SUN Business network

UN Nutrition

The UN [Nutrition] Network (UN Network), officially established in June 2013 by the Principals of FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP, and WHO, is responsible for translating and achieving UN nutrition commitments in SUN countries. The UN Network (UNN) elevates the nutrition dialogue through its senior leadership and helps to leverage the collective strengths of the UN agencies, to foster innovations, find efficiencies and enhance complementarity across agencies and with government and SUN networks. This enables the UN to work more effectively to deliver nutrition actions at scale and to achieve value-for-money and results.

In addition, the UN Network leverages the nutrition resources, skills, expertise and knowledge of its member UN agencies, programmes and funds to support convergence along the six pillars of the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016-2025 in support of national nutrition efforts.

For more information, visit the UN Network website –


The Commitment

On June 8, 2013 the Principals of five UN Agencies with a mandate in nutrition met in London during the Nutrition for Growth high-level event where they endorsed the UN Network for Scaling Up Nutrition’s 2013 Workplan. The signatories include José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of FAO, Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, Kanayo Nwanze, President of IFAD, Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF and Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of WFP.

At a glance

According to the findings of the UN Network reporting exercise, an impressive, 90% of country UNNs were classified as being highly functional in 2019. On average, countries that had received UNN-REACH support, had slightly higher UNN functionality scores, suggesting that UNN-REACH is an effective mechanism for enhancing UNN performance. While the country-specific membership varied, a total of 16 UN agencies were engaged in the UNNs up from 12 in 2018. Irrespective of the set-up, all country UNNs inferred the presence of a joint nutrition workplan, strategy and/or agenda in 2019, thereby fostering increased collaboration.

Joint planning often materialized in joint action, with 68% of the UNNs undertaking UN joint programming in the area of nutrition. In most countries, the UNN was engaged in MSPs (93%) and provided TA to the SUN Focal Point or other government authorities (92%) in 2019, illustrating how UNN support extends beyond the UN sphere.

In many cases, joint UN support is increasingly reaching sub-national areas and helping countries strengthen capacity to plan, review and coordinate nutrition actions. Expanded membership, action-oriented tools and increased engagement with United Nations Resident Coordinators (UNRCs) are some of the factors driving strong performance at the country level.

Through improving collaboration at country level, the contributions of global knowledge and setting of international standards for nutrition by the UN agencies is being operationalised.

  • WHO and UNICEF collaborate on the maintenance and updating of global data for tracking the World Health Assembly targets and informing the Global Nutrition Report.
  • WHO, UNICEF, FAO and others also worked together on the Global Monitoring Framework on Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition.
  • FAO, WFP, IFAD closely collaborate on harmonised tools and database platform for the tracking of the food-based food security indicators.

The convening of the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in November 2014 in Rome, jointly by WHO and FAO, was a milestone event under the theme “Better Nutrition, Better Lives”. Member states endorsed the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and the Framework for Action, that outline commitments and recommendations to preventing malnutrition in all its forms, including hunger, micronutrient deficiencies and obesity. In 2015, the elaboration of a joint UN position for greater accountability for nutrition in the Sustainable Development Goal Framework was led by the UNSCN and included related advocacy efforts.

In June, the UNSCN in collaboration with the UN Network for SUN organised a UN Regional Nutrition Meeting for Asia and the Pacific under the theme of Strengthening UN joint country support for improved nutrition programming. The meeting addressed the main outcomes of the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) and the new directions of the UN Network for SUN, including the UNGNA and the UNDAF. Also in 2015, UNICEF on behalf of the UN Network for SUN, in collaboration with the SUN Movement Secretariat, organised and facilitated four regional workshops on costing and tracking investments in nutrition (Bangkok, Entebbe, Abidjan and Guatemala City).

  • Country-specific UNN functionality ratings from the 2019 UN Network reporting exercise are listed in Annex A of the annual report and shed additional light on how the Network is performing in SUN countries.
  • At the country level, membership increasingly includes additional UN agencies, and, in December 2017, all SUN Countries had UN Networks. 42 countries – five more than in 2015- 2016 – have appointed UN Network Chairs. REACH (Renewed Efforts Against Child Hunger and Undernutrition) was engaged in 17 SUN countries in 2016-2017, and continues to be a service, provided through the UN Network, in response to country demand to bring momentum to and build capacity for multi-sectoral nutrition governance processes;
  • In 2016-2017, the United Nations has taken vast strides to call attention to nutrition, starting with the proclamation of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016-2025.71 In January 2017, its work programme was launched, following the proclamation of this Decade in April 2016. Since then, Norway has become the first country to establish an action network, whilst Ecuador and Brazil have been the first countries to pledge their ambitious commitments;
  • The reporting period has also seen other strategic global developments, such as the formulation of the UN Network for SUN Strategy (2016-2020) – developed in tandem with the SUN Strategy and Roadmap 2.0 – which provides a guiding framework for UN Network activity in the second phase of the SUN Movement;
  • The Network has SUN supported countries set and/or review national SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound) nutrition targets and other follow-up actions, as per the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICUN2);
  • The regional Asia UN Network for SUN was set up in 2016-2017, in addition to capacity development support with Regional Economic Commissions.
  • The UN Network has also developed resources to support work at the country level and to better understand how the UN Network is performing. These include: A Compendium of Actions for Nutrition; the UN Network Capacity Assessment Guidance Package for Nutrition; the Checklist of criteria to guide the formulation of ‘good’ quality nutrition plans (jointly facilitated with the SMS); and the UNN Reporting Exercise tool.

In November 2014, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) agreed that the UN REACH Partnership (Renewed Efforts Against Child Hunger and Nutrition) will serve as the UN coordinating and focal body on nutrition in SUN Countries. Since then, the REACH Secretariat has also acted as the UN Network for SUN. The Standing Committee on Nutrition (UNSCN) focuses on global level nutrition policy matters. The UN Network for SUN/REACH is governed by a Steering Committee of the 4 agencies mentioned above along with IFAD which is acts as in an advisory capacity. While the membership of the UN Network for SUN currently includes the above mentioned agencies, other UN agencies engaged in nutrition at country level are encouraged to join the Network. Other agencies engaging in nutrition are UNHCR (Ghana, Rwanda), UNDP (Bangladesh), UNFPA (Mozambique, Myanmar, Uganda), UNAIDS (in Ghana and Tanzania) and ILO (Philippines).

Latest progress

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Network Facilitation

Stineke Oenema

Stineke Oenema

Executive Secretary, UN Nutrition Secretariat
office United Nations (UN)