29 January 2015

GNR 2015: Overcoming the "Difficult Second Album" Syndrome (Geneva launch)

We had a really interesting launch of the Global Nutrition Report in Geneva on January 28.  Hosted by The Graduate Institute and convened by WHO, the UNSCN and FAO, the event drew about 140 people.  Prof. Ilona Kickbusch chaired the event expertly. 

We had a great panel including representatives from the Global Nutrition Cluster, the Finland Government, GAIN and the SUN movement.  The panelists said what they found interesting about the 2014 Report and what they would like to see in the 2015 Report.

Comments from the panelists and the audience can be grouped as follows:

* We need more on how diet choices are affecting health and the environment.  What is the evidence on interventions aimed at shaping those choices?
* More on links with the humanitarian space: how many nutrition plans include preparedness and response? Do multisectoral platforms have relevance or work in emergency settings?
* More on business—areas of consensus and disagreement and how to promote transparency and accountability
* More on linking investments with results
* More on mapping multiple initiatives to reduce malnutrition and hunger

As you can see: more, more, more.  Well, we will do our best.

An interesting point was brought up by one member of the audience:  “Is it possible to work on nutrition without using the word stakeholder?” The question was centered round the role of the private sector.  By including them as a stakeholder in nutrition status, were they being given an equal seat at the table, a table discussion that they could influence disproportionately because of their power relative to other stakeholders?  Should they be called partners and should they be setting priorities?

My own views (subject to change if evidence to the contrary emerges) go as follows

* Business has a big stake in nutrition.  If they behave responsibly they will promote the health of their workforce and their customers.  They are already deeply involved in shaping nutrition outcomes.  They represent at least 60% of economic activity in most countries.  They are stakeholders, like it or not.

* Should they be called partners? The word partner implies some equality of power, mutual accountability, and clearly defined roles.  If these things are in place then the word partner is reasonable, it seems to me.  I think many people have a problem with the word because often these things are implied by the word when they are, in fact, not in place.

* Business should not be in the business of setting public health priorities.  That is what our elected representatives are supposed to do and we can hold them accountable for that.  Should businesses even be allowed to influence the priority setting process?  This is more difficult.  They do already attempt to (and surely do) influence the process in the corridors (witness the ICN2) and behind closed doors.  We should try to bring this influencing into the sunlight as much as possible so that we can hold business accountable for their influencing and public sector representatives accountable for their response. 

Another point was made:  can human rights be the basis for the GNR 2015 report?  My response was, human rights are one important basis for nutrition promotion.  People’s rights to food, care and health need to be respected, protected, promoted and ultimately fulfilled.  But there are other arguments that are also strong, such as the economic basis (one of the government representatives at the event said “money talks” and this is, in my experience, true).

There was a strong point made around commitments: it is not only what you commit to do, but what you commit not to do.  This is a point well taken and we will think about how to build this in to our accountability work.

It is clear that the 2015 Report is going to suffer from the “difficult second album” syndrome whereby expectations have been raised by the debut but there is only so much new material available for the second.  Everyone wants the GNR 2015 to do everything.  We are working hard to do something manageable, which is a complement to the GNR 2014. 

Thanks for your support.

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