High-Level Event on the eve of World Food Day at the European Parliament

On 15 October 2019, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the European Commission (EC) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) were invited to celebrate the World Food Day at the European Parliament. Representatives from EU institutions, EU Member States, the ACP Group of States, UN agencies, Civil Society Organisations and the private sector joined the High-Level Event “Investing in Nutrition: Partnering for Action”. 
World Food Day promotes worldwide awareness on the number of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition and serves as a call to action on these topics.

During the opening remarks, MEP Paolo De Castro (S&D) stated that the European Union needs to play a key role in the fight against hunger and malnutrition with the long-term objective of achieving a concrete and authentic global food policy. A thorough discussion around SDG 2 zero hunger is now crucial. MEP Maria Soraya Rodriguez Ramos (ALDE) focused on the importance of forming parliamentarian alliances for the fight against global hunger, also in Latin America and Africa. It is crucial to see hunger as a political problem and not as a matter of food production or food availability. Chronic malnutrition often affects the most vulnerable populations and leaves lifelong marks. Rodrigo de Lapuerta Montoya, FAO, Director Liaison Office Brussels, mentioned the UN commitment to the fight against hunger, and that alliances are more relevant than ever. One in every five deaths in the world is linked to unhealthy eating habits but unfortunately, we are going backwards in the fight against global hunger. He also mentioned the importance of reducing food losses and waste, which is both a moral imperative and a need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

During the panel discussion, Helena Guarin Corredor, Head of Sector Nutrition, DG DEVCO, underlined the EU’s advancement on the objective of eradicating hunger through a new policy directive that addresses all forms of malnutrition. The Commission has allocated 3 billion EUR in nutrition actions between 2014 and 2018. Viwanou Gnassounou, Assistant Secretary General, ACP Secretariat, stated that nutrition, including obesity, is a priority issue also within the ACP that must be treated from a multidisciplinary perspective. He announced, that the ACP has decided to put 30 million EUR aside from EU budget to tackle non-communicable diseases, such as obesity, in the Caribbean and Pacific. Kaisa Heikkilä, Chair of the Council Working Party for DEVCO, referred to the importance of strong partnerships, the commitment to gender equality in policies, and the EU’s key role in supporting the nutrition agenda and stunting reduction. Alzira Ferreira, Director of the WFP Office to the EU, underlined that preparedness for disasters is crucial, and further focused on the importance of applying a comprehensive approach that includes good nutrition, the provision of services such as health and education, as well as gender sensitivity. Sandie Blanchet, Director UNICEF Brussels, underlined the importance of nutrition during childhood, which provides a unique window of opportunity for development of children and a country’s human capital. UNICEF advocates for a cross-sectoral approach that includes access to health care, clean water, and education services.

During an interactive presentation, Jenny Chandler, food writer and cook, stated the importance of a balanced and diverse diet, particularly for women, as the diet has knock-on effects on birth rates and stunting. Together with Nancy Aburto, FAO Deputy Director, Nutrition and Food Systems Divison, she explained the Minimum Dietary Diversity for Women (MDD-W) Indicator in an interactive game. Felix Phiri, Scaling Up Nutrition Focal Point, Malawi, stressed that in Malawi obesity is more prevalent than underweight and food safety is often forgotten in these discussions.  Mella Frewen, Director General, FoodDrinkEurope, mentioned the importance of the private sector in tackling malnutrition and of marketing as a way for the promotion of a healthy diet.

MEP Franc Bogovic (EPP) mentioned the generational change regarding awareness of how we speak and understand nutrition. MEP Marlene Mortler (EPP) called for an EP intergroup in nutrition, resources and life economy. She sees food waste, appreciation of produce, education and small farmers as priority topics. Finally, MEP Marc Tarabella, (S&D) stated that policy coherence is key, therefore the EU must tackle contradictions within development, trade and nutrition policies.

In his concluding remarks, Martin Hoppe, Head of the Food and Nutrition Security, Global Food Policy, Fisheries Division of the BMZ, stressed the interlinkage of climate change, agriculture and food production. Nutrition should be on the top of the political agenda at all level as the human right to food is the most violated right in the world today. He called on the MEPs to assure that the budget under the next Multiannual Financial Framework works for the development and nutrition agenda. Germany will support the revision of the policy framework for food and nutrition security and aims at concluding it during the German Council Presidency in 2020. Germany will continue to be a strong partner in working specifically on food systems as well as maternity and child nutrition, for instance through the new strategic cooperation “Capacity for Nutrition” (C4N) between DG DEVCO and BMZ.