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High Level Meeting on Nutrition

Irish Aid, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Speech, Africa, 2011
Tánaiste's statement at the UN High Level Meeting on Nutrition, New York, 20 September 2011

Thank You for your kind introduction and to all of the speakers that have taken the floor today for their inspiring words. 

As we assemble here today some 12 million people, nearly three times the population of Ireland, are severely hungry in the Horn of Africa.  Ireland, with other partners, is responding to this terrible crisis with immediate relief and direct assistance.

However, when this crisis has finally passed, the vulnerability to similar future shocks will remain. The combined forces of drought, conflict and high food prices will continue to impact on peoples’ ability to access adequate nutrition.

There is now a global recognition that short-term relief must be situated within a longer term strategy to reduce the vulnerability to hunger.

Comprehensive initiatives such as the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement have the real potential to change the future, reduce vulnerability and make a difference for those who need it most.  Undernutrition is one of the most pervasive and yet least addressed problems of global development. This is simply unacceptable given that we now have the knowledge, and the means, to entirely prevent it.   

It is indeed fitting that today’s gathering is taking place at the same time as the UN High Level Meeting on Non-communicable Disease Prevention and Control.  The clear link between undernutrition in the first 1000 days of a child’s life and chronic non-communicable disease in later life is now widely acknowledged.

One year ago tomorrow, Ireland and the United States came together with the Secretary-General and many of you here today, and others, to launch the SUN Road Map. 

The Report prepared for today’s event charts the very considerable progress the SUN Movement has made in the last year. 

The report underlines the increased political commitment to nutrition across the 18 “early riser” countries.  The level of interest from developing countries leaders to join the SUN Movement has been one of the most notable and heartening aspects of the last year.  

We can now state for certain that SUN has the capacity to make a sustainable difference to the lives of millions – indeed whole societies – assuring the health and prosperity of future generations. We have made enormous progress in the last three-hundred and sixty-five days of our mission.

And the message is clear!  It is real leadership on Scaling Up Nutrition that makes the difference.

In addition, SUN has encouraged a spirit of working together by development partners and all segments of society in support of national efforts.  This is its real strength.

In the last year, together we have risen to the task that we set ourselves to make this a truly global movement. What we need to do now is ensure that this progress is sustained in the years ahead.

Last year Ireland committed to 1,000 Days of Action to Scale Up Nutrition.  We committed to lead by influence and example.  We committed to support national governments in their own efforts to scale up nutrition.

Throughout the year we have worked with our partners to deliver on these commitments. We have worked to raise awareness of the centrality of nutrition internationally.

Internally in our aid programme- Irish Aid, we have aligned our structures, our programmes and our budgets to ensure delivering on SUN remains a core priority of the Government.

In June I was delighted to join Prime Minister Pinda and Secretary Clinton in Dar-es-Salaam where we launched the SUN Movement in Tanzania.  At that meeting the Government of Tanzania announced a set of meaningful measures aimed at combating undernutrion.    Ireland will continue to support the Government of Tanzania’s efforts to Scale Up Nutrition. 

In Malawi, where Ireland and the United States are working together as SUN donor-convenors, inspiring work has been taking place.  The 1,000 Special Days campaign launched in June brought knowledge of SUN to the whole population, targeting change at the national, district and household level.  Development partners in Malawi have committed to support the Government’s efforts, and are working together to align that support. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

If the SUN Movement is to continue to progress it is essential that momentum is sustained. 

I would like to take a moment to recognise the leadership of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Food Security and Nutrition, David Nabarro, which has been essential for the success of the Movement.   The United Nations family has a critical role to play in ensuring the sustainability of the SUN Movement, and must show continued leadership to maintain the momentum already built.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted that we have witnessed such progress in getting the SUN Movement off the ground.  Over the next year we must focus on delivering better nutrition for mothers and children at household level - which if replicated across countries and regions will support the growth and development of a new next generation which will drive their nations’ progress and wellbeing. Working together we, as a Movement, have the ability to make this a reality.  Let’s deliver on our commitment to do so.