Tokyo nutrition summit kicks off
|First published on Tuesday 7 December 2021 by The Japan Times|
The Tokyo Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Summit 2021 is taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday under the auspices of the Japanese government. The summit builds on more than 10 years of international focus on nutrition that kicked off in 2010 with the launch of the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement.
In 2012, the World Health Assembly and 194 countries agreed on the Global Nutrition Targets, the first targets ever adopted for nutrition. Building on this momentum, the first N4G summit was held in London in 2013 after the Summer Games, with the second one held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Now Tokyo is hosting the third N4G summit following the delayed Summer Olympics and Paralympics.
Due to COVID-19, the summit is using a hybrid format comprising online participation by people outside Japan and an in-person option for those in Japan. The Tokyo N4G Summit will be attended by high-level representatives from governments, international organisations, donors, academia, businesses and civic groups.
High-level sessions will consist of presentations and declarations of pledges by national governments and international organisations, while panel discussions will focus on specific topics. These sessions are being organized by the Foreign Ministry, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry in light of their expertise in the three core topics of health, food and resilience. In addition, data and financing have been put on the agenda as tools fundamental to achieving the core topics.
Under health, nutrition is being pursued as an integral part of universal health coverage for sustainable development, since nutrition is essential to both preventing and treating disease. Examples of government and donor initiatives in this area include testing for early detection of malnutrition, support for breastfeeding, the provision of vitamin A to infants and development and training of dietitians.
Under food, the summit is focusing on building food systems that promote safe, sustainable and healthy diets and nutrition, as well as ensure producers’ livelihoods and improve “climate-smart” practices. The private sector has a large role to play in the food chain, creating demand for and improving access to highly nutritious food, and encouraging sustainable production of healthy food and taking steps to reduce food loss.
The third topic, resilience, relates to addressing malnutrition in fragile communities affected by conflict or climate change. Expect stakeholders to take up discussions of how to balance both acute needs with long-term programs to better prepare for nutrition crises, which highlights the importance of data and data-driven accountability.
Data provides information about conflicts, droughts and other risks, while accountability ensures that the collected data is accurate and that progress is based on evidence. Mechanisms to increase transparency and accountability are another area of anticipated cooperation, while on the financing side, the focus will be on securing new investment and driving innovation in nutrition financing.
The Global Nutrition for Growth Compact was endorsed in 2013 at the first N4G Summit with pledges of more than $4 billion and commitments by global leaders to provide nutrition intervention to pregnant women and young children, reduce stunting in children and save children’s lives through increased access to food and treatment for severe acute malnutrition, among other initiatives. In response to this and other developments, the Nutrition Japan Public Private Platform (NJPPP) was launched in 2016 as a framework for public-private partnerships to build models for sustainable business, including food supply systems that can improve nutrition in developing countries.
The Tokyo N4G Summit will include progress reports detailing the outcomes achieved so far through the NJPPP, such as a program to improve nutrition in meals provided at workplaces in Southeast Asia. In addition, the summit will also emphasize commitments from governments, businesses, donors and other development partners across the three focus areas of health, food and resilience.
A look at the numbers shows the urgency of the summit’s nutrition goals. In 2019, nearly 750 million people faced a severe degree of food insecurity, and an estimated 2 billion did not have access to sufficient amounts of nutritious food. In addition, 144 million children under the age of 5, three-quarters of whom live in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, were affected by stunting in 2019 due to under- and malnutrition.
In the meantime, obesity is endemic to the problem of overnutrition and can lead to increased incidences of diabetes, heart disease and other health problems. According to the World Health Organization, around 2 billion adults (age 18 and older) were deemed overweight in 2016, representing nearly 39% of the adult population, and 13% were classified as obese.
Furthermore, many countries today are facing the so-called double burden of malnutrition, where both undernutrition and overnutrition occur at the same time. This is a phenomenon in which undernutrition strikes early in life, followed by a propensity for obesity later in life.
The summit seeks to increase the momentum for addressing these issues through its agenda and side events that include sessions organised by the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry on the theme of building healthy and sustainable food systems.
Some of the measures recently launched to tackle these issues are the Fourth Basic Plan for the Promotion of Shokuiku, which aims to promote the adoption of balanced nutritional habits nationwide, and Measures for achievement of Decarbonization And Resilience with Innovation, part of a larger strategy for building sustainable, eco-friendly food systems. In the sessions, the ministry will share its experience with improving nutrition in Japan, where government-led efforts have continued for over a century.
Although washoku has become a hot export in recent years, the farm ministry is looking to do more than promote Japanese food exports by combining Japanese flavors and products with those in other countries to create community-focused, sustainable improvements in nutrition.
Food exports by Japanese companies will play a role in the farm ministry’s initiatives to improve nutrition globally. Though food assistance is needed, sustaining it over the long term requires a broad base of stakeholders. This is where Japanese companies can step in with their products and technologies while localising them for specific regions.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to solving the world’s nutrition challenges. So in addition to companies, the ministry is looking to enlist the support of young people and nongovernmental organisations passionate about the future of food and nutrition so programs targeting specific regions and issues can be formulated.
Nutrition issues are at a turning point and have been exacerbated by global disruptions from COVID-19, climate change and geopolitical tensions. Adding to this urgency, the final year for the Global Nutrition Targets adopted in 2012 is 2025, and the target year for achieving the U.N. sustainable development goals (SDGs) is 2030, less than a decade away. The Tokyo N4G Summit is expected to both celebrate the N4G commitments made so far this year and issue a 2021 compact that pursues accelerated achievement of the Global Nutrition Targets and the SDGs. As the host, the Japanese government is organiaing the summit and seeking to secure meaningful commitments from high-level political representatives and global business leaders as well as donors and civic groups who want to work together to end the problems of hunger and nutrition.