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What is the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition?

The UN Decade of Action on Nutrition was proclaimed on 1 April 2016 by the UN General Assembly and established under the normative framework of the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) held in November 2014 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development endorsed in 2015. Its implementation is co-led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Nutrition Decade marks a new ambition and direction in global nutrition action and aims to accelerate the implementation of the ICN2 commitments, achieve the global nutrition and diet-related non-communicable disease (NCD) targets by 2025, and contribute to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

The Nutrition Decade provides an enabling environment for all countries, regardless of their income, the nature of their malnutrition challenges or the characteristics of their food and health systems, to ensure that action is taken by governments and stakeholders to develop and implement inclusive policies aimed at ending all forms of malnutrition.

More specifically, the Nutrition Decade provides an umbrella for all relevant stakeholders working on food and nutrition-related programmes and initiatives to consolidate and align actions across different sectors, as well as facilitate policy processes across the areas identified in the two ICN2 outcome documents: the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and the Framework for Action.

The Nutrition Decade’s vision is to build a world where all countries, organizations and others working on nutrition coordinate action and strengthen collaboration so that all people at all times and at all stages of life have access to affordable, diversified, safe and healthy diets.

Mid-term Review

The Mid-term Review of the Nutrition Decade provided an opportunity to review the achievements in the action areas of the Nutrition Decade’s Work Programme and identify gaps and barriers encountered for making progress during the first half of the Nutrition Decade, from 2016 to 2020. The Mid-term Review also aimed at identifying focus areas for priority action for the second half of the Nutrition Decade, from 2021 to 2025.

In 2020, the joint FAO/WHO Secretariat of the Nutrition Decade convened informal consultations with Member States in Geneva, Rome and New York as well as with non-state actors. In addition, the UN Nutrition Secretariat facilitated in 2021 an online consultation at the Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition.

A Mid-term Review Foresight paper, developed by the joint FAO/WHO Secretariat of the Nutrition Decade, served as a background document for this consultation process.

 

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Foresight paper

A vendor arranging fruits and vegetables at her stall in the Central market of Voronezh.

Why do we need a UN Decade of Action on Nutrition?

Ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition is among the most urgent and pervasive development-related challenges. Most countries are burdened by several forms of malnutrition, such as undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity, as well as diet-related NCDs including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and some types of cancer. The various forms of malnutrition may co-exist within the same country, community, household or person.

Many families are unable to afford sufficient, diverse and nutritious foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and animal-source foods, while energy-dense processed foods and drinks that are high in fat, sugar and/or salt are often cheaper and more readily available.

Governments are currently off-track to meet the global nutrition and diet-related NCD targets. The Nutrition Decade highlights the urgency to act and provides a focused period of 10 years to set and achieve impact at country level, with an accessible, transparent and global framework for tracking progress and ensuring mutual accountability for the commitments made.

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FAO/WHO International Symposium on Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets and Improved Nutrition

How will the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition make a difference?

The Nutrition Decade provides an unprecedented opportunity to propagate society-wide movements for national policy change to end all forms of malnutrition, in all countries.

The Nutrition Decade facilitates alignment of on-going efforts of countries and all stakeholders and calls for an acceleration of policy actions across six action areas which are derived from the ICN2 commitments and recommendations:

  • Sustainable, resilient food systems for healthy diets.
  • Aligned health systems providing universal coverage of essential nutrition actions.
  • Social protection and nutrition education.
  • Trade and investment for improved nutrition.
  • Safe and supportive environments for nutrition at all ages.
  • Strengthened governance and accountability for nutrition.

The Nutrition Decade puts the spotlight on nutrition at the highest political level through regular reporting to the UN General Assembly and the Governing Bodies of FAO and WHO, using coordinating mechanisms such as UN Nutrition and engaging the Committee on World Food Security and other relevant intergovernmental bodies and multistakeholder forums.

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Front cover of the Work Programme for the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition.

What is the Work Programme for the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition?

The Work Programme for the Nutrition Decade is a key document and identifies mechanisms through which Member States and other committed stakeholders should collaborate to achieve the aims of the Nutrition Decade.

The Work Programme was identified and developed in 2016-2017 by the joint FAO/WHO Secretariat of the Nutrition Decade according to the mandate given by the UN General Assembly in its Resolution 70/259 and taking into account World Health Assembly Resolution 69/8, through an inclusive and collaborative process, building upon and connecting initiatives of governments and their many partners. This also included an online consultation.

The Work Programme describes the Nutrition Decade’s aims, added value and guiding principles. It also presents its key areas for priority action (action areas); modalities of engagement and roles of Member States and other stakeholders; mechanisms and tools for driving action (means of implementation); and an accountability framework.

The means of implementation of the Nutrition Decade through its Work Programme include, for instance:

  • The submission to FAO and WHO by Member States of their specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) commitments for action.
  • The convening of action networks, i.e. informal coalitions of countries aimed at advocating for the establishment of policies and legislation, allowing the exchange of practices, highlighting successes and providing mutual support to accelerate implementation.
  • The convening of forums for planning, sharing knowledge, recognizing success, voicing challenges and promoting collaboration.