Parliamentarians in the sub-region commit to work for the right to food and adequate nutrition
“Improving nutrition requires a collective effort. It requires well-designed laws that improve food systems, ensure healthy diets and strengthen school meals. It also requires adequate public budgets and it calls for strong legal frameworks that consolidate advances and allow us to press ahead.”
Referencing the words of the Director-General of FAO, José Graziano da Silva, as well as the text of the Madrid Declaration of the Global Parliamentary Summit against Hunger and Malnutrition, the Congolese Parliament’s Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security (APCSAN) pledged to work with FAO to organize a parliamentary Forum in October 2019. The forum will support the creation of a sub-regional platform of parliamentarians who will promote sustainable agriculture as a way to improve food and nutrition security for the people of central Africa.
In the lead up to the Forum, a preparatory workshop was held from 12 to 13 June 2019 in Brazzaville, the Republic of Congo. This workshop brought together around 40 participants, including representatives at the decision-making level of parliaments, key ministries, nutrition champions, representatives of civil society, the private sector, the media, UN system partners, and SUN focal points. In addition to the Congolese delegation, three ECCAS countries were represented at the workshop: Cameroon, Gabon and DRC.
The Honorable Yves Fernand Manfoumbi, the SUN global Nutrition Champion from Gabon, presided over the two-day workshop, which was also attended by the Venerable Alphonse Mboudo Nesa, second Vice-President of the Senate and Secretary General of the Congolese Parliamentary Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (APCSAN), and the FAO Representative in Congo. During the workshop, Alphonse Mboudo Nesa reiterated the commitment of the Congolese Parliament to host these meetings.
Reaching Zero Hunger: the role and responsibility of parliamentarians in central Africa
The main theme of the Forum, reaching Zero Hunger, will be broken down into five sub-themes, namely: (i) the right to adequate, safe and healthy food and nutrition; (ii) the role of the legislator in the fight against malnutrition; (iii) the role of parliamentarians in ensuring investments and financing for food and nutrition security; (iv) the role of parliamentarians and governance in food and nutrition security; and (v) parliamentary alliances as a tool for mobilization and inter-actor communication.
Participants in the Brazzaville workshop split into two working groups, and under the guidance of Jean Leonard Touadi, Coordinator for Parliamentary Alliances at FAO, examined points relating to the organization of the Forum and the themes that the meeting will address. It was proposed that the Forum should have a general organization committee, with seven sub commissions that would address technical issues, administrative issues, reception and accommodation, transport, safety, communications and logistics and resource mobilization.
Given the current alarming state of food security and nutrition in the world, Mr. Touadi emphasized that it was high time to generate interest in creating parliamentary alliances, in reinforcing the capacities of parliamentarians to address issues of food security and nutrition, and in supporting legislative and policy frameworks which would better allocate resources to national plans and programs in order to improve food and nutrition security across the sub region.
Citing the example of the Parliamentary Front against Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean (PFH), he demonstrated that it was possible to bring parliamentarians from opposing sides together to take action against malnutrition and hunger. The PFH has thus far facilitated the adoption of 20 national laws and created four framework laws, which allow for better legislative harmonization at the regional level and guide countries in the development of their own legislation at the national level.
Despite the efforts made in recent decades, the 2018 report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (FAO, WFP, IFAD, UNICEF and WHO) reveals that more than 820 million people worldwide still suffer from hunger. More than 250 million of these people are in sub-Saharan Africa, with 42.7 million in central Africa, which represents 26% of the region’s population. Additionally, according to the 2017 World Nutrition Report, one in eight adults is obese, 38 million children under five are overweight, and two billion people suffer from essential micronutrient deficiencies.
This alarming situation highlights the need for a paradigm shift in the fight against food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms. Experience has shown that when adequate legislative frameworks support programs which address food and nutrition insecurity, nutrition indicators improve considerably. This evidence highlights the key role of parliamentarians as guardians of the right to adequate food and nutrition. Given their ability to legislate, allocate national budgets and ensure good governance, they are best placed to draw attention to the issue of food and nutrition security at the highest levels of political and legislative agendas.
At the end of the workshop in Brazzaville, participants made the following recommendations: Set up the preparatory committee of the forum as soon as possible; Prepare the “Declaration of Brazzaville” a document which would establish the network of parliamentary alliances; Establish a network of parliamentarians of the sub-region; Create an advocacy committee which would visit parliaments of some ECCAS countries in order to raise awareness and encourage their participation in the network; Connect the sub regional parliamentary network with regional and global networks; Create at least two parliamentary alliances before the forum. To this end, FAO reiterated its willingness to support the creation of parliamentary alliances in ECCAS countries, beginning with Cameroon, Gabon and DRC.