Launch of SUN Business Network Sri Lanka
Based on intensive consultation with various private sector companies, and other government stakeholders, the Sri Lanka SBN kick off meeting was organized on 1st of March 2019 in Colombo. The meeting was attended by over 50 participants, with 26 individuals representing 20 prominent private sector companies that signed up as members of the network. The remaining participants represented Government partners, the UN and donor community.
The session was opened by Ms. Brenda Barton, the WFP Country Director who called for the Private Sector to come together and to use platforms such as the SBN to align their vision to help the country address its poor nutrition situation. Ms. Farzana Khan – the SBN coordinator- then presented on the role of the SBN and its strategic direction in Sri Lanka. Based on extensive consultations leading to the kick-off event, she shared potential key workstreams that the private sector could focus on.
Representatives from the Ministry of Health – Dr Renuka Jayatissa Head of Nutrition, Medical Research Institute and Dr. Rasanjali Hettiarachchi – Director, Nutrition Coordination Division presented the nutrition situation and the priority of the Ministry of Health to address poor nutrition issues. They called for a more collaborative approach between government and the private sector to address the issues, including their role in food fortification, and market linkages for nutritious crops and products.
Further, given the long-term considerations for SBN to be linked to the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FCCISL) of Sri Lanka, which works with SMEs across the country as well as spearheading the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), Secretary General, Mr. Ajith D. Perera, presented the role FCCISL and potential contributions to the nutrition situation in Sri Lanka with FCCISL and the private sector. Mr Ajith also mentioned that for this year, their theme for the much-awaited Entrepreneur of the year awards will be based around Nutrition. He cited ‘Entrepreneurship for a Healthy Planet ‘as the theme stemming from advocacy to-date and prospective linkages through the SBN.
Ms Dilka Pieris, who represented the SUN Civil Society shared key learnings from the Network especially in regards to how the network was established in Sri Lanka, and the mechanisms that were undertaken that helped to ensure sustainability of their efforts.
Development of SBN Sri Lanka’s roadmap
Following these presentations, the audience was divided into 3 groups with a good mix of private sector, government, UN and donors. Each group discussed a pre-assigned key theme based on expressions of interest gathered in the lead up to the SBN kick-off meeting. The group work guided the development of a roadmap for SBN within 3 sub-topics:
1. Workplace nutrition
2. Demand creation for healthy food
3. Value addition (including food fortification)
The kick-off meeting helped to galvanize interest and discussions that were initiated in August 2018 by the SBN global team, and also helped to initiate communication between the private sector and government officials. Moving forward, a strategy for SBN will be finalised which will include its structure, meeting frequency, membership, roles and responsibility of each sub-group, the SBN Secretariat, resourcing (human and financial), as well as a detailed work plan as proposed by group members.
One of the key take aways from the kick-off meeting was the need for a good nutrition communication campaign and this may form a separate workstream. This was an outcome from all the groups and our government partners. There is significant demand for information and knowledge, given that private sector companies are willing to share this forward and it dovetails very well to the WFP CO planned SBCC campaign whereby good nutrition and the importance of a healthy and balanced diet will be promoted at a national level.