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© NCD Alliance | Corinna Hawkes and Jamie Oliver Speak at WHA69 Nutrition Side Event

Teaming up with Jamie Oliver to urge for more action to end malnutrition

03rd June 2016

On May 23 2016, Corinna Hawkes moderated a side-event on nutrition at the World Health Assembly, the annual meeting of the Member States of the World Health Organization in Geneva. Speaking from the podium were representatives of over 10 national governments, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan and the chef and campaigner, Jamie Oliver.

May 23rd 2016 was an unexpected day. If someone had told me a few years back that I would be wandering the corridors of the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva with Jamie Oliver, I wouldn’t have believed them. If someone had told me when I first encountered him in 1999, smiling fresh-faced from the cover of his first cookbook The Naked Chef, that 17 years later we’d be discussing wonkish politics and policy in a Facebook Live broadcast, I would not have believed them. And if someone had told me when I first started to move between the disjointed undernutrition and obesity/NCD communities, that in 2016, ministers and advocates concerned with food insecurity, undernutrition, obesity and NCDs would be sitting in the same room at a World Health Assembly side-event, championing the same cause, making commitments to change, and listening to Jamie, I would not have believed them either.

Good things come to those… who work hard

It’s nice that life has these surprises. But these things don’t happen by chance; they reflect hard work and commitment over the years. In this year’s Global Nutrition Report, to be published on June 14, we report on what Jamie Oliver learned: that Jamie had the opportunity to speak out about malnutrition, and he did. Making that commitment is a first step we all need to take rather than waiting for governments to lead the way.

Governments need to act on malnutrition… urgently

But we do need governments, and we need them to step up their game urgently. They are the ones who do the wonkish policy design and negotiate the political minefields. At the side-event on May 23rd, over 10 governments laid out the actions they are taking to improve nutrition and their commitments for further action. The trouble is - as we also show in the 2016 Global Nutrition Report - governments have made plenty of international commitments to end malnutrition in all its forms, but have long ways to go to deliver. Making commitments is not good enough. It’s our job at the Global Nutrition Report to hold governments accountable for what they say they will do. And to do so, we need their commitments to be SMART -- that is, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound - which is why we produced this guide to making SMART commitments.  We hope they will continue to do so as we enter the new Decade of Action for Nutrition, proclaimed by the UN General Assembly for 2016-2025.

Unifying to fight malnutrition… in all its forms

The highlight of the side event for me - which I had the pleasure of moderating - was the feeling of unity. We know there are many forms of malnutrition and we all need to work together solve them. Many congratulations to the 13 NGOs from across the malnutrition spectrum, including the NCD Alliance, for organising the event along with the Finnish government. I was also very happy to see the publication produced by WCRF International and the NCD Alliance for the event with examples of what we call “double duty actions” which have the potential to impact undernutrition, obesity and NCDs simultaneously.

At the core of these actions is the simple fact reinforced by Jamie Oliver himself in his video calling on us all to join the Food Revolution:

“…it’s crazy that millions of children get too much of the wrong food, while millions more get too little good food”. - Jamie Oliver

There is something wrong with this picture which we – governments, the United Nations, civil society, academia and the people of the food system - must work together to fix.


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About the Author

Corinna Hawkes (@CorinnaHawkes) is Professor of Food Policy and Director, Centre for Food Policy, City University London (@FoodPolicyCity) and Co-Chair, Global Nutrition Report (@GNReport) an annual stock-take on the state of the world’s nutrition. Her work examines the links between food policies, food systems, diet, and health with the goal of identifying more effective food policies to address malnutrition in all its forms. She is a member of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems and the Lancet Commission on Obesity.