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Can the SUN Movement benefit from Africa’s political blocs?

By Titus Mung'ou on 16 February 2017

How relevant are Africa’s political blocs in advancing the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement agenda? Can the movement tap into the initiatives by the region’s political blocs to achieve its goals?

In my experience with the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement activities, I have noted the quest to establish multi-sectoral platforms to tackle malnutrition worldwide.  Thus, nutrition experts and nutrition advocates have embraced the multi-stakeholder approach to drive forward their agenda – bringing together governments, donors, UN agencies, civil societies, business/private sector, research and academic, to play their roles in this noble goal.

“Nutrition touches every sector and every sector touches nutrition. There is need for multi-sectoral involvement in addressing nutrition issues,” said Gerda Verburg, the SUN Movement Coordinator, during the movement’s ‘Public Financing and Managing Results for Nutrition in Africa’workshop in Nairobi, in August 2016.

SUN Movement has made significant achievements in raising the profile of nutrition and bringing together different players especially key decision-makers to tackle malnutrition. Already some countries have SUN and nutrition coordination mechanisms at the Office of the President or Prime Minister such as Uganda and Tanzania, National Office of Nutrition (Madagascar), Ministry of Agriculture (Botswana), National Food and Nutrition Commission (Zambia), among others. To demonstrate their progress in elevating the status of nutrition at country level, senior government officials, ministers and members of parliarment are often in country delegations in SUN events such as the annual Global Gathering.

In Ethiopia, the participation of members of the National Nutrition Coordination Body (NNCB) in a high level forum in Brazil, was a catalyst to a consensus that nutrition would be better served by placing the coordination body in the Prime-Minister or Deputy Prime-Minister’s Office. There is good progress towards this direction.

Though a few countries can demonstate the impact of multi-stakeholder involvement in SUN activities, the gradual development of policies, structures and allocation of resources to scale up nutrition, confirms the gains being made. Food Security and nutrition issues are central in a number of national development plans and budgets in SUN countries.

Furthermore, through advocacy spearheaded by SUN civil societies in Tanzania and Zambia nutrition was included in political parties’ manifestos in the run up to the recent general elections. A handful of countries have formal structures to enable engagement between SUN networks and politicians, such as Tanzania’s Parliamentary Food, Nutrition Security and Children Rights Committee, Zambia’s Parliamentary Caucus on Nutrition, Ghana’s Parliamentarians United Against Hunger and Burkina Faso’s Parliamentarian Network for Nutrition.

Despite the progress made to establish nutrition multi-stakeholder platforms, the momentum to position nutrition as a political and development agenda, hasn’t been smooth or consistent. A major setback to sustainability of nutrition as a political agenda is the nature of politics and political structures in the region - unpredictable and fragile – often shifting development priorities after every election period.

It is in this respect that SUN Movement stakeholders should take note of the recent developments in Africa that provide long-term and sustainable structures likely to outlive political regimes. The leading region’s political blocs have been putting in place development initiatives to address, among others, food security and nutrition issues, in a broad-based development strategy anchored on high level commitments by heads of states. Food security and nutrition targets, earmarked by SUN Movement, can be well-articulated and contextualised, if embedded or aligned to the regional initiatives.

What should SUN Movement do to achieve its goals through the emerging regional blocs’ initiatives? 

Food security and nutrition initiatives by Africa’s political blocs

Positive strides to towards a multi-sectoral approach to addressing food security and nutrition issues has been taking shape, thanks to four African political bodies namely the African Union (AU), New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), South African Development Community (SADC) and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). These bodies are focusing on diverse development issues articulated in a declaration by the heads of states and regional frameworks.

The initiatives established include the AU-led Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and NEPAD/SADC’s Knowledge Sharing and Monitoring Platform initiated in December 2014 in response to the commitments made through the Malabo Declaration, the African Union Agenda 2063 and the need to sustain the momentum generated by CAADP Results Framework (2015-2025). On its part, NEPAD/SADC’s initiative seeks to foster evidence-based dialogue and promote a multi-sectoral approach in information and knowledge creation and sharing.

In South Africa, NEPAD/SADC launched a process to establish a regional FNS Knowledge-Sharing Support Platform/Mechanism. The NEPAD-led initiative in collaboration with FAO and contribution of SADC, provides an important opportunity to improve FNS Knowledge and Information-sharing and Monitoring, thereby contributing to improvement of FNS in Africa. Regional ownership and country commitments will be fundamental in achieving this result. 

On its part, CAADP aims to intensify internal communication, engagement and discussions to solidify their agenda, bring on board critical members currently not involved, address key issues, engage organisations and develop instruments for formal engagement.

By the end of 2016, CAADP had identified challenges to be addressed in order to achieve its goals. These include lack of clarity on key issues and a coherent responsive system for gauging needs of countries, inadequate technical and institutional capacity to bring key players together, inadequate resources for these efforts and geographic scope presented by a wide and diverse Africa. At least seven networks are in place and are addressing these challenges.

As a CAADP member, Kenya was fully involved in the development of the East African Community (EAC) CAADP Compact which was adopted at the 9th Sectoral Council on Agriculture and Food Security (SCAFs) in January 2016 and approved by the 34th Council of Ministers held in September 2016.

At the moment, CAADP Country Focal Points are mobilising various actors to contribute to a bi-annual review report on implementation of Malabo Declaration, to be presented the heads of states meeting early 2018.  This presents an opportunity for SUN Focal Points to contribute to progress made in nutrition sector, in line with the indicators in Malabo Declaration.

As noted by Kenya’s CAADP Focal Point Rebecca Wahome, “SUN Focal Point is a core member of CAADP.” A million-dollar question is: How are SUN actors in Africa positioning themselves in the heads of states-driven political blocs that are addressing their objectives?

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