UNRC for Nepal sets the tone of breakthrough UN Network meeting in the lead up to the 2019 SUN Global Gathering

UNRC for Nepal sets the tone of breakthrough UN Network meeting in the lead up to the 2019 SUN Global Gathering

Nearly 100 colleagues from 44 countries and 10 United Nations-affiliated entities gathered on 4 November 2019 to share good practices and put their minds together in what is a historic moment for both the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement and the UN System. An opportunity to consolidate thinking about strategic directions for SUN 3.0 and UN coordination on nutrition, the workshop was an extension of ongoing discussions to make sure the UN speaks with one voice and all agencies are aware of what the others are doing. The meeting was organized by the UN Network (UNN) Secretariat, which spearheads UNN’s contributions to the SUN Movement at the global level, working closely with colleagues from sixteen UN agencies at the country and regional levels, to catalyse change and advance the nutrition agenda within the greater context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

RC speaking

Ms. Valerie Julliand, United Nations Resident Coordinator (UNRC) in Nepal, welcomed participants, including special guest, Gerda Verburg, Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations, who leads the SUN Movement. In a motivational speech, Ms. Verburg recognized that “the UN is always a reliable actor in the SUN Movement to join forces and support the government,” and noted that the Office of the UN Secretary General invited the SUN Movement to increasingly work with the UNRC office. Ms. Verburg alongside Dr. Purnima Kashyap, Director/Global Coordinator of the UN Network, also seized the occasion to launch the new UNN storybook series, entitled Tales Be Told, which brings nutrition successes to the limelight to promote South-South learning and help replicate results in other countries. Among the stories, is an interview with Ms. Metsi Makhetha, the UNRC in Burkina Faso, where substantial decreases in stunting have been observed.

Gerda & Purnima - Tales Be Told

The meeting further unpacked the role of the UNRC, taking Nepal as an example. Ms. Julliand clearly proclaimed that joint programming is the response! She also went on to speak about how the UNRC’s coordination mandate is essential to engaging non-traditional UN agencies, such as UNFPA, in the path to good nutrition and how the UNRC is uniquely positioned to promote the multi-sectoral approach within the UN Country Team (and government) in order to breakdown silos. The UNRC’s role in advocacy was also highlighted, underscoring that “the RC brings the human rights approach that is critical to nutrition,” in what she described as being the ‘Jiminy Cricket’.

Tactics for integrating nutrition into the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (former UNDAF) were also shared, building on experiences in Niger where it was embedded into all five UNDAF outcomes. Mrs. Felicite Tchibindat, UNICEF Country Representative, encouraged participants to look to the data, to use it in related advocacy, to align with national nutrition plans and to reach out to other partners. Still, other topics of discussion were the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016-2025 and emerging opportunities through next year’s Nutrition for Growth Summit in Japan, including how the UN can help mobilize new commitments for nutrition from government.

Group work

The workshop was also an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of joint UN efforts on nutrition, with compelling statistics presented by Dr. Kashyap from the 2019 UNN reporting exercise. Participants learned about recent trends, such as UNN’s increased engagement with UNRCs (75 percent of SUN countries), improved nutrition mainstreaming in national nutrition plans, policies, strategies and UN development frameworks (92 percent of SUN countries) as well as increased collaboration with other SUN networks. In addition, the UNSCN Coordinator provided an update, touching upon how its global functions are increasingly converging with UNN activities.

Panel of SC members

Members of the joint UNN/UNSCN steering committee shared their perspectives, including during a vibrant Q+A session that concluded the meeting. Mr. Victor Aguayo, Global Chief of UNICEF Nutrition Programme, had sobering words about the triple burden of malnutrition, reminding participants that “the number of overweight children has increased in every continent, including Africa” and stressing the importance of setting into motion a systems approach and investing in prevention. Ms. Lauren Landis, Director of WFP Nutrition and member of the SUN Executive Committee (ExCom), complemented by adding that “we need dual actions, but we also want to make sure we want the ‘best buys’ to respond to multiple burdens of malnutrition.” It was clear from the discussions that the UN is a pivotal actor in the nutrition scene from facilitating and strengthening multi-sectoral nutrition action to holding actors accountable. From IFAD, Ms. Joyce Njoro, urged the group to leverage the comparative advantages of all the agencies,” acknowledging the wealth of expertise and how UN nutrition coordination platforms “help us complete the full circle.” Ms. Anna Lartey, Director of FAO’s Nutrition and Food Systems Division and member of the SUN ExCom, summed up the mood of the meeting when she boldly stated that, “as long as the UN exists and we haven’t addressed the problem of malnutrition, the UNN should continue existing.” The energy was high and UN colleagues stand committed to accelerating action towards tackling the 2030 targets, building on the good practices and successes they heard about in Nepal.

Learn more by reviewing the UN Network global meeting agenda.

Photo credits @ UN Network Secretariat/Sarah Cruz