Experience of advocacy and lobbying by the alliance of civil society organisations for food and nutritional sovereignty and security in El Salvador.
As an Alliance, we have carried out advocacy and lobbying in several spaces using various means, which are described below.
A) Presentation of pieces of correspondence to the Legislative Assembly
The Alliance of Civil Society Organisations for Nutritional and Food Sovereignty and Security has actively participated in advocacy spaces to request that the Legislative Assembly reform the provisions of the criminal code relating to the market, free competition and consumer protection. This has arisen with the bean stockpiling crisis and a piece of correspondence on the issue was submitted in July 2014.
B) Publication of pronouncements in print media, in newspapers with a wide circulation.
In October 2014, the Alliance supported the pronouncement by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Salvadoran Institute for the Development of Women, El Salvador Medical School and CALMA on the proposal to reform the Law on the Promotion, Protection and Support of Breastfeeding which was published in a newspaper with wide national circulation. A letter was also issued to Dr Violeta Menjívar, Minister for Health, showing concern as civil society organisations at the violation of the rights of women who breastfeed and proposing that a woman’s decision to breastfeed her children must be respected and supported. We are absolutely convinced that breastfeeding is the vital foundation for nutritional and food security, offering numerous benefits not only for the mother but for her children, in the critical first 1,000 days when there is a window of opportunity to support good nutrition and proper growth. The pronouncement was published in La Prensa Gráfica, which is one of the newspapers with the widest circulation, and as a result of the advocacy process the reforms to the law did not take effect.
C) Press conferences to set out the Alliance’s position on important and current issues related to nutrition, and issues of interest to the SUN Movement.
1- The Alliance’s position on National Breastfeeding Week.
Within the context of National Breastfeeding Week, held in El Salvador from 18 to 22 August, CALMA, CESTA and CDC came together to call for more interventions to be made on breastfeeding in El Salvador and for investment in the issue to be considered a priority, bearing in mind that the practice contributes to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, which expire in 2015.
In particular, the three institutions agreed that breastfeeding has a positive impact on poverty and hunger reduction by providing energy and high-quality nutrients that help to reduce hunger and malnutrition. Studies carried out by CALMA and UNICEF in 2013 make detailed reference to its impact on the economy and how the savings that mothers who breastfeed exclusively (three in every ten) generate for the State could potentially be used to pay for 60% of El Salvador’s external borrowing, 23% of the education budget, 15% of the health budget, or cover 100% of the budgets for the Bloom and Maternidad hospitals put together, or 128% of repairs to public schools.
That is without reference to the fact that breastfeeding also has an environmental impact and could play an important role in reducing the problem of pollution and waste disposal, bearing in mind that environmental pollution in El Salvador is high. Women who do not breastfeed use land, water, metals, plastics, fuels and money either directly or indirectly and deplete the environment even further.
They also called for private companies to apply the Law in question and for the Government, civil society and the population in general to commit to comply with it.
2- The Alliance’s position on the El Salvador Five-Year Plan 2014-2019.
On 22 January 2015, the Alliance held a press conference to announce the launch of the Five-Year Development Plan 2014-2019, which was recently launched by the President of the Republic, Salvador Sánchez Cerén. The Alliance highlighted the progress made over the last five years in the area of food and nutritional sovereignty and security. This includes the formation of the National Council for Food and Nutritional Security, the Food and Nutritional Security Policy, the Law on the Promotion, Protection and Support of Breastfeeding, and the incorporation of the human right to adequate food into article 69 of the Constitution of the Republic despite it still not having been ratified by the current legislature, which weakens the legal framework guaranteeing this right.
It is clear that there is a need to tackle the issue of nutrition as a national priority in order to build public institutions and resolve the problems of malnutrition, which is something that has been incorporated into the Preliminary Draft Law on Food and Nutritional Sovereignty and Security pending approval.
The Alliance set out that in order to guarantee food and nutritional sovereignty and security for the population, it is not enough to increase national agricultural production as proposed in the Five-Year Development Plan 2014-2019, El Salvador: Productive, Educated and Secure, because despite increased national production we are still dependent on imports, which are affected by the region’s high climate change vulnerability. We also understand that food price variability affects families’ purchasing power and limits their access, which is an important aspect considered in the plan.
There was agreement on the need to strengthen levels of food sovereignty and security and we support some of the actions identified in the action line relating to protection and risk reduction factors. The same is true for the action line relating to integrated management and water security for quality of life and inclusive and equitable development of the country.
They also thought it important to demonstrate that there are other determining factors in problems of food and nutritional and insecurity and we recognise that the education of families in El Salvador about food and nutrition is lacking, which results in inadequate dietary habits and practices.
Similarly, the influence of advertising on the consumption of junk food is a conditioning factor in the choice of diet, particularly in the child population, where there is an increase in overweight and obesity. These can, in future, lead to chronic illnesses such as diabetes, arterial hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, which are the main reasons for consultation according to the Ministry of Health’s Annual Report 2013-2014.
As a leading authority and partner promoting adequate nutrition through advocacy and lobbying on public policies to build food and nutritional sovereignty and security with an integrated cross-sectoral approach, the Civil Society Alliance for Food and Nutritional Sovereignty and Security proposed that the government incorporate the following into the five-year plan:
- Recognise the issue of nutrition as a national priority and incorporate a specific budget line item for the issue.
- Design and implement programmes to increase the population’s awareness and education about adequate diet and responsible consumption.
- Strengthen the authorities that address the issue of nutrition both technically and financially.
- Strengthen the culture of breastfeeding as a natural practice and foundation for food and nutritional security, and as an effective intervention for improving quality of life for the child population in the first 1,000 days.
- Support implementation of the Law on breastfeeding as one of the regulatory frameworks contributing to the achievement of FNS.
- Promote social participation and support communities to defend the land and natural resources that can contribute to food and nutritional sovereignty and security.
- Promote efforts to approve the School Food Law.
The Alliance is currently beginning advocacy work for approval of the Preliminary Draft Law on Food and Nutritional Sovereignty and Security. A consultant contracted for this process has started building the work plan, which will begin with a diagnostic on the status of the Preliminary Draft Law. The consultant is also developing plans for the building by consensus of the Alliance’s technical and political position on the proposed FNSS Law and Healthy Food Law, and an awareness-raising process with key stakeholders. Similarly, a consultancy has recently been contracted to work on designing a Communication Strategy to support the Alliance in its advocacy and lobbying processes.