A global gathering to tackle malnutrition: what we learned

Advocacy, Monitoring and Evaluation, Regional Planning, West and Central Africa

At the start of November, the Ivory Coast government hosted the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement Global Gathering.

The Scaling Up Nutrition Movement was established in response to the growing recognition of the problem of undernutrition and concern that the international system was failing to deal with it effectively. The movement inspired a new way of working, bringing together the UN, civil society, the private sector and donors alongside country governments to address malnutrition collectively.

The SUN Civil Society Network, which was established in 2013, is a vital part of the movement. The network brings together civil society organisations globally and in 40 countries across the world to coordinate nutrition interventions, share learning and ensure the needs of the most vulnerable people are addressed by governments. By working together, we can avoid duplication, accelerate progress more quickly, and amplify our voices. Save the Children is a member of the network and proud to host the Civil Society Secretariat in London.

The 3-day SUN Global Gathering last month brought together more than 1,000 participants from 70 countries, with representatives from across the movement including civil society, donors, United Nations agencies, the private sector, academia and the media, as well as parliamentarians and high-profile global leaders. It was a fantastic opportunity for people from all over the world to meet, share success stories and celebrate what has been achieved since the movement began in 2010.

With more than 100 representatives from national SUN civil society alliances, it was a wonderful opportunity to showcase the incredible work they are doing around the world, highlighting the crucial role that civil society plays in shaping and implementing national plans to tackle malnutrition. The value of civil society was emphasised throughout presentations and workshops, as well as by a range of stakeholders, including government ministries.

Key themes that were discussed during the conference included the importance of:

  • putting gender equality at the heart of all our work
  • amplifying the voices of young people and their experiences of malnutrition
  • setting out how we can work more effectively with the private sector to tackle malnutrition
  • building our monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning processes in order to communicate our impact
  • increasing our focus on nutrition planning in fragile and conflict-affected states.

Former president of Tanzania Jakaya Kikwete highlighted the importance of continuing to increase awareness of malnutrition within governments, telling us:

“I became a champion [for nutrition] by being educated. So, if you want other leaders to be champions then reach out to them.”

Arriving back in London after an exhausting and exhilarating week at the Global Gathering, there are many things that we can reflect on as a Civil Society Network. There are many exciting ways that we can continue to grow and improve, which we are looking forward to turning this into reality.

Personally, there are several things that struck me from my first SUN Global Gathering:

  • The passion and determination that exists in every part of the world to drive forward the fight for change. When we start to doubt if the change is possible, this should motivate us to keep going.
  • The awesome presence that civil society had at the event, from having a strong social media presence to ending the 3-day conference in a celebratory dance.
  • The importance of partnerships and the real sense of a SUN ‘family’ which provides nothing but support for one another.
  • And most of all, the civil society are the ‘movers and shakers’ in ending the fight to malnutrition.

David Nabarro, the former coordinator of the SUN movement and the UK’s nomination for Director-General of the World Health Organisation, remarked during the Global Gathering that on top of our partnership, innovation and determination, “the SUN Movement is nothing without love”. What’s clear to me is that civil society has heaps of it!