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Governments will meet from 19 to 21 November at the FAO headquarters for the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2). They will adopt two outcome documents: the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and the Framework for Action (FFA).
Twenty-two years after the first conference in 1992, and with the current significant momentum on nutrition on the international agenda, ICN2 presented an historic once-in-a-generation opportunity for strong political commitments. Commitments that are needed more than ever: more than 200 million children currently suffer from acute and chronic malnutrition, 805 million are undernourished and 500 million adults are now obese. The question then arises of where the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) leaves the world in moving forward to achieve greater nutrition justice.
ACF International strongly welcomes that the final outcome documents of ICN2 address malnutrition as a systemic issue and highlight the need to tackle the underlying causes of undernutrition with multi-sectorial approaches. Importantly, the impact of climate change has also been recognized and we are pleased that wasting, which affect 52 million of children under five, is addressed properly along stunting.
However, the outcome documents appear too weak in their scope – on too many points the wording is actually weaker than the final text endorsed 22 years ago at the first ICN – and, technically, much of the content is at least insufficient if not inadequate.
The fact that several major sensitive political issues were removed from the documents further calls into question the will of governments to make a real step forward to fight the root causes of malnutrition. It is deeply regrettable that rights-based approaches, a gender focus, the key role of small-scale producers, the recognition of negative impacts of both free trade mechanisms and deregulated food systems as well as the impact of the over-consumption of industrially highly processed foods are not properly addressed if not recognized by ICN2.
ACF International believes that the biggest missed opportunity of ICN2 is that the conference failed to sufficiently recognize the fight against malnutrition as a public issue which requires strong political commitments. For many reasons, ICN2 was characterized by a lack of clarity, vision and transparency that was in large part due to the scope of the conference being unclear from the very start. The expected outcomes of the conference were not clearly defined until near the very end of the negotiation and the conference was not positioned in relation with other initiatives on nutrition (although ACF welcomes the fact that the FFA calls on governments to implement and fund accordingly the WHA 2025 global nutrition targets). The ICN2 was deeply weakened by this lack of vision in the scope of the conference as well as by the role of Civil Society within the process being recognized far too late.
We believe that the lack of reaching out to other platforms on nutrition made donors represented in those arenas reluctant to fully support the ICN2. Too many stakeholders therefore failed to get the measure of ICN2’s importance for the fight against undernutrition. The negotiation process was characterized by low interest and poor involvement of too many governments – including some states whose populations suffer the most from malnutrition – and last minute engagements from several states who showed up with very low ambition which further hampered better outcomes.
The ICN2 thus missed the opportunity to seize the political momentum on nutrition to achieve the stronger political commitments needed for nutrition justice. In addition, with its outcomes being all but normative, the ICN2 limits global governance on nutrition by failing to promote a more than needed holistic and prescriptive approach to fight undernutrition.
Finally, the lack of well-defined and strong accountability mechanisms mean there is a serious risk that the outcomes of the ICN2 remain a set of empty promises with a focus on technical solutions rather than the political commitments needed without robust accountability and effective monitoring and evaluation.
ACF International believes that the ICN2 highlighted the need for strengthened coordination on nutrition within the United Nations (UN) as well as strong governance from a normative point of view to tackle the roots cause of malnutrition.
The agreed outcome documents are only as good as the actions taken from within them. Without strong and proactive follow up, the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and the Framework for Action might lead to the ICN2 being remembered as the conference that weakened the global fight against undernutrition by failing to address it properly while the topic was remarkably high on the international agenda. That scenario should not be allowed to happen – hundreds of millions of children suffering from undernutrition need action upon action, both full and urgent.
Therefore, ACF urges stakeholders to undertake the following actions:
Contact ACF – Advocacy Department –
Samuel Hauensteinswan – ACF RU – firstname.lastname@example.org
Peggy Pascal – ACF France – email@example.com