A guest blog by Jane Badham, JB Consultancy, South Africa
When you wake up in Davos, it is to a winter wonderland in an idyllic Swiss Alpine resort and it is easy to forget why you are there.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) states on its homepage that it is “an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.” This got me wondering as to what ENGAGEMENT truly is.
The Free On-line Dictionary gives some ten possible meanings including ‘To draw into; involve’ and making it more personal, those that are engaged should ‘involve oneself or become occupied; participate’. It is thus essentially about conversation, discussion, debate and sharing of thoughts and so many of us who attended the WEF and expected to walk away with a list of concrete actions that are going to be taken, might be disappointed. But I have begun to learn that if you are not on the chess board, you can’t play the game! And so the great news from Davos 2012 for nutrition is that a number of events were held were nutrition (often partnered with food security) was placed under the spotlight.
The tipping points
Four key tipping point issues for me were highlighted:-
- The need for a diverse range of stakeholders to invest in nutrition especially during the first 1000 days of life;
- The importance of scaling-up proven and cost effective nutrition interventions at a country level with countries leading the process;
- The fact that we have to have out of the box thinking and look at new ways (‘Disruptive innovation’ as it was described by one participant) to solve what might seem like an intractable problem;
- The recognition that we all have to work in partnership and harness the strengths of others that we have not typically drawn into nutrition.
Thus it seemed that the WEF 2012 theme ‘The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models’ is as relevant to nutrition as it may be to any of the numerous other topics that were included in the packed agenda and that had people rushing from place to place to engage!
Transforming the way nutrition does business
It was fitting that the day of food and nutrition security at Davos began with a breakfast honouring what is undoubtedly the best initiative that nutrition has seen in a long time – the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement (www.scalingupnutrition.org).
The inaugural Sight and Life (www.sightandlife.org) Nutrition Leadership Award was presented by Klaus Kraemer to David Nabarro, who as Marc van Ammeringen of GAIN (www.gainhealth.org) said “stepped up in 2009 and took the leadership role when nutrition didn’t really want to be led and since then through the SUN structure and process has brought everyone together and has finally given nutrition traction.”
David was quick to make it clear as he accepted the award on behalf of SUN, that the award was not to him as an individual “but to the thousands who have come together to make the SUN shine.” It was exactly the making of a global movement with collaboration never seen before coming together to support the SUN team and the now 26 countries that have signed on and committed to scaling up nutrition, that was the reason for SUN being chosen for this award. Now we need others to step forward to claim the award in the years to come by making the SUN truly shine and reach the millions most in need.
David thinks big - “nutrition should become a new development goal on its own as we look beyond 2015” but perhaps many of us in nutrition haven’t dared aspire to these heights or just perhaps we silently recognized we cannot do it alone and yet remained in the security of our silo. A recurring theme wherever food and nutrition security were discussed was the need for partnerships; the need for everyone to take ownership; the need to stop apportioning blame as to who should have done or should do what. It is all of our problem and in the words of Josette Scheeran of the World Food Programme (www.wfp.org) who moderated the session on 'Ensuring Food Security' (http://www.livestream.com/worldeconomicforum) “The topic of food affects every person on earth. It can’t wait until tomorrow – many things are optional, but this is not… If people don’t have food they have 3 options: They can revolt, they can migrate or they can die. We need a better plan. ”
The time is NOW
So as much as Davos is about engagement, I left with a plea to each one of us working in the arena of public health and nutrition - to lead from where we stand. To truly engage by turning words into actions, to take a leap and partner with those we might never have considered. For nutrition to have the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon include it is his Five-Year Action Agenda (http://www.everywomaneverychild.org/component/content/article/10-media/235-remarks-remarks-to-the-general-assembly-on-five-year-action-agenda-qthe-future-we-wantq) and for food and nutrition security to have been spoken about in no less than four events at Davos, truly means we are reaching new heights, BUT it must not just be on the snowy hills of the Swiss Alps, it must become a reality in countries, communities, homes and individual lives across the world.