On Friday, March 27th, members of the International Coalition on Advocating Nutrition (ICAN) – World Vision, The Hunger Project, Save the Children, CONCERN and Action Against Hunger – hosted a timely, multi-stakeholder discussion at the United Nation’s Inter-Governmental Negotiations to discuss specific nutrition indicators and their inclusion in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The event “Indicators with Impact: How to Measure Nutrition in the Post-2015 Development Agenda,” focused on the need for nutrition to be placed comprehensively within the SDGs, especially the priority nutrition indicators. These priority indicators are:
Moderated by World Vision Ireland’s CEO, Helen Keogh, panelists discussed achievements in various nutrition initiatives, opportunities to leverage the comprehensive nature of the SDGs, why nutrition indicators are so crucial and how nutrition can be fully addressed in the Post-2015 Global Development Agenda Framework.
Anthony Caswell Pérez, Director of International Affairs, Advocacy and Child Rights Governances of Save the Children Mexico, noted that these indicators were devised from lessons in development over the last 15 years and have strong, supporting scientific evidence. Pérez underscored the importance of breastfeeding as a multi-purpose indicator: it is a high impact, but low investment for food security and nutrition, and also benefits the SDG health target on ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under five years of age by 2030.
Hien Tran, Global Policy and Advocacy of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, voiced a concern that the current targets of Goal 2 lack strength and ambition to truly improve nutritional impact for all people, as opposed to those considered to be “low hanging fruit.” The nutrition indicators will not only pave way for improved nutrition in developing countries, but will also support other areas of development (i.e. education, health and decreases in maternal morbidity). This allows for broader application, increased capacity in measuring across sectors and feasibility in their application at both the national and grassroots levels.
Nutrition is a driver of development, but also an outcome of development improvements. Ambassador Caleb Otto of the Mission of the Republic of Palau to the UN noted that achievements to improving nutrition can be hindered by a multitude of issues: addiction, poverty, breastmilk substitutes and poor policies supporting gender equality. He called for stronger political will to address the critical issues of poverty and women to enhance nutrition. While this will rely heavily on much needed data about ideal methodologies of implementation, it is nevertheless an example of needed policies for an enabling environment.
Attendees furthered the technical discussion by highlighting the linkages between agriculture and nutrition, stating that nutrition will not be possible for all people without good agricultural practices, access to land, women’s labor rights and access to markets. Additional attention was placed on linkages between WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) and nutrition, and others discussed the impact of climate change on nutrition as it affects crop availability and composition.
Nutrition is not only a cross-sectoral issue, but also universal. Almost every country in the world faces long-term health risks attributed to some form of malnutrition. This is true across classes, ages and gender. Addressing malnutrition will not only save lives, but will also reduce inequalities and build resilience (ICAN, February 2015). If the development community intends to achieve sustainable development in 15 years, efficiency and effectiveness through nutrition initiatives as they are specified in the SDGs’ indicators will be critical.