At its forty-fifth session, the Committee for Programme and Coordination invited CEB to continue to monitor the effective coordination of system-wide efforts against hunger and poverty and recommended that CEB include in its next annual overview report information on progress being achieved and problems being encountered by the relevant inter-agency mechanisms.

In addition to the three Rome-based agencies (the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the World Food Programme, the International Fund for Agricultural Development), a number of other organizations of the system (among them, the World Bank, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization) are engaged in efforts that combine immediate assistance for the poor and the hungry with long-term development programmes that aim at boosting productivity, creating employment and increasing the value of people’s assets with the objective of halving world hunger by 2015. This work includes:

  • The elaboration of a strategy to address hunger, agriculture and rural development as part of an action plan on the Millennium Declaration, the Millennium Development Goals and other international development goals for the period 2006-2008;
  • Beginning work on the “Ending child hunger and undernutrition initiative”, aimed at creating a global alliance of national authorities and all other concerned actors to mobilize the intellectual, political, financial and operational resources required to address and end child hunger;
  • Advocacy within the framework of the International Alliance Against Hunger, established in 2003 by the World Food Summit: five years later, to promote greater political will and practical action to rapidly reduce the incidence of hunger and rural poverty;
  • The establishment or strengthening of collaborative programmes to support African countries under the aegis of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

At the same time, work is continuing to secure broad inter-agency cooperation to address interrelated issues of hunger, malnutrition and poverty eradication, with the United Nations system Standing Committee on Nutrition serving as the focal point for promoting harmonized nutrition policies and strategies throughout the United Nations system. In June 2005, the Standing Committee held, under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council, a special meeting on the critical role of nutrition for reaching the Millennium Development Goals, in preparation for the September 2005 World Summit.

The Standing Committee has also developed a strategic framework and action plan to help countries address the double burden of malnutrition.  The plan aims at accelerating achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and curbing the rise in nutrition-related chronic diseases. The action plan sets objectives, goals and targets to be reached over the next five years, and lays out the actions needed to achieve them.

Another important United Nations system instrument for addressing the issue of hunger is the Network on Rural Development and Food Security, which promotes the exchange of information and fosters joint inter-agency activities related to rural development and food security at the international level. Its forty national thematic groups have proved to be effective coordination mechanisms in support of United Nations agencies country-level activities. They have also allowed for sharing experiences, exchanging creative approaches and identifying best practices. In several cases, the thematic groups have become the natural interface between the United Nations system, Governments’ planning machinery and other stakeholders in the private sector, non-governmental organizations and civil society. The Network also provides strong support to the implementation of the International Alliance Against Hunger. Budget limitations constrain the further development of activities of the Network at the national level.

The international response to reducing undernutrition has generally been insufficient. For the most part, the response has been confined within narrow disciplines and sectoral boundaries. The main difficulties encountered by the organizations of the system in addressing the issue of malnutrition and hunger include:

  • A decline of over 50 per cent in the share of agricultural official development assistance during the last decade: inadequate financial resources to address structural issues in the agricultural sector remain a principal impediment;
  • The limited knowledge and understanding that continues to prevail of the actual and potential roles, relationships and complementarities of the relevant United Nations agencies; the many ministries involved within national Governments; and the multitude of non-governmental organizations engaged in addressing malnutrition;
  • Lack of clarity around food and nutrition indicators. The terms hunger and malnutrition are not always used with the same meaning by different nutrition professionals, let alone other non-specialized actors. Consequently, the key messages are inconsistent or lack consistency;
  • The notion that the proactive solution of hunger and malnutrition can be a platform for accelerating development is not sufficiently shared by all the relevant development actors.