ICN2: An Opportunity to Foster the Nutrition Agenda – By Mohamed Ag Bendech* and Richemont Seki*

From 19th to 21st November 2014 in Rome, The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) will co-organize the second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) with the World Health Organisation (WHO), in partnership with several international institutions. This important global event will gather high-level decision and policy makers as well as technical experts from several countries.

Review progress in achieving nutrition outcomes since the first International Conference on Nutrition (ICN).

The first ICN was held in 1992 and brought together representatives from 159 countries, The European Union, 15 United Nations Organisations and 144 Non-Government Organisations (NGOs). It served as awareness raising event to sensitize global leaders on the importance of taking concrete and durable actions to improve nutrition. One of the main outcomes of this event was the elaboration of National Plans of Action for Nutrition (NPANs), strategic documents to guide the programming, implementation as well as budgeting and resource mobilisation of nutrition actions. Following ICN, several developing countries established national public nutrition institutions or programs, responsible for the implementation and national coordination of nutrition activities. As a result of all these commitments and efforts, countries have made significant progress. For example, the prevalence of undernourishment has decreased from 33.3 % in 1990-92 to 23.8% in 2012-14 in Sub Saharan Africa[1]. The levels of stunting and underweight in developing countries have also decreased respectively from 45% to 26% and from 26% to 16% in almost 25 years (figure 1). These findings are encouraging, though malnutrition still persists.

ICN2 will therefore offer an opportunity, 22 years later, to review progress at global, regional and country levels to tackle nutrition challenges, discuss the determinants and the way forward. Success stories and best practices will be shared among participating countries.


Figure 1: Trends in prevalence of stunting and underweight in developing countries, from 1990 to 2015

Source: http://www.who.int/nutgrowthdb/levels_trends_1990_2011.pdf

Discuss emerging issues and prospects.

With the phenomenon of globalisation and modernization, developing countries are experiencing changes in lifestyle and food habits, with overconsumption of energy-dense foods, high in sugar and saturated fats as well as salt and decrease of physical activities. This has led to increasing trends in over-nutrition (overweight and obesity) (figure 2), while the other forms of malnutrition still persist. This complex scenario needs to be seriously considered with critical actions to curb the current trends.

ICN2 will also deliberate on the role of agriculture, food systems and social protection, as well right to food, as important contributors to good nutrition.


Figure 2 : Overnutrition among adult, by region

Source : FAO. State of Food and Agriculture 2013.

Available at http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3300e/i3300e.pdf



Increase political awareness and commitment.

The Conference will demonstrate the necessity to increase political awareness and commitment at national, regional and global level for scaling up and durability of nutrition interventions. The event will create the platform for dialogue and opportunity to assemble high-level decision makers and advocates for greater consideration of nutrition in their political agenda with increased financial resources committed to promoting sustainable nutrition actions.


For more information on ICN2, please visit: http://www.fao.org/about/meetings/icn2/en/


Build on existing initiatives at global, regional and country level.


Considering the trends of malnutrition worldwide and the efforts to create awareness, various global initiatives and movements have been initiated, such as the United Secretary General Zero Hunger Challenge, the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, and the Renewed Efforts Against Child Hunger (REACH). The Zero Hunger Challenge is a global initiative which aims to build support around the goal of achieving Zero Hunger by 2025 while SUN and REACH seek to advance the multi-sectoral processes required to advance food and nutrition security governance and accountability. To date, over 54 countries have joined the SUN movement, mainly in Africa, Asia and South America and 14 countries are REACH countries.

There are also regional commitments such as the African Union’s 2013 Declaration, aiming to end hunger in Africa by 2025, which subscribes to the UN Zero Hunger Challenge. More recently, the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods confirmed this objective and committed to reduce significantly the prevalence of stunting and underweight. At sub-regional level, since February 2014, The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) launched the Zero Hunger Initiative.

Since ICN2 is a very important event to foster nutrition agenda, all stakeholders should put their efforts together to make it successful. FAO is actually providing assistance to countries to better prepare for the Conference. As part of its efforts to support African countries and stakeholders and to share information on ICN2, the Regional Office for Africa will organize in October 2014 a workshop intended to sensitize the media personnel in Ghana on reporting globally on Nutrition and more specifically on the ICN-2. The importance of the media is paramount to the success of ICN2 and its follow-up actions.

For more information on ICN2, please visit: http://www.fao.org/about/meetings/icn2/en/

*Experts in Nutrition at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) / Regional Office for Africa






[1] FAO, IFAD and WFP. 2014. The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014.

Strengthening the enabling environment for food security and nutrition. Rome, FAO

Accessible on http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4030e.pdf