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Towards voluntary guidelines for food systems and nutrition

  |   SUN UN Network

* Originally published by UNSCN

Photo: © FAO/Giulio Napolitano

In October 2016, at its forty-third plenary, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) agreed on a strategy on nutrition aimed at stepping up the CFS’s contribution to the global fight against malnutrition in all its forms. CFS stakeholders subsequently decided to start a policy convergence process to develop Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition, to be presented to the Committee for endorsement in October 2020.

The Voluntary Guidelines will be the CFS’s most important contribution to the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition. They are expected to act as a reference document for governments, specialized institutions and other stakeholders, providing guidance on appropriate policies and investments to address the basic and underlying causes of malnutrition. The Guidelines are aimed at ending the current policy fragmentation between the food, agriculture and health sectors, while addressing livelihood and sustainability challenges, helping to make food systems nutrition-sensitive and promoting secure access to safe, diverse and healthy diets for everyone. CFS stakeholders also called for more sustainable food systems in light of their huge impact on biodiversity, climate change and the quality of the world’s air, water and soil.

UNSCN believes that to be effective, the Voluntary Guidelines should be systemic in nature and provide a set of actionable, coherent, consistent and integrated recommendations to promote sustainable food systems globally. This is a challenge, as food systems are complex and context-specific. Crucially, though, they should address inequity, one of the primary causes of malnutrition.

The CFS Secretariat, with the help of a technical task team including the UNSCN Secretariat and several UNSCN members, has prepared a zero draft of the Voluntary Guidelines based on the recommendations of the HLPE report on nutrition and food systems and inputs from CFS stakeholders. This zero draft, presented in May, is now being discussed in five regional consultations, which are taking place between July and the end of October, to garner regional perspectives. The process also includes an e-consultation and all stakeholders are invited to offer input on the zero draft by posting their contributions on the Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum) website.

In its contribution, the UNSCN proposed four sets of policy areas that the VGs need to address and that are cross cutting through the elements of the food system. For each area, suggestions are made for actions that have the potential to address several forms of malnutrition and have impact across the food system. See full contribution here. Through the e-consultation, the UNN Secretariat has contributed to consolidated comments from the SUN Movement Secretariat and SUN Global Support System.

The consultations will inform the first draft of the Voluntary Guidelines, which should be available by the end of 2019. The final Guidelines are expected to be approved by the CFS in October 2020.

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