The New York Launch of the Global Nutrition Report in a New York Minute

Groucho Marx once said, "Practically everybody in New York has half a mind to write a book, and does."

One such book--the result of many minds coming together—is the Global Nutrition Report which made its North American debut at a launch event co-hosted by UNICEF, Columbia University and IFPRI in New York City on December 8th at UNICEF Headquarters.

The NY event was a great line up. Here are some of my takeaways from the presentations.

Audience at the NY launch of the Global Nutrition Report
Audience at the NY launch of the Global Nutrition Report

 Werner Schultink, Chief of Nutrition Section, UNICEF

  • The Report highlights the challenges ahead but provides an accountability roadmap moving forward.
  • There is real momentum in the global community to address the burdens of malnutrition and the next two to three years will be a pivotal time to act and scale.

Kathy Spahn, CEO, Helen Keller International

  • We, in the nutrition community, have spent decades talking to each other--its good to see us having conversations outside “the bubble.”
  • Civil society has to become more accountable and one way of doing that is to measure the impacts of programmes (which also involves significant investment from donors).
  • Three big areas to increase the focus on: (a) gender (dynamics), (b) Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and (c) capacity building.

Jeff Sachs (by video), Director, The Earth Institute at Columbia University

  • The nutrition community must engage with the two big development conferences of 2015: the Financing for Development (in Addis Ababa, July) and the UN Climate Change ( in Paris, December).
  • We must also engage with the wider development community to address sustainable development issues.
  • Nutrition might not be mentioned explicitly much in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but there are plenty of openings for nutrition indicators to be embedded.

Glenn Denning, Director, NY branch of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Professor of Practice, School of International Public Affairs, Columbia University

Leith Greenslade and Glenn Denning
Leith Greenslade and Glenn Denning

Leith Greenslade, UN Special Envoy for Financing the Health Millennium Development Goals

  • The Report firmly establishes nutrition as a post 2015 21st century global issue.
  • The nutrition community should try to insert nutrition into the Global Financing Facility.
  • It is important to build political power by setting more ambitious targets, demonstrating the power of coordination and integration, engaging with the private sector, financing, and paying more attention to gender, especially focusing on the nutrition status of adolescent girls

Silke Pietzsch, Technical Director, Action Against Hunger

  • There are many supply barriers to coverage—we need to analyse them: lack of knowledge of intervention, distance and time to intervention, previous rejection by service providers, conflict that makes physical access difficult.
  • Coverage is often low not because of supply, but demand. Yet, governments can increase demand through (a) information outreach, (b) focusing on the last mile -- what is the quality of service received and (c) incentivizing participation (e.g. payment).

Richard Decklebaum, Director, Institute of Human Nutrition, Columbia University

  • The Report is clearly written, but now what do we do with it? And what does it mean for capacity development?
  • We need to grow the "nutrition community" beyond what we think of as traditional nutritionists and think about who else can make significant contributions.
  • We need to train nutritionists to be boundary crossers--to reach to other disciplines, but also to other sectors.

Madana Arabi, Executive Director, Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science, the New York Academy of Sciences

  • Welcomed the focus on implementation science in the Report.
  • The recommendation on the need for more country-focused research is an important aspect to expand upon.
  • There is a big gap between data and knowledge--capacity is the bridge.

Lawrence Haddad

Lawrence Haddad

Followed by a great discussion with the audience, as yet, there remain some unanswered questions:

  • Should we have a SUN Fund, a Global Finance Facility or no pooled fund for nutrition?
  • Who actually is going to be the advocate for nutrition in the SDG finalization? (No one apparently)
  • How will these new 2030 targets be set? (UN organisations are committed to a consultation)
  • What should FAO be doing? (Perhaps telling us what a dashboard set of indicators looks like for a healthy and sustainable food system)
  • How many countries have set their own WHA targets? (No idea)
  • Which WHA targets are most in need of greater ambition? (Stunting and exclusive breastfeeding)

Perhaps as we enter 2015, and as the team begins crafting the 2nd report we will have some answers.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for other engagement events that follow in Washington DC and then onto Geneva, New Delhi and on and on she goes…