Asia Regional Group unites – all for one, one for all!

Monitoring and Evaluation, Regional Planning, Asia

Blog by May Thukha Soe, Co Chair of SUN CSA Myanmar.

“This July, Civil Society Alliances (CSAs) across the Asia region – Bangladesh, Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos, Nepal, Pakistan, and Philippines – gathered in the beautiful city of Kathmandu, Nepal for the SUN Civil Society Network Asia Learning Exchange. “

The objective of the event was to strengthen coordination among fellow Asian CSAs, share knowledge and examples of best practices, identify opportunities for joint advocacy and influence the direction of the SUN Movement.

What’s happening in the region?

SUN CSAs in Asia have been leading a range of activities to help scale up nutrition in their countries, including; budget advocacy, behaviour change campaigns, research and evidence collection from programmes, training of journalists, engaging parliamentarians as champions for nutrition, mapping of nutrition stakeholders to enable effective coordination, advocating for changes to laws and legislation and monitoring violations of the BMS marketing code.

During the learning exchange, regional CSA members pledged to unite and work together over the coming years to make progress on priority issues for the region. The key areas that we will focus on are; ensuring good nutrition in the first 1000 days, supporting the development of national multi-stakeholder, multisector nutrition plans, highlighting needs of the most marginalised including women and girls, improving exclusive breastfeeding rates, increasing funding for nutrition and building the capacity local civil society organisations as implementers contributing to the delivery of national nutrition plans. By working together, continuing to share experiences and engaging in regional forums, our voice will be louder, we will be more effective and we can accelerate progress to achieving an end to malnutrition.

In addition, CSAs from each of the 9 countries will be delivering their own national plans to make progress on specific national priorities. Planned activities include; engaging Members of Parliament, increasing civil society coordination, advocating for a flour fortification law, linkages between gender and nutrition, building decentralised capacity and organising community mobilisation.

However, CSAs in the region are also facing major barriers which, if not tackled together, risk preventing the delivery of these plans and slowing down progress on nutrition. The common challenges identified by the group of CSAs included; ensuring the sustainability of alliances through staff retention and funding, increasing the low capacity of member organisations particularly with regards to time and skills, coordinating across multiple sectors and stakeholders (E.g. private sector, UN), shrinking CSOs space, and ensuring national BMS Code legislation is monitored and adhered to.

Call to Action

As a group we have developed a regional call to action to highlight the action needed by decision makers to help us reach our goal of ending malnutrition.

Together we are calling for:
– Effective planning and coordiantion – promoting effective functioning of multi-stakeholder platforms as a forum for national nutrition planning, ensuring there is a clear role for civil society and a focus on a decentralised approach.
– Prioritisation of nutrition and SMART commitments to fully fund national nutrition plans.
– Implementation of commitments and legislation – ensure legislation such as right to food, is in place to support the effective implementation of national nutrition plans. Moreover, ensure that legislation is being enforced and other stakeholders, such as the private sector, are being held accountable to it. Our priority as a region is the the enforcement of the BMS marketing code.

About the Author: May is a Nutrition Specialist working at Plan International Myanmar. She is also the co-chair of the SUN Civil Society Alliance in Myanmar.