As the Olympics came to a close last month, British Prime Minister David Cameron opened the doors of 10 Downing Street to a small gathering of world leaders. They met to announce new initiatives addressing the global challenge of malnutrition, which affects two billion people worldwide. Perhaps the most promising pledge to emerge from this Hunger Summit was the commitment to greater cooperation between governments, civil society and business.
While we share the same goal—healthy, well-nourished families and communities—too often, agencies, ministries, donors and businesses operate in silos, hindering action and missing key opportunities for collaboration that could improve the health and lives of millions.
We have made tremendous progress in the last five years in terms of prioritizing the issue, and we now have a number of global commitments to address malnutrition. It would, therefore, seem that we are no longer lacking political will. In addition, we now know just how cost effective it is to invest in nutrition: there is literally no greater investment we can make in health and development. The Copenhagen Consensus named micronutrient solutions the single smartest way to allocate global aid dollars, with every $1 spent generating $30 in benefits. The fact is combating malnutrition is at the top of the list because its impact can be felt across sectors—from health to agriculture to the economy. Improving nutrition is the most effective way to secure a better future.
Although conversations like the UK Hunger Summit are important in tackling malnutrition, preventing stunting and improving the life chances of millions of children, ultimately, we won’t have the impact we seek to achieve through conversations alone. Yes, we need to convene and collaborate—but the reality is we need to come away with concrete actions clearly outlining how we will all work together across sectors, and be held accountable for our commitments. Cameron and fellow host Michel Temer, Vice President of Brazil, urged the world to take decisive action on malnutrition before the 2016 Olympic Games inRio. That’s just four years away. Between now and then, partnerships between governments, civil society and business have to move from talk to action—that is, effective nutrition programs in countries.
This week, as world leaders gather at the UN General Assembly (UNGA), we have the opportunity to again meet as a global community under the banner of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, and to outline how we will strengthen current partnerships and explore new ones to accelerate implementation. Global convenings, like the Hunger Summit and UNGA, provide us with the space to create and sustain dialogue, and share knowledge. But then it’s up to each of us, as organizations and individuals, to carry the torch. Together, we can improve nutrition and give millions of children the opportunity to grow, thrive and reach their full potential.
Klaus Kraemer, Ph.D. is Director of Sight and Life, a not-for-profit nutrition think tank of DSM, which cares about the world’s most vulnerable populations and exists to help improve their nutritional status. Acting as their advocates, Sight and Life guides original nutrition research, disseminates its findings and facilitates dialogue to bring about positive change.