Nearly 800 million people worldwide remain chronically undernourished, while at the same time incidences of obesity are rising in nearly all countries. This month, the United Nations agreed on a resolution proclaiming the Decade of Action on Nutrition, aiming to galvanize action from all stakeholders to end hunger and eradicate malnutrition worldwide. The resolution calls upon the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) to lead this effort’s implementation, and invites international partners, including the private sector, to support governments as they spearhead work on nutrition.
Earlier this week, USCIB and several of its member companies participated in the Private Sector Mechanism (PSM) delegation, which included over 30 industry representatives from the broad agri-food business value chain, to meet bilaterally with high-level FAO officials and to attend the “Partnerships Forum on Nutrition,” which was held at the International Fund for Agriculture Development.
Why it’s important to engage with the FAO
According to Helen Medina, USCIB’s vice president for product policy and innovation, participating in the PSM, which is an officially recognized organization that formally works with FAO, allows for companies and business associations to:
- learn about crucial policymaking trends that could impact their business;
- network with industry colleagues and develop industry-wide advocacy messages;
- build relationships with FAO representatives; and
- emphasize how the private sector can provide leadership and partnerships on issues such as food security, nutrition, agricultural productivity, nutrition, smallholders and the empowerment of women.
The FAO and the UN Committee on World Food Security, which is housed at the FAO, have most recently become important forums where policy recommendations related to agriculture, food security and nutrition are developed.
“Many in the private sector have become aware that several of the decisions made in the Rome-based organizations can influence policymakers at the highest levels of government,” said Medina. “It is therefore no surprise that over 30 industry representatives traveled to Rome to meet with over 30 different country delegations over a two-day period.”
Over 30 industry representatives met with over 30 governments from North America, the European Union, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia
Industry participants learned that the recent UN announcement of the Decade of Action on Nutrition, which aims to galvanize actions to reduce hunger and improve nutrition around the world, will drive a lot of the work streams at the FAO. In fact, the UN resolution calls the FAO and World Health Organization (WHO) to lead these efforts and cooperate with other UN bodies such as the UN Standing Committee on Nutrition (UNSCN). With the renewed focus on nutrition issues, the UNSCN will be an important voice. Its mandate is to provide global strategic leadership for strengthening policy coherence on nutrition across the UN system through dialogue, research and policy briefs, as well as through rallying UN agencies around unified positions.
“The meeting with the U.S., Canada and Australia reminded industry participants of how important it is to continue to engage at the FAO,” Medina added. “While those countries are supportive of industry’s involvement in FAO meetings, they cautioned that many countries continue to be skeptical of private-sector participation. Their recommendation to industry was to continue to build relations and share information about successful industry-led activities which align with the FAO’s mission.”
During the meetings with other countries, company representatives showed examples of private-public partnerships in areas such as: investment and financing, food safety, supporting sustainable supply chains, protecting natural resources; stimulating initiatives that create jobs and stimulate trade; communicating information; empowering women; innovating and developing tools to help farmers and better nutrition, to name a few. The topic of partnerships was also the theme for the “Partnerships Forum on Nutrition” half-day event held at the International Fund for Agriculture Development.