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People, Productivity and Potential: Nutrition as a cornerstone of the SDGs

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15 January 2015, Rome, Italy - Ms Gerda Verburg, Chairperson of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), Ambassador Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations organizations for Food and Agriculture, FAO headquarters.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted last year are already changing not only what we focus on in health and development – but also how we approach these challenges and opportunities. It is now recognized that the goals are interconnected – the success of each one is closely connected to the success of them all. And while complex and ambitious, the goals are achievable only if governments, civil society, donors, businesses and other organizations all work together.

This new way of thinking and partnering is at the heart of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement. Yet to reach the SDGs, we will need to fuel the brain power that will ultimately drive their success. How can we unleash this productivity and potential? By ensuring that people are well-nourished.

Nutrition is a cornerstone of the SDGs – the piece that holds all the other pieces in place. With one in three people suffering from malnutrition in some form, our vision for all people to have access to good, quality food is now more important than ever.

Malnutrition undermines our ability to reach all the SDGs. How can a child focus on school if his brain isn’t ready to learn and his body can’t fight off infection? How can a woman achieve her rightful, equal and equitable status in the home, the workforce and society if she suffers the consequences of micronutrient deficiencies or lack access to good food?

This is not just a health issue – it is a development issue, fueling the socio-economic growth and development of individuals and nations. Improving nutrition helps children learn more in school and earn more as adults. Research shared earlier this year by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutritionnoted that malnutrition costs African countries between 3 to 16 percent of their GDP every year. That same analysis found that by investing in nutrition, 15 African countries could add $83 billion to their national incomes if they meet the 2025 World Health Assembly target for reducing stunted growth by 40 percent.

The evidence is clear – when people are held back by malnutrition, nations as a whole are held back as well. To achieve the global goals, we cannot continue to be held back by malnutrition – in any form. This is why countries are stepping up.

Since its start in 2010, 57 countries and three Indian States, have committed to the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement by prioritizing policies, investment and multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder action that improve nutrition and drive development. Thousands of organizations across civil society, private foundations, governments, business and academia have aligned behind these countries to advance national plans.

Led by countries and supported by multiple stakeholders, the SUN Movement has garnered unprecedented political will to improve nutrition for everyone, everywhere. It has done so by breaking down barriers that have traditionally kept efforts to improve global health and advance development siloed. The adoption of the SDGs reaffirms the importance of this collective approach at the heart of the SUN Movement’s new 2016-2020 strategy and roadmap.

The SUN Movement does not take a one-size fits all approach – rather we present a practical vision of how we can work together to end malnutrition by 2030, with each country and partner doing their part, based on trust, transparency and inclusiveness. In this, we are working for all countries in the Movement to establish national targets and develop plans of action – and associated costs – to move toward these goals. Resource mobilization is another key focus as partners work to not just increase investment in nutrition, but also ensure that resources are spent effectively.

The new strategy builds on the immense energy behind this collective effort to push for nutrition results and reiterates the fact that we are all in this together. Six years into the SUN Movement, nations have made incredible strides and we are seeing the fight against malnutrition prioritized as never before. Now, we’re looking ahead. By 2030 or maybe even before – we want to see the fight end with a win; malnutrition is history, forever.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post to mark the occasion of the one-year anniversary of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, or, officially, “Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”). The SDGs represent an historic agreement — a wide-ranging roadmap to sustainability covering 17 goals and 169 targets — but stakeholders must also be held accountable for their commitments. To see all the posts in the series, visit here.

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