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close this bookSCN News, Number 16 - Nutrition of the School-aged Child (ACC/SCN, 1998, 80 p.)
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Message From the Chairman

SCN's 23st Year and 25th Session: a worthy celebration in Oslo, Norway

The 21st anniversary of SCN's founding and its 25th Session was an important occasion. UN Agencies, Bilaterals and the Advisory Group on Nutrition (AGN) were present in force, with a new participant - the Asian Development Bank. With more NGO participants than ever before, the turnout for the opening of the Symposium -Challenges for the 21st Century: A Gender Perspective on Nutrition Through the Life Cycle - was probably a record, and the opening addresses by the Norwegian Minister of International Development and Human Rights Dr Hide Frafjord Johnson, and Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norway's former Prime Minister and Director-General of WHO, made the event very special. It was most fitting that this 25111 Session of the SCN was hosted by a national government - Norway - a first in SCN history.

The Session itself was full and substantive. The various working groups spent the weekend discussing scientific, policy and programmatic developments and developed priorities and recommendations for action (for a summary of discussions see page 24). Highlights of the Session included:

· the presentation by Philip James on the preliminary findings of the Commission on Nutrition in the 21st Century, which provoked lively discussion and debate (see SCN 25th Session report, available from the SCN Secretariat in Geneva or on the SCN web-site - http://www.unsystem.org/accscn/);

· the 1998 Abraham Horwitz Lecture - a most lively and unforgettable presentation on breastfeeding by Isatou Semega-Janneh;

· the presentation of the Third Report on the World Nutrition Situation, with its encouraging news of the significant progress over the last two decades in reducing stunting in all regions of the world (except Sub-Saharan Africa);

· the splendid presentation by Mercedes de Onis and Cutberto Garza on the WHO research project to develop a new reference for child growth.

The 25th Session gave us an opportunity to look back at the vision and creativity of the SCN's founders. With the help of George Beaton (who had reviewed the SCN records), my opening remarks underlined some of the SCN's pioneering achievements:

· its very creation by ECOSOC in 1977 as a 'triumvirate' (Dick Heyward's terminology) - the UN Agencies, Bilaterals and the AGN. It is probably the first interagency committee of the ACC to include civil society as an integral part of its structure;

· SCN's leadership in proposing and mobilising action in key areas of nutrition: iodine deficiency, vitamin A and iron;

· the establishment of interagency mechanisms for reporting on key areas of nutrition, the Reports on the World Nutrition Situation, the Nutrition Policy Papers, the regular reports of the Refugee Nutrition Information System;

· SCN's basic work in providing a forum for strengthening coordination - by sharing information on past and future activities, and by reviewing implementation of major international commitments made at the World Summit for Children, the International Conference on Nutrition and the World Food Summit.

I hope all of us left Oslo with a new sense of opportunity and challenge. For all the progress, high levels of under-nutrition are still an outrage and violation of the human right to food and nutrition in a world where global consumption totals $24 trillion and where we now have knowledge and practical examples of how undenutrition can be rapidly reduced.

Soon we will have a draft report setting out the elements of a strategic plan for enhanced interagency collaboration to accelerate action to achieve nutrition goals. Sonya Rabeneck, Lilian Marovatsanga and I have visited UN Agencies for discussions in the preparation of this report. Already one clear lesson has emerged - that there is as much need to strengthen nutrition priorities and coordination within agencies as there is to strengthen coordination between agencies. As SCN Chairman, I wish all SCN participants and SCN's wide group of supporters every success as we respond to the nutrition challenges ahead.