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Nutrition in EU development policy discussions

The European Commission has adopted a policy paper (a ‘communication’) on maternal and child nutrition in EU external assistance.

The paper will be discussed by both the European Parliament and the 27 EU member state governments over the coming weeks.

Communication contents

The communication from the Commission presents a very comprehensive overview of the policy areas that affect nutrition. It was released with a press release and overarching  background details.

The paper first outlines the rational for a policy, and goes on to detail its guiding principles and objectives.

Three strategic priorities are then described:
1. Enhanced mobilisation and political commitment for nutrition.
2. Scale up actions needed at the country level.
3. Knowledge and expertise needed for nutrition.

Next the paper outlines the accountability necessary for results, before ending with a summary of the steps the EU should take.

More details needed

Because the communication is only 14 pages in length, it paints the issues in the broadest of brush strokes.

A separate more lengthy document is to be produced giving much greater details on how this general policy is to be implemented.

The reactions to the paper by both the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers will also finalise the policy framework.

Ireland leads the way

The Council of Ministers discussions of the paper will be chaired by the Irish presidency of the EU. It was Ireland’s priorities that placed nutrition on the EU’s development agenda.

The Irish are also a lead player on nutrition in development within the global community too, being a leading donor member of the Scaling Up Nutrition movement – the so-called SUN group of countries.

Indeed, the Irish government is hosting a meeing in Dublin in April with the Mary Robinson Foundation on hunger, nutrition and climate justice.

The next few months will see the Irish make a substantial contribution to efforts to address nutrition internationally.

Filling in the gaps

In all of these discussions, it will be important that policy details on what interventions can make a real difference are not neglected as the debate ranges over the broad and the general.

For example, while the policies and interventions necessary to secure an increase in breastfeeding rates are covered in generic terms, breastfeeding itself is not mentioned – despite being a key nutrition policy issue.

Save the Children has produced a report – Superfoods for Babies – outlining what these are and the significance of raising breastfeeding rates. Yet the general nature of the Commission communication means that this particular issue is not specifically addressed.

This is a gap in the EU nutrition policy that the more detailed document on implementation due from the European Commission and debates by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament should address.

Save the Children’s involvement

The Save the Children EU office, in partnership with other NGOs and organisations, will be working to ensure that actions to increase breastfeeding, along with other effective interventions, are included within the final EU framework for maternal and child nutrition in external policies.

This would have a real impact in improving lives across the world.

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