Today, the governments of the world are gathering in Rome twenty-two years after the first International Conference on Nutrition. While over the past two decades, the number of chronically undernourished people has been reduced by more than 200 million, there are still nearly 800 million people who go to bed hungry every night. Worldwide, obesity presents an increasing challenge to well-being and prosperity, as many countries grapple with the double burden of over- and under-nutrition, coupled with serious micronutrient deficiencies. Today, we more fully understand the scientific basis for why we need to focus on the nutrition of adolescent girls, pregnant women, and infants. The United States recognizes that climate change threatens future gains in the production of nutritious crops. We also want to capitalize on the political moment of the Post 2015 Agenda to ensure that food security and nutrition remain front and center in the Sustainable Development Goals.
While much has changed since the first International Conference on Nutrition, challenges remain. The price shocks in the food markets in 2007-8 were a wakeup call that decades of steady gains in agricultural production could not be taken for granted. In response, in 2009, President Obama called on global leaders to reverse a decades-long decline in investment in agriculture and to “do business differently” by taking a comprehensive approach to ensure food security. Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, does just that, working hand-in-hand with partner countries to develop their agriculture sectors and break the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger. In just a few years, Feed the Future is delivering results that are helping reduce poverty and hunger while also improving nutrition for millions of children and families around the world.
At home, the Office of the First Lady launched the Let’s Move campaign to solve the challenge of childhood obesity in the United States within a generation. Abroad, the United States worked with governments, civil society, and the private sector to lead the creation of the 1,000 Days partnership and supported the genesis of the Scaling Up Nutrition movement both targeting improvements in maternal and newborn nutrition. The United States continues to demonstrate global leadership through signature social safety net programs including the Women, Infants, and Children program, which celebrated its 40th anniversary just last month in October 2014, and the United States played a leading role in the process to adopt the World Health Organization Noncommunicable Disease Action Plan, which includes voluntary targets on sodium consumption, obesity and diabetes, and indicators on dietary quality and policy change.
Yet work remains. At this second International Conference on Nutrition, the United States looks forward to the launch of the Global Nutrition Report, which will help the world track global progress collectively and transparently. We also welcome the policy briefs of the World Health Organization Global Targets to improve maternal, infant, and young child nutrition by 2025. Through the shared vision of the Rome Declaration on Nutrition, to be adopted at this meeting, and the voluntary Framework for Action, global leaders can pursue common policy options and strategies to achieve better nutrition for all. The United States will remain a strong and leading partner in this effort.
About the Authors: Elizabeth Buckingham and Daniel Oerther serve in the Secretary of State's Office of Global Food Security.