Micronutrient Advocacy Officer, Anushree Shiroor, reports back from her recent trip to Rome for the historic ICN2 conference.

Last week, 193 member states came together for the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in Rome to discuss malnutrition as a global developmental challenge and present statements on the actions taken by their respective governments to address malnutrition in all its forms.


 All representatives admitted that malnutrition in one or more forms (stunting, wasting, hidden hunger, or overweight and obesity) was a bane to their country’s growth and development, a burden to their health systems, and an impediment to individuals realising their true potential. We also saw special addresses by His Holiness Pope Francis, His Majesty Letsie III of Lesotho, Princess Haya Bint Al Hussain of UAE, Queen Letizia of Spain, and Nadine Heredia, the First Lady of Peru. All urged countries to take an active stance on reducing hunger, halting malnutrition, and building sustainable food systems.

In addition to plenary sessions where delegates discussed their commitments, a series of roundtables were conducted. These discussed the need for nutrition to be prioritised in the post-2015 development agenda, policy coherence for multi-sectoral and collaborative approaches to achieve nutrition objectives, and governance and accountability to ensure political commitment and leadership to prioritise nutrition, and address its immediate and structural determinants.

Accountability was one of the dominant themes at the ICN2. While member states agreed that political will was a precursor to any action to address malnutrition, they also agreed that accountability for all is key to ensuring progress in coverage and quality of nutrition interventions. All governments endorsed the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and the ICN2 Framework for Action, which is the action plan attached to the Declaration, putting policy commitments into practice. However, the Framework for Action is voluntary rather than compulsory, which makes it difficult to hold governments accountable to their commitments. Moreover, the multifaceted nature of malnutrition, its multiple determinants, the inability to assess immediate health consequences, and difficulty in tracking expenditure on nutrition sensitive sectors further complicate the issue of accountability. Financial commitments to nutrition are one of the ways we could hold governments to account. However, RESULTS UK’s new report on Nutrition Aid Architecture and the Global Nutrition Report, show that undernutrition, which underlies 45% of child deaths, and affects over 2 billion people, is vastly underfunded.

Governments have already made concrete commitments to other global frameworks and fora, such as:

1. The World Health Assembly 2025 targets These are a set of six targets adopted in 2012, and aimed at reducing stunting, low-birth weight, wasting, anaemia, and childhood obesity, and increasing exclusive breastfeeding. At ICN2, a new Global targets tracking tool was launched by the WHO, based on these targets, for countries to monitor their own progress and understand what is left to reach the targets to which they have agreed.

2. Nutrition in the post-2015 development context – the Sustainable Development Goals, and targets. Nutrition underlies six of the current Millennium Development goals (MDGs), and most countries are not on track to achieving these goals. With the MDGs coming to an end in 2015, advocates worldwide are asking for a strong standalone goal on nutrition in the post-2015 goals (the Sustainable Development Goals). Targets based on the WHA 2025 nutrition targets, extended until 2030, will ensure outreach to millions of vulnerable individuals who would otherwise be left out.

3. The Scaling up Nutrition (SUN) Movement – The SUN global gathering at ICN2 provided a platform for multistakeholder collaboration and sharing across global regions, and governments greatly valued the supportive role played by the SUN networks. The different SUN networks -donor, UN, business, civil society establish parallel channels for holding governments who have signed up to the SUN movement . Additionally, the SUN Monitoring and Evaluation Frameworks help governments to conduct self-assessments of progress, and prioritise resources and action.

4. The Global Nutrition Report – Launched on 20th November, the first of its kind, this document reports on global and country specific data on malnutrition in all its forms, and also the progress made against non-financial commitments during the 2013 Nutrition for Growth summit.

5. Active role of Civil society Organisations – all member states acknowledged the role of Civil society in supporting governments in their efforts on addressing malnutrition in all its forms, and holding them accountable for the outcomes. The Civil society forum at the ICN2 provided a platform for various civil society organisations and civil social movements to discuss collaborative approaches for sustainable food systems, and food and nutrition security.

Now that the ICN2 is over, and all delegates have returned to their home countries, our role is to remind governments of the commitments they have made, and hold them to account. The energy around ICN2 must not be allowed to fade. 20141119_185445It took 22 years for the 2nd International Conference on Nutrition, and for governments to acknowledge that the progress made, has not been enough. We cannot let more generations of children to suffer the brunt of preventable malnutrition.

Our enthusiasm is as fresh as ever to continue its advocacy aimed at ensuring that the UK government rapidly delivers on its commitments made at the N4G, i.e, £375 million for direct nutrition programmes and £280 million in matched funding for nutrition, among other initiatives.