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The first week of November saw the coming together of key members of the ENN SUN KM team in Kathmandu for the SUN Global Gathering (GG) 2019. The ENN  team comprised of the directors Jeremy Shoham, Carmel Dolan and Emily Mates, the SUN KM project Global Coordinator Natalie Sessions and myself as the Asia Regional KM Specialist. Judith Hodge in her role as the Co Editor of Nutrition Exchange was also part of the team. It was 4 days of putting faces to names for all of us and for me in particular to understand the scope and breadth of the SUN Movement’s impact on the countries across the world who have signed up.


The Global Gathering is an event held every 2 years to bring all countries and actors in the Movement together to examine progress made and plan ahead to achieve global goals. The SUN GG 2019 with the theme of ”œNourishing People and Planet Together” came at a crucial juncture with the Road Map of SUN 3.0 to be developed for the period ahead and for countries to put on their thinking hats on their plans and commitments in time for the Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Summit in Tokyo in 2020.

The ENN team was there in its role as the KM provider to the SUN Movement – for those who are unaware ENN has been the KM provider as part of the TAN project, funded by DfID, and has worked closely with the SUN Movement Secretariat (SMS) in supporting the design of specific workshops for the GG in addition to our directors being on the panel and leading some workshops. We sat in on the 25 workshops captured key reflections, identified emerging themes and provided feedback into discussions within the SMS. These will also be compiled into a workshop report which will be disseminated shortly.

Nationals from more than100 countries were present at the meeting, which included representatives from Donor countries like Norway, Canada, Japan amongst others and representatives from countries yet to join like Fiji.

It was a first time for me at an event of this size in terms of scale – reminding me of  a World Jamboree I attended as  a Girl Guide, with delegates from across the globe that required me to pull out a World Map to locate where they all belonged to. The Government of Nepal,  it was clear, pulled out all stops to make this event a memorable one – this was evident in the excellent organisation on all fronts ensuring that this was a productive yet enjoyable event for all who attended. The SUN Movement emphasises that it is a country led movement and this was evident in every session be it the  plenary or the parallel workshops. The SMS team and other co organisers were active facilitators but from behind the scenes with much of the preparation for each of the thematic workshops done well ahead and the country participants taking centre stage.

The GG also provided countries and stakeholder groups the opportunity to interact with the Executive Committee (which acts on behalf of the SUN Movement Lead Group to oversee the development and implementation of the Movement’s strategy) and the Strategic Review team to share their expectations and hopes for SUN Road Map 3.0. This was mentioned as a first by the very active and well organised Civil Society Network in addition to their own meeting just preceding the GG. It was heartening to hear from not just one but many of the SUN Focal Points (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and the Philippines) that the meeting organised just for the Focal points with the Executive Committee and the Strategic Review team was a first and one in which they felt valued and their voices heard. In addition to these specific group interactions, platforms for exchange were numerous – the Global Village was one such, with each country showcasing their products in individual stalls which was well attended with short snappy lunch time  presentations.         

I capture below what were key takeaways for me from the Global Gathering:

  • The GG justified the chosen theme for the year with participation from all groups of actors in nutrition - donors and the UN, business, civil society and most importantly Governments. Sessions on climate change with participation of small island nations like Fiji and Sri Lanka  amongst others clearly drew attention to the irrevocable link between climate change and food systems. The full attendance in the workshop suggested to me the keen interest and concern on this issue across countries.


  • Continuing on widespread participation in the gathering the youth were a powerful and pleasantly loud presence. They spoke of their motivation and reasons to advocate for nutrition - they emphasised their case with the statement ‘never about us without us’ at the same time stressing that they cannot be the sole spokespersons for their causes.  


  • In discussions with attendees it clearly emerged that this GG lived up to the SUN Movement motto of ‘country led and country driven’. The confidence  and the interest of countries was palpable with some strong statements coming from country representatives. For example, the SUN Focal Point of Sierra Leone said, "Do not come to us with solutions; listen to us and work with us to formulate solutions". There was also a clear articulation from many country representatives that they recognise that ‘commitment’ needs to be matched by increasing domestic funding - many countries acknowledged that this is a serious constraint particularly in fragile contexts. Although solutions were offered, including grants; including finance ministers in discussions on nutrition as often they are the major roadblocks. The realisation that implementation at the subnational level and operationalisation of plans and policies are key was high amongst the participants.  A workshop on the theme of Sub National Implementation based on a series of case studies conducted by MQSUN and ENN in 10 countries gave attendees a wide variety of examples to learn from.


  • The importance of evidence to guide programming came up in workshops and in plenary sessions from all sides and also -as expected- from the donor community to ensure that there is not just more money,but more nutrition for the money spent. Evidence as a means of convincing and ensuring political buy in was emphasised also by high level political leaders such as the former President of Tanzania who is a Lead group member. To paraphrase him he  said was convinced that "if people are the future of a nation; nutrition is the future of the people."


  • The SUN Movement, in its architecture and design has included the Business sector from its inception and this has been a sticking point for many in engaging with the Movement itself. The discussions in a workshop organised by the SUN Business Network looking at emerging business practices and consumer trends was an opportunity to understand the  approach of the SBN and the efforts being made by it to bring more actors to the table. As a member of the SUN Executive Committee noted,  "Our conversations must be not just with the behemoths - but both big and small - good and bad - let us inject nuance into debates." I came away from the GG personally reasonably convinced that the private sector is not monolithic and that there is a role for SMEs, particularly nearly 60% of the world’s food is produced by SMEs. The example of JAVA Foods a SME in Zambia struck home the powerful point that they offer unique opportunities for innovation.

In conclusion I would say that the GG 2019 brought to the attention of all those who attended, that there are gains made- political commitments are higher than ever before; more countries are investing in data collection and building monitoring systems; nutrition sensitive sectors are slowly but surely taking on more ownership of their contribution to improving nutrition outcomes; but the task on how to turn this into action so as to address the complex problem of malnutrition globally remains a big one. The role of the SUN Movement in the next phase needs to focus on how to capitalise on the momentum that it has built successfully and contribute towards achieving the SDGs so that the planet and its people are well nourished.


ENN will be bringing out a Global Gathering focussed Nutrition Exchange, capturing highlights from the GG 2019 - watch this space.