I want to thank you for the invitation to be here during the FAO Council meeting, the conversation has been stimulating, and I am honored to be sitting with such distinguished colleagues. I was last here at FAO a year ago, for the second International Conference on Nutrition, I had come then as I do now from the U.S. Mission in Geneva, where we work on global health issues with the WHO, UNAIDS, GAVI and many others. The ICN2 process was a standout process for its innovative and holistic approach of bringing the work, culture and approach of the WHO and FAO, integrating the health and the food sectors as it did.
During the ICN2 deliberations, we thought it important to address all forms of malnutrition, under nutrition, overweight and obesity, and micronutrient deficiencies. Historically, this had not always been the case – the development sphere focused mainly on under nutrition, while obesity was seen as a condition of the rich, and micronutrient deficiency largely ignored. Nutrition policies and programs need to adapt to the reality of multiple forms of malnutrition. Also important for us was the innovation of addressing address the concept of malnutrition through the lens of the food system, ICN2 brought international attention to nutrition as well as opened a dialogue on how the Committee on World Food Security can more strongly engage on nutrition. The continued focus on the World Health Assembly 2025 targets on nutrition, and the ongoing strength of the Scaling Up Nutrition are all positive signs.
The intervening year, also brought us the finalization of the Sustainable development goals last September. Goal #2 to end hunger/adopt sustainable agriculture speaks to this house and Goal #3 to achieve good health and well-being for all speaks to the House in Geneva. The SDG’s continues to remind us that that in order to reach our ambitious nutrition goals and commitments, it will take the collective efforts across health, agriculture, water and sanitation, economic growth, education, and other sectors. Nutrition truly is a multi-sectoral development issue that requires ‘all hands.’ It will take the meaningful engagement of the private sector to help financially, but also to help shape healthier consumption patterns to prevent and contain emerging obesity in developing countries where stunting and wasting co-exist.
With the SUN movement, the follow-up of ICN2, the Committee on World Food Security, the continued focus on the World Health Assembly 2025 targets on nutrition, and the opportunity of the upcoming Nutrition for Growth event we have a solid architecture for the global nutrition movement. I encourage us all to work on strong partnerships, as the one we have within the UN system between FAO and WHO, WFP, UNICEF, the World Bank and also with partners from civil society and the private sector.
WHO’s work in food systems is in quality, safety, correct nutrient information, as well as in food fortification and point of use supplementation. We need to recognize that WHO has a large role as well in nutrition beyond food systems, that has to do with health care, breastfeeding, water and sanitation, family planning, etc., and all of those have great impact on nutrition outcomes. UNICEF is also a major UN agency and global leader in nutrition, and UNICEF together with WHO and the World Bank manage the global datasets on anthropometric and other nutrition data for the member states. This is an important contribution to our understanding of levels, trends and gaps.
Anne Penniston, my USAID colleague who as not able to make it to Rome today shared that when ADG Kwame visited D.C. last year, he was interested in USAID’s Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy and I believe may have been somewhat inspired to use some aspects of it as a model for FAO’s efforts in nutrition. The 2015 Global Nutrition Report that you have heard about earlier from Ms. Hawkes has some key call to actions we should head if we are serious about reaching our goals on nutition.
We must all build healthy food systems that provide the right nutrients to all people, no matter their wealth or location. We will do this by recognizing that food production and distribution is, at its heart, a private sector function –whether small-holder or large-scale – for which an open and transparent global trading system is essential.
And we know that we can no longer rely only on public resources and official development assistance. The Financing for Development conference in June 2015, under the leadership of the Government of Ethiopia, gave us some new and innovative ways to fund these universal challenges.
Realities such as the Ebola epidemic, or the increasing impact of climate change, should also guide our efforts. We must recognize that these global challenges are interrelated – a breakdown in food safety can lead to the spread of infectious disease, which can throw a country into food insecurity. In addition, the reverse is true: well-nourished children are better able to learn, recover from disease, bear healthy children of their own, and contribute to their countries’ economies. Our changing climate combined with the need to feed a growing population puts a strain on our ability to improve food security and nutrition. Emerging trends, such as the urbanization of developing countries, will change how we address health, food security and nutrition. The way that we approach the fight against hunger must be as dynamic and flexible as the constantly changing world we live in.
Much has been done to fight the scourge of malnutrition, but much more must be accomplished. We all know the statistics, but there are a few that I want to repeat. 1 in 4 children across the globe are stunted. Two billion people worldwide are suffering the hidden hunger of micronutrient deficiencies. 45% of all under 5 deaths are due to malnutrition. Worldwide, obesity has nearly doubled since 1980. And under-nutrition reduces a nation’s economic advancement by at least 8%.
These numbers are staggering and they are unacceptable. These numbers are why we are all here. And these numbers must drive our work, so that in 22 years we are not repeating the same story. Twenty-three years from today we want to say that we faced the challenge of malnutrition and we conquered it. We addressed the inequalities and we created a food system that allowed our global citizens to reach their potential — not only to survive, but to thrive.