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Hunger on the Agenda at World Economic Forum

Summary

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting (WEF), held in Davos, Switzerland, is a unique event where the world’s most pressing issues are discussed. This year was no exception. The gathering presented an important opportunity for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to advocate for the needs of nearly 900 million people suffering from chronic hunger.

For the ninth year in a row, WFP travelled to Davos to engage with influential political, economic and business leaders and to cultivate innovative ideas and partnerships that are required to meet the food and nutritional needs of the world’s most vulnerable people. WFP’s participation in the WEF was made possible by the generous support of 15 sponsors of the WFP Tent, an official WEF site.

At the WFP world leaders’ event, the WFP, UNICEF and UNESCO – along with the private sector – announced a renewed partnership to expand children’s access to quality education and nutritious food. The Nourishing Bodies, Nourishing Minds initiative will deepen collaboration between the three agencies by beginning with a three-year pilot in Haiti, Mozambique, Niger and Pakistan – four countries particularly marked by high levels of malnutrition and low levels of schooling.

“This is not a new programme. It’s a better collaboration of efforts, working together better for those we serve,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, who was joined at the event by UN Secretary-General Bank Ki-moon and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake also took part in the event via video message.

WFP’s role in the partnership will focus on its school meals program, which provides nutritious meals to over 20 million children around the world. Cousin explained that in addition to providing children with the vitamins and energy they need to learn and grow, school meals also “act as a magnet,” giving children an incentive to come to class.

The private sector, in turn, contributes its financial and technical capacity to the partnership, which can be leveraged to foster innovation and measure progress in reaching better education outcomes.

“Hunger and poor nutrition can destroy a child’s ability to learn and flourish,” said the Secretary-General about the partnership, who praised it as an excellent example of collaboration among agencies and between sectors. “Nourishing Bodies, Nourishing Minds” builds upon the Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative and combines his top three development priorities: health, nutrition and education.

WFP also participated in a high-level breakfast session, hosted by DSM and Unilever and moderated by New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, which outlined the role of the private sector, civil society and governments in promoting proper nutrition. The discussion focused on the importance of the first 1,000 days of life, the “business case” for investing in nutrition and the need to keep nutrition on the post-2015 agenda for the Millennium Development Goals.

“Partnerships bring innovation, initiatives and investments that we, and the people we reach, otherwise wouldn’t have access to,” said Cousin during the session.
Panellists also included Kevin Jenkins (CEO World Vision), David Nabarro (UN Special Representative on Food Security and Nutrition), Paul Polman (CEO Unilever), Feike Sijbesma (CEO DSM) and Marc Van Ameringen (Executive Director GAIN).

Following the session, WFP and DSM signed a new three-year agreement to strengthen their existing partnership to combat global malnutrition. WFP and DSM will seek to double the number of people who benefit from their work together, from the current annual reach of 15 million to up to 30 million per year by 2015. DSM contributes its scientific expertise and resources to help WFP improve the nutritional value of its food basket.

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