Chef Zubaida Tariq selecting pulses at a grocery stall at Empress Market, a famous market in downtown Karachi, Pakistan.

2 December 2016, Rome  – A high-level international symposium on nutrition ended here today with a resounding reminder of the importance of promoting healthy diets and ensuring adequate nutrition for everyone in order to eradicate hunger and malnutrition by 2030 – a goal set by the UN Member nations last year. The conference was jointly organized by FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO).

In his closing remarks, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva highlighted the need “to promote the transformational change in food systems and food environment to tackle all forms of malnutrition and promote healthy diets.”

“Healthy diets start with healthy soils and healthy seeds. These are the base for sustainable agriculture and for production of nutritious food. They are also important to build sustainable food systems that contribute to reduce food waste and loss,” he said.

“Only healthy food systems can produce healthy diets,” he added. 

Concerted action at all levels 

Noting that improving nutrition is a public issue, he called for stronger political commitment at national level, as well as greater collaboration among all stakeholders including the private sector, civil society and parliamentarians.

In his speech, Graziano da Silva also stressed the importance of empowering smallholder and family farmers who need better access to productive resources and should have “equal voice, equal access and equal rights in our quest to end hunger and malnutrition”. 

 “Today’s complex food and nutrition challenges can no longer be addressed by the agriculture or health sector acting in isolation,” said Oleg Chestnov, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health.

“Making fruits, vegetables and pulses much more available requires policy support from agriculture. Regulating product formulation, labelling, advertisement and taxes need policy support from public health. Over the past two days, we have learned a lot about various policies and actions countries are taking. If implemented by more governments and at scale, they have the potential to reshape our food systems and improve the nutrition and health of all people,” Chestnov said.

Decade of Action on Nutrition

Graziano da Silva also noted that the Decade of Action on Nutrition could be “a great platform for mobilizing concerted action to end malnutrition in every country.”

“This must also be the Decade of Impact”, he said. 

The International Decade on Nutrition was declared by the UN in April 2016 to step up both national and international efforts to meet the nutrition-related targets of the new Sustainable Development Agenda.

 “Changing the food system requires extraordinary commitment, courage and persistence, even if we have all the facts on our side. The UN Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016-2025 offers an umbrella for all nutrition actors to coordinate action and strengthen collaboration,” he added.

High-level participation

Throughout the two-day event, King Letsie III of Lesotho was announced FAO’s newest Special Ambassador for Nutrition. He joined Queen Letizia of Spain in this role, who also attended the symposium as special guest. The Director-General stressed that the presence of King Letsie III and Queen Letizia would help strengthen the international commitment to provide adequate nutrition for everyone.  

The FAO/WHO Symposium on Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets and Improved Nutrition brought together more than 600 country representatives, parliamentarians, researchers, health and nutrition experts from civil society, private sector, academia and other stakeholders. It was chaired by the Minister of Health for Italy, Beatrice Lorenzin.

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