakeholders. Building upon years of experience and knowledge on what works and what simply does not work, the group focused on coordination and started to address key barriers - culminating in the “Scaling Up Nutrition” (SUN) Framework for Action.
Consensus and commitment
The need for opening up to new players, new ideas and new processes that increases ownership was emphatically spelled out in June this year at the Nutrition Forum organized by WFP and the City of Rome on behalf of all SUN partners. A joint commitment was made to develop-in 60 days- a concrete plan on how to move ahead jointly and capture the world's attention. The promise was kept and a collective public good called the SUN Roadmap was launched that’s now shaping the global nutrition movement.
Having built the Consensus and gained the Commitment, WFP Executive Director Sheeran urged leaders, as she concluded the event, to help move this revolution forward to the next phase of Execution. Holding the world’s attention while accelerating collective action will help achieve this transition that’s necessary to ensure a healthy “1st 1000 days” for millions of children.