Meeting on scaling up Dutch efforts for global nutrition, 10 March 2015

Netherlands Working Group on Nutrition welcomed private sector, civil society, knowledge institutes and public actors to join discussion on nutrition security in SDGs

Did you know that 45% of all under-five-years-old deaths are related to poor nutrition? And did you know that every invested dollar in nutrition programmes is worth 16 dollars in return? Despite these convincing statistics, nutrition is only mentioned once (!) in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In 2014 nutrition has been high on the international political agenda. With only one year left before the end of the Millennium Development Goals, there is a strong global call to prioritize food and nutrition security in their successor, the SDGs.

Last year a number of relevant key global events on nutrition security took place, including two major happenings in Rome: the second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) and the launch of the first Global Nutrition Report (GNR).

Professor Lawrence Haddad (senior research fellow at IFPRI) is the co-chair of the GNR. Therefore he was one of the keynote speakers at the nutrition event on 10 March in Vlaardingen (where Unilever’s R&D office is located), organised by the Netherlands Working Group on Nutrition, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), Food & Business Knowledge Platform and Unilever. The other keynote speech was delivered by Mrs. Reina Buijs (deputy director-general for International Cooperation at MoFA, nutritionist by profession!).

The aim of the event was to make policy makers and practitioners aware of the findings presented in the GNR, and to find practical ways to scale up Dutch efforts towards achieving nutrition security. Prof. Haddad gave a highly informative presentation about the GNR results. The key messages of the report are the following:

  1. Nutrition is a foundation for SDGs
  2. Malnutrition is a concern for all countries
  3. Multiple burdens are ‘the new normal’ (45% of the world’s countries are dealing with undernutrition ánd overweight)
  4. Globally there is slow progress but there are spectacular country advances (for example in the Indian state Maharashtra: stunting fell from 37% to 24% within seven years)
  5. We need more ambition on nutrition targets
  6. Scaling up is more possible than ever
  7. Nutrition accountability needs extra efforts from public and private stakeholders

According to Prof. Haddad and Mrs. Buijs, both (Dutch) public and private sectors have important roles to play to fight undernutrition and obesity. Therefore these (seemingly) different worlds have to continuously “learn to speak each other’s language”. Moreover, public and private actors both have to take their responsibilities to improve the coverage of nutrition interventions, to think in long-term solutions, and to cooperate for a ‘nutrition data revolution’. According to Mrs. Buijs, the Dutch diamond approach is an excellent way to enhance collective action on nutrition, through PPPs between governments, companies, knowledge institutes and non-profit agencies.

After a lively ‘House of Commons debate’ with all event attendants, we decided to look forward to the Financing for Development conference, next July in Addis Abeba. Hopefully public and private stakeholders from the Netherlands and abroad will continue their cooperation to take new lead roles in combatting malnutrition and its root causes, and to commit new sources of finance to make this battle successful.

Read Prof. Haddad’s impressions of the day here on his great blog Development Horizons.