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close this bookEnding Malnutrition by 2020: An Agenda for Change in the Millennium - Final report to the ACC/SCN by the commission on the nutrition challenges of the 21st century (ACC/SCN, 2000, 104 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentExecutive Summary: Main Messages of the Commission Report
Open this folder and view contents1. Recent Progress
Open this folder and view contents2. Global Nutrition Challenges: A Life-Cycle Approach
Open this folder and view contents3. Societal Issues Underlying Malnutrition: Implications for Progress
Open this folder and view contents4. Food, Agriculture and Environment: Future Challenges
Open this folder and view contents5. Food, Nutrition and Human Rights
Open this folder and view contents6. Vision and Goals for the Future
Open this folder and view contents7. Establishing a New Agenda for Change
View the documentAnnex 1: The Establishment and Membership of the Commission
View the documentAnnex 2: Existing Nutrition Goals which Should be Maintained, Developed or Refined
View the documentAnnex 3: Ending Undernutrition in India by 2020
View the documentAnnex 4: Issues to be Considered by Regional and National Meetings
View the documentReferences

Executive Summary: Main Messages of the Commission Report

To live a life without malnutrition is a fundamental human right. The persistence of malnutrition, especially among children and mothers, in this world of plenty is immoral. Nutrition improvement anywhere in the world is not a charity but a societal, household and individual right. It is the world community's responsibility to find effective ways and means to invest for better livelihood and to avoid future unnecessary social and economic burdens. With collective efforts at international, national and community levels, ending malnutrition is both a credible and achievable goal.

The burden of malnutrition

"This is completely unacceptable by any standards of human decency.
We must do something right now to avoid this silent holocaust."
(World Bank Vice-President, Ismail Serageldin, 1997)

Elimination of undernutrition: a global deficit in policies and priorities

Note: If current trends continue, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) predicts that the numbers of underweight (weight-for-age <-2SD) children less than six years will only drop to 150 million by 2020. The World Food Summit set a goal to halve the number of food insecure people in 1996 by 2015. In this diagram it is assumed that the number of underweight children should also be halved during the same time frame. If the World Food Summit goal were to be achieved, 84 million preschool children would still be underweight in 2015. Experience from Thailand shows what is potentially achievable with the benefit of political, social and organizational commitment. Thailand was able to reduce the prevalence of underweight from over 50% in 1982 to 10% in 1996. The diagram shows the same proportional change applied to the world's underweight preschool children. The Commission suggests that with an amplified effort from governments and the UN system, eliminating underweight in preschool children by 2020 may be possible. The residual 2.5% reflects the accepted statistically derived lower cut-off point for normal growth in well-cared-for children from a reference population.


The Commission proposes a new paradigm of nutrition which incorporates the double burden of undernutrition and diet-related adult disease. This double burden is amplified by the link between maternal and fetal undernutrition and a population's susceptibility to adult diet-related disease. This is displayed when food consumption and activity patterns change during economic development.

The Commission's vision requires an acceleration in the development and implementation of national and international strategies which will allow societies and individuals to improve their life expectancy with minimum health handicaps from these preventable disorders in middle and old age.

The International Conference on Nutrition and the World Food Summit embodied remarkable global plans of action with new approaches to combatting undernutrition. Why has more not been achieved? The Commission identified several factors:

1) lack of a locus within many countries for highly motivated academics and NGOs to interact with political leaders and decision makers and drive forward the nutrition agenda;

2) frequent failure of health and agricultural sectors to combine forces to ensure coherent plans of action;

3) within-country rivalries: these are often amplified by the selective support of specific national programmes by NGOs, bilateral agencies and UN organisations;

4) the failure of some major financial institutions to follow the World Bank initiatives which require intersectoral measures to improve food security and human health when developing plans for economic reform and development;

5) failure of political leadership in many countries to realise the possibilities of making rapid improvements by prioritizing nutrition when allocating national resources.

The practical value and impact of existing goals has already been shown. The main need is for strong national action, often mobilised by the catalytic efforts and support of one or more of the UN agencies and its field staff. Many of the current goals relate to the year 2000; work is now needed to adapt and carry forward the goals into the 21st century.

Until now the UN has considered nutritional deficiencies and "excesses" as separate. This is no longer sensible. The Commission recognises that both dietary deficiency and adult chronic disease now affect developing countries as well as the developed world and Central and Eastern Europe. The two sets of disorders are fundamentally linked through poor maternal nutrition.

Just as progress against malnutrition will require action in many sectors, supported by professionals from many disciplines, so most of the main UN agencies must necessarily have a role in reducing malnutrition on a global scale. A strengthened mechanism is needed at UN level to ensure that its agencies can combine their best efforts. Table 1 summarises the recommendations of the Commission.


Over the last nine years, major international commitments have been made to reduce undernutrition. These were articulated at the World Summit for Children in 1990, the International Conference for Nutrition in 1992, and the World Food Summit in 1996. These Conferences emphasized the reduction of undernutrition as part of a broader strategy to eliminate poverty. Each Conference also emphasized the vital role of the UN family, and goals were seen as a focus for collaboration among the agencies and organisations involved in mobilizing and monitoring implementation.

Dramatic progress has been made in some areas of nutrition in recent years, especially in reducing iodine deficiency disorders and clinical vitamin A deficiency. Also, over the past two decades the proportion of underweight and stunted preschool children has declined in all regions of the world except for parts of Sub-Saharan Africa but the total number of undernourished children is still projected to increase, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. The elements of policy and strategy underlying the successful experiences differ considerably among countries. There is no single recipe for success.

In Thailand, a coherent national policy with explicit actions and changes in governmental support for wide-ranging community-based improvements led to remarkable declines in the prevalence of preschool underweight. Maternal death rates also fell by over 90%. This example shows that the requirement for achieving rapid reductions in undernutrition is purposeful action: a determined political commitment, clear goals, good strategic and programme planning, sustained action, and systematic monitoring within a physical and administrative infrastructure. To this must be added a process of mobilizing the public at large.

Costa Rica is another country which achieved tremendous progress in a relatively short period of time. This was brought about by a dramatic increase in health services to cover, a very large portion of the population, with emphasis on the prevention of communicable diseases, on maternal and child health, water and sanitation, and health education. These improvements were achieved rapidly within a democratic framework, and serve as an inspiring challenge to other developing countries.

The social and economic costs of poor nutrition are huge. Investing in nutrition makes good economic sense because it: reduces health care costs; reduces the burden of non-communicable diseases; improves productivity and economic growth; and promotes education, intellectual capacity and social development.

No economic analysis can fully encompass the benefits of sustained mental and physical development from childhood into adult life. Healthy adults with the physical capacity to maintain high work outputs, and with intellectual ability to flexibly adapt to new technologies, are a huge national asset.

Until 1997, many developing countries were benefiting from both reductions in poverty and an improvement in the nutrition and health of their children and adults. The sudden emergence of major financial crises in many Asian countries and in South America, however, may threaten much if not all of the progress made over the last decade if appropriate measures are not taken.

The set-backs are not confined to the developing world. In parts of Central and Eastern Europe there has been a remarkable fall in life expectancy in the 1990s, coinciding with the sudden change in government and national financial management.


The Commission identified eight major inter-linked nutrition challenges:

1) Some 30 million infants are born each year in developing countries with intra-uterine growth retardation, representing about 24% of all newborns in these countries. Population-wide interventions aimed at preventing fetal growth retardation are urgently needed.

2) There are still more than 150 million underweight preschool children worldwide, and more than 200 million stunted children. This underweight and stunting is the tip of the iceberg. Suboptimal growth may affect many more. Stunting is linked to mental impairment. At current rates of improvement about one billion children will be growing up by 2020 with impaired mental development.

3) High proportions of Asian and African mothers are undernourished: this is exacerbated by seasonal food shortages, especially in Africa. About 243 million adults in developing countries are severely undernourished, judged by a body mass index of less than 17 kg/m2 with greater numbers with modest underweight having an impaired, work capacity and a lower resistance to infection.

4) Anaemia during infancy, made worse by maternal undernutrition, causes poor brain development. Anaemia is also very prevalent in school children and adolescents. Maternal anaemia is pandemic, over 80% in some countries, and is associated with very high rates of maternal death.

5) Severe vitamin A deficiency is on the decline in all regions. However, subclinical vitamin A deficiency still affects between 140 to 250 million preschool children in developing countries, and is associated with high rates of morbidity and mortality. These numbers do not take into account vitamin A deficiency in older children and adults and thus seriously underestimate the total burden of vitamin A deficiency.

6) Evidence from both developing and industrialized countries suggests a fundamental link between maternal and early childhood undernutrition and an increased susceptibility in adult life to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. These diet-related diseases - including cancers -are already major public health challenges for developing countries.

7) Overweight and obesity are rapidly growing in all regions, affecting children and adults alike. There are about 250 million obese adults already and these problems are now so common in developing countries that they are dominating more traditional public health concerns such as undernutrition and infectious disease. Obesity, especially abdominal obesity promoted by early fetal and childhood undernutrition is a major risk factor for a number of NCDs, adult-onset diabetes in particular.

8) Efforts are needed to sustain the remarkable progress made in the past decade towards universal salt iodization and elimination of iodine deficiency disorders. Monitoring systems, quality control and sound legislation are key priorities, as well as improving outreach to isolated communities.

Other challenges include the following:

Refugees and displaced persons There has been an alarming rise in the number of emergency nutrition problems over the last ten years. The numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons peaked during the crisis in the African Great Lakes Region in 1995 when there were over 18 million in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. Experience has shown that when food aid deliveries are uninterrupted and humanitarian organizations have constant access to the displaced population, undernutrition rates can be kept to a minimum.

Physical activity is usually considered separately from nutrition, but the nutrition community now needs to have professional involvement with this issue. In the developing world, especially in rural areas, adults are engaged in high levels of physical activity which impose substantial demands on food needs. The ability to sustain work without becoming ill is impaired when adults are underweight. Rural and urban transport facilities need to be linked to physical activity and food needs to optimize health.

HIV/AIDS By the end of 1998 there were about 32 million adults and 1.2 million children living with HIV/AIDS. In total, 3 million children under 15 years of age world wide have contracted HIV since the beginning of the pandemic. 90% were born in Africa. In parts of Sub-Saharan Africa HIV/AIDS is wiping out an entire generation of the most economically active people. There is evidence that transmission rates and the progression of the disease are higher in undernourished populations.

Zinc deficiency has recently been brought to the attention of the international community. It is thought to be common in children and during pregnancy throughout the developing world. Mild to moderate zinc deficiency may be an important cause of child stunting. Zinc may have an important role in programmes designed to address common life-threatening childhood illnesses, such as lower respiratory infection and diarrhoea.

Changing food consumption patterns Food production, processing and food manufacturing have responded to mankind's inherent demand for sugary, salty and fatty foods. The culinary and industrial enhancement of the energy density of foods by adding fats and sugars is invaluable in times of need, but potentially disadvantageous in times of plenty, especially if sedentary lifestyles predominate. As societies become more urban, lifestyles tend to become less active and more sedentary. This set of changes is known as the nutrition transition, and is a major challenge facing the world in coming decades.

Food group issues Development plans have concentrated on increasing cereal production but horticulture should be promoted to aid the increased vegetable and fruit consumption needed to prevent childhood blindness and limit the development of cataracts, some adult cancers and cardiovascular disease. A major increase in fish and lean meat consumption in some communities, particularly in South Asia, would help prevent anaemia, promote childhood growth, enhance resistance to infection and improve maternal and fetal health with their long-term consequences. A transformation in the promotion and processing of fats to limit the rise in fat consumption to perhaps only 20% of dietary energy would also improve health. Economic development can occur without big surges in fat intake.

A double burden The harsh truth is that developing countries are now having to deal with a double burden of infectious disease, childhood mortality and undernutrition alongside diet-related NCDs. As well as the obvious health effects, this double burden has very serious economic and social implications for these countries. Treatment of NCDs is costly compared with public health preventive strategies. Favouring treatment rather than prevention is a mistake already made in the industrialized world.

Deepening inequalities In affluent Western societies increasing income inequality is linked to increasing health disparities between the rich and poor, despite sustained economic development. Many immigrant groups and other communities have a poor diet and an excess of the associated diseases. There is clear need for a new approach to health and food policies in most parts of the world. Strategies for improving access and availability of healthy diets at affordable prices for all communities should be a key part of these policies.

Healthy ageing The issue of healthy ageing is a major concern due to the increase in population numbers and the proportion of elderly. Body composition changes with age, with a decline in lean body mass. This, in turn, leads to decreased strength and mobility, imbalance and an increased frequency of fails. Thus, preserving muscle mass in old age is a strategy for preserving strength. Poor eye-sight is the most common functional impairment in the elderly. Nearly one half of 75 to 80 year olds suffer significant visual loss because of cataracts.


Results through concerted action Norway's experience illustrates how dramatic results can be achieved by concerted action in an industrialized country dealing with the impact of adult chronic disease. Through a mix of public nutrition interventions and coherent policies after WW II deaths attributable to coronary heart disease were halved over a 20-year period. Similarly, a community-based prevention and treatment programme aimed at high-risk groups worked well in Finland.

The Commission proposes a life-cycle approach. Nutrition challenges vary as we progress through the life-cycle. Adequate nutrition for pregnant women and young children is essential for growth and healthy physical and mental development. In adulthood, the issues are different: the challenge is to avoid premature death or disability from diet-related chronic diseases and to progress into fit and healthy old age. Good nutrition in early life pays dividends in childhood and in later life.

Nutrition throughout the life cycle.


Poverty is closely correlated with undernutrition. However, rapid improvement in nutrition will not necessarily be a direct result of economic growth. Nutrition may not even respond to improved income. Countries with similar Gross National Products (GNP) have very different rates of preschool underweight, for example. If income distribution is very unequal or if economic growth mostly reflects increases in production from agribusiness or large-scale industry, the benefits may not reach the undernourished. Nutrition in such cases may stagnate or even deteriorate.

Although economic growth can foster improvement in nutrition, many factors can influence this process. These include: the status of women in society, education and fertility rates, the burden of infectious disease, governmental commitment at the local and national level to health and nutrition issues, and the development of the primary health infrastructure. The value of these measures in limiting the impact of poverty is well illustrated by comparing the prevalence of underweight children in India as a whole with that in one of the poorest states, Kerala, where sustained educational, social and health and infrastructure policies have brought real benefit.

Women are the critical link both biologically and socially. Currently women in many parts of the world are hindered by gender discrimination. Women are also crucial as gatekeepers of their household's food security and as providers of care. The nutrition benefits that come from systematic community action to improve the care of women and children in particular will have major long-term benefits in economic terms because of the greater capacity of a healthier population for creative societal and commercial development.

Changes wilt be required by men, women and society as a whole. This will involve new policies to promote the education of girls, and allow women access to and control of local resources. Legislation is also needed to protect and promote the rights of women. Women should be encouraged to participate in the democratic process.

Care-giving behaviours influence the household environment. Care is centrally important to the nutritional welfare of all members of the family. Good care translates available resources, at the family and community levels, into nutritional improvement and encompasses time, attention, support and skills to meet the physical, mental and social needs of vulnerable groups.

Sanitation and clean drinking water are crucial to nutritional wellbeing and have been underestimated by the nutrition community.

Access to and uptake of education must be a key driver of all development policies. Education has a fundamental role to play in personal and social development. Considerable progress has been made over the last quarter century in expanding the capacity of primary schools in all regions of the world. Expansion in primary school enrollments during this period almost entirely explains the educational gains in developing countries.

However, there are striking gender disparities. In all regions of the developing world, fewer girls attend school than boys. Still only 62% of women in developing countries are literate. In least developed countries only 38% are literate. These figures are particularly disturbing given that the educational status of a mother is known to be a critical determinant of the health and nutrition of the family.

Key role of local communities and NGOs Although international and governmental change is essential at the highest level, successful strategies to end malnutrition will have to involve the people themselves as well as meeting each community's needs. Top-down strategies imposed on communities are known to fail.

More successful approaches are based on community needs, involving governmental support and facilitation of the people's initiatives. Governments and international agencies can set in place conditions which will foster public participation and facilitate bottom-up approaches. Key requirements are strengthening democracy and encouraging political participation, and establishing mechanisms for gathering the views of people whose voices often go unheard.

Public-private cooperation The food industry is playing an increasingly critical and complex role throughout the world. In industrialized countries, changes in living and marketplace patterns have stimulated changes in food industry practices. One result is a diversity of food processing technologies generating an ever-changing number and type of foods on the market. Recent concerns about health and the environment have resulted in significant attention to foods and food additives by regulators and legislators, the media, and consumers' groups.

The challenge is to bridge the communications gap between the public and private sectors by understanding their respective needs.


Access to adequate, nutritious food is obviously a pre-requisite for good nutrition. FAO estimates that some 790 million people in developing countries have inadequate access to food. The causes of food insecurity are complex and a shortfall in food production is often not the issue. However, with a rapidly growing world population, the challenges of producing enough food for everyone in the coming century are substantial. The required additional food production will have to be achieved under conditions of shrinking per capita land and water resources and a number of other obstacles, as follows:

Yield increases are stowing. Significant expansion of agricultural land is not feasible in most parts of the world, so the increased food production will have to come from more efficient use of land already under cultivation. However, there is a progressive degradation of agricultural lands.

There is a shortage of water. Although there is still enough water to meet agricultural needs on a global basis, currently 30 countries are water-stressed, of these 20 are water-scarce. Many major gains can be made by minimising water losses.

Soil degradation is a significant cause of crop productivity losses. Almost one half of the world's poor live on marginal lands. Past resource degradation deepens today's poverty, while today's poverty makes it difficult to care for or restore the agricultural resource base.

Crop diversity is declining. Today about 20 crops dominate the global food scenario and trade. There has been a drastic reduction in the crop mix of the food basket, and a steep decline in the genetic diversity of crops grown.

Fish stocks are declining. Over-exploitation of natural fish stocks by aggressive fishing techniques, and severe degradation of marine and coastal environments, have depleted fisheries. Natural fish stocks cannot keep pace with the increasing needs and demand.

Climates are changing. Warmer air temperatures, increased atmospheric CO2, raised sea levels and changes in rainfall patterns resulting from projected climate change over the next 60 years will have a significant impact on crop and livestock production.

Urban centers are growing. The urban population of developing countries is forecast to reach 49% by 2015; this will have serious implications for public health and nutrition and for the provision of services, including social safety nets.

Demand for meat is increasing. In developing countries this is predicted to grow by 43% by 2020. This may mean a huge increase in the use of cereals for feeding livestock. Research is needed to improve alternative feeding strategies and provide instruction in good husbandry.

Civil strife weakens infrastructure. Conflict destroys land, water, and biological and social resources for food production, while military expenditures lower investments in health, education, agricultural and environmental protection. Resolving hostilities and reversing associated agricultural and economic losses are critical if agriculture and human development outlooks are to improve in the 21st Century.

Trade, global finance and new technology also affect food security. The human food chain is being rapidly transformed into a global market with industrialized countries intent on providing their populations with a huge variety of primary products and processed foods, regardless of season and at ever lower prices.

Globalization has resulted in a weakening of economic control by national governments, leaving developing countries vulnerable to economic factors beyond their control, and to fluctuations in world prices.

With WTO and Codex acting as final adjudicator in disputes over particular food safety or standards issues, a two-tier food safety system may be developing in many countries. Products for export conform to international standards whereas domestic consumers are left with food which does not meet these standards.

Biotechnology has many potential applications, particularly in agriculture. Biotechnology may be of greater importance for developing countries than for industrialized countries in terms of producing sufficient quantities of nutritionally adequate and safe food but environmental and human safety concerns need to be recognised and improved testing procedures developed.

New technologies may only be suited for large-scale farming, resulting in further impoverishment of small-scale farmers. Expansion of proprietary science means that small and resource-poor farming families who normally save seeds to raise crops may have to buy these new and more effective seeds each year unless new national and international arrangements are developed.

A revolution in agriculture will be required to adapt food production systems to growing needs and the changing environment. This new ever-green revolution, must take socio-economic and environmental factors into account by focussing on three elements: production, sustainability and poverty reduction.


The World Food Summit was a milestone in the process of defining the meaning of the right to food and nutrition, and in setting in motion activities to guide states, civil society and international organizations in implementation. To date, the right to adequate food remains one of the most cited in solemn declarations of political intent, and most neglected and violated in practice.

Basic-needs approaches define "beneficiaries" and their needs; thus there is an element of charity. A rights-based approach starts from the ethical position that all people are entitled to a certain standard of material well-being. A rights-based approach recognizes beneficiaries as active subjects and claim-holders.


The Commission identified four major tasks to be undertaken:

1) An assessment of the national policies and plans developed in response to the International Conference on Nutrition in relation to both the Commission's new perspectives on nutrition and the need for accelerated action. This will require a novel UN process so that all the relevant UN bodies become aware of their own potential contributions. This assessment should be initiated by the ACC/SCN.

2) A new UN process for integrating programmes and effort. The Commission is aware of a number of uncoordinated approaches by different agencies. These often seem to be based on institutional rivalry and different disciplinary and sectoral approaches rather than on collaboration and the development of a cohesive effort.

3) A new national mechanism for developing coherent policies in diet and physical activity. The Commission proposes National Nutrition Councils based on the success of Norwegian and Thai experiences and avoiding the pitfalls of the early Councils. The IUNS and UNU have particular responsibilities here.

4) The acceptance by the UN agencies, the World Bank, IMF and bilaterals that the National Nutrition Councils should be the focus for international linkages and support. The ACC/SCN should be transformed to allow it to become a proactive mechanism for enhancing effective inter-UN agency cooperation.

Other conclusions and priorities:

1) Elimination of malnutrition should be made a major focus of national strategy and economic and social policy in developing and developed countries. This means:

a) formulating clear national goals for eliminating all the main forms of malnutrition by specific target dates, in line with existing global goals;

b) preparing a strategy for achieving these goals linked to the follow-up commitments and processes specified by the global conferences of the major UN agencies;

c) incorporating these goals into all related sectoral action for food production, health priorities, child care and poverty reduction.

2) Donor governments, as part of the 20/20 Initiative and its commitments, should offer to establish country-by-country compacts with interested governments. Under these compacts, governments would indicate their targets and strategies for accelerating action for nutrition. The compacts should indicate the resources required, as well as the proportion of these resources to be raised locally and the proportion from donor agencies. As part of the compact, donor governments would offer to provide sustained support so long as the developing country remained on track.

3) The World Bank and the IMF should be requested to issue a policy document indicating how progress towards nutrition goals could be maintained and supported as a priority during programmes of structural adjustment and debt repayment, especially of the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs).

4) Support is needed to improve national statistical systems for collection, analysis, publication and appropriate use of data on nutritional status and trends. Attention to nutrition and behavioural practices should now be included in economic analyses.

5) Regional task forces should be established to consider ways and means to reach people from community members to policy makers in order to encourage accelerated actions towards improving nutrition. Comprehensive and social mobilisation approaches through mass media, traditional media and interpersonal communication need to be encouraged.

Table 1: Summary of Specific Recommendations for ACC/SCN agencies



at the International Level

at the Regional Level

at the National Level

at the Local Level

Ensure an integrated approach

New UN process for integrating programmes and effort is needed.

UN Agencies, particularly WHO, FAO, UNICEF and the World Bank, should jointly consider how to strengthen the SCN.

The UNU and the IUNS should promote the lessons learned by previous attempts to develop National Nutrition Councils.

The SCN should promote new National Nutrition Councils as the focus for international liaison.

Set up regional task forces involving UN agencies, NGOs, bilateral agencies and national Governments.

Have regional meetings to reconsider nutrition goals and set strategies.

Establish new mechanisms, such as National Nutrition Councils, for:

developing coherent nutrition policies

ensuring an integrated approach

raising nutrition as a priority

widening the agenda for nutrition.

A new impetus for UN support at the country level is required.

Creation of state or village level Boards to ensure an integrated approach with full community involvement.

Review and harmonise nutrition-related goals

An overall goal of ending malnutrition by 2020 is proposed.

An SCN task force should consider how to harmonise nutrition goals and take them forward.

Some proposals for goals are put forward as a basis for discussion in this Report.

Regional task forces should reconsider nutrition goals and set priorities for action.

Overall goals should be adapted to national circumstances... and linked to current levels of malnutrition.

Local monitoring of prevalence of nutrition problems, and success in overcoming these problems, is essential.

Human rights: give real (operational) meaning to the right to food

Further develop the Draft Code of Conduct on the Human Right to Adequate Food and put it forward for formal adoption.

Create an appropriate framework for monitoring and supporting the Code.

Encourage countries, international organisations, and civil society to implement the Code.

National governments should implement the Code - first on a voluntary basis, then by official signature when it is proposed for formal adoption.

NGOs and local communities should monitor implementation of the Code.

Develop and implement nutrition policies and action plans

The SCN should re-assess current national action plans.

Task forces should review and revise regional progress on nutrition action plans (post ICN) and work with countries to produce new plans.

National Nutrition Councils should review and revise existing nutrition action plans or draw up new ones.

Local communities -including the state or district level Nutrition Boards - should be involved in development and implementation of plans.

Build nutrition and health expertise and capacity within countries

UN agencies, particularly WHO, FAO, UNICEF and UNU in co-operation with the World Bank, should play a key role in promoting capacity building.

A key issue for regional task forces to address: how to build national capacity?

The IUNS should work with agencies and national professional bodies to promote academic initiatives.


The Commission would like to acknowledge with thanks the invaluable assistance from the following individuals:

Lindsay Allen, David Alnwick, Britta Antonsson-Ogle, Alan Berg, George Beaton, Micheline Beaudry, Anne Callanan, William Clay, Joanne Csete, Philip Evans, Ed Frongillo, Hiremagalur Gopalan, Peter Greaves, Ted Greiner, Jean-Pierre Habicht, Lawrence Haddad, Suzanne Harris, Elisabet Helsing, Graham Horgan, Suraiya Ismail, Anna Maria Hoffmann-Barthes, Venkatesh Iyengar, Urban Jonsson, Marion Kelly, Eileen Kennedy, George Kent, David King, Uwe Kracht, Tim Lang, Michael Latham, Michael Lipton, Thomas Marchione, Lilian Marovatsanga, Rey Martorell, Peter Matlon, Judith McGuire, Milla McLachlan, John Mason, Simon Maxwell, Ruth Oniang'o, David Pelletier, Barry Popkin, Clive Robinson, David Sanders, John Sargent, Nevin Scrimshaw, Francis Shaxson, Roger Shrimpton, Francis Stewart, Andrew Tompkins, Kraisid Tontisirin, Barbara Underwood.

Background Papers Commissioned

Stunting and Mental Development by Sally Grantham-McGregor and LC Fernald

Food-based Strategies to Enhance the Content and Bioavailability of Iron and Zinc in Plant-based Diets in Developing Countries by Rosalind Gibson

Comments received from Howarth Bouis relating to Rosalind Gibson's paper.

Milk, Calcium and Osteoporosis with Special Reference to Developing Countries by Anne Prentice

Nutrition in 2000-2050: Demographic Influences by Arjan de Haan, Michael Lipton and Emma Samman

Nutrition in the 21st Century: Food and Nutrition as a Human Right. Letter to the Commission from Wenche Barth Eide

Decentralization of Government Services: Implications for Nutrition in Developing Countries by Julia Tagwireyi

Broadening the Food Security Base and Nomenclature by MS Swaminathan

Modifying Dietary Patterns for Healthier Populations in Low Income Countries: Challenge and Possibility? By Suttilak Smitasiri

Fish Stocks and Implications for Food Security by Meryl Williams

The Role of Multinational/Transnational Corporations and How They Impact on Food Consumption and Nutrition by Michael Latham and Micheline Beaudry

Intellectual Property Rights, Poverty and Food Security by Keith Bezanson

Folic Acid, Anaemia and Neural Tube Defects in Developing Countries: Research Needs and Public Health Options by Rafael Perez-Escamilla

Recommendations for a Healthy Diet by Kaare Norum

Effect of Early Diet on Nutrition and Health in Developing Countries: Policy Implications by Ricardo Uauy


Ramesh K Adhidari (Nepal)
Satish B. Agnihotri (India)
T V Antony (India)
Isabelle Austin (UNICEF/India)
M.K. Bhan (India)
Sekhar S Boddupalli (Monsanto/India)
Zulfioar A Butta (Pakistan)
Indira Chakaravarty (India)
Dipti Chirmulay (India)
Sheila Rani Chunkath (India)
Alan Court (UNICEF/India)
Cecilia Florencio (Philippines)
Francesca (FAO/India)
Shanti Ghosh (India)
C Gopalan (India)
Kamal Islam (UNICEF/India)
S Jayam (India)
Ge Ke-You (China)
Ha Huy Khoi (Vietnam)
Kamala Krishnaswamy (India)
A K Shiva Kumar (India)
Venkatesh Mannar (MI/Canada)
Muhilal (Indonesia)
Rama Narayanan (India)
Ramesh C Panda (India)
C. S. Pandav (India)
S Rajagoplan (India)
Anuradha K Rajiwan (India)
K V Raman (India)
Vinodini Reddy (India)
Peter Rosenegger (FAO/India)
H. P. S. Sachdev (India)
Prakash Shetty (India and UK)
Roger Shrimpton (UNICEF/New York)
Priyani E Soysa (Sri Lanka)
V L Srilatha (UNICEF/India)
Mina Swaminathan (India)
Swomya Swaminathan (India)
Teekaram (India)
Kraisid Tontisirin (Thailand)
Jayshree Vencatesan (India)
A K Venkatasubramanian (India)

Funding to support the Commission's work was provided to the ACC/SCN by
Canada (CIDA), the Micronutrient Initiative (Ottawa), the Netherlands, Norway and USAID.

Explanation of terms

In this Report the term undernutrition refers collectively to stunting, underweight and wasting, low BMI and fetal growth retardation - conditions of inadequate nutrition. The term malnutrition refers to both undernutrition and overnutrition, or excess.

Abbreviations and acronyms


Administrative Committee on Coordination, Sub-Committee on Nutrition (of the United Nations)


acquired immunodeficiency syndrome


acute respiratory infection


Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative


body mass index


bovine spongiform encephalopathy


common country assessment


Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research


coronary heart disease


Commonwealth of Independent States


deoxy-ribonucleic acid


European Union


Food and Agriculture Organization


First Food Information Action Network


General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade


gross domestic product


genetically-modified organisms


gross national product


heavily indebted poor countries


human development index


human immunodeficiency virus


International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders


iron deficiency anaemia


iodine deficiency disorders


refugees and internally displaced persons


International Food Policy Research Institute


International Monetary Fund


intelligence quotient


International Union of Nutrition Scientists


low birthweight


Micronutrient Initiative, Ottawa


non-governmental organization


non-communicable diseases


non-insulin dependent diabetes


Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development


overseas development assistance United Nations


United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS


United Nations Development Assistance Framework


United Nations Development Programme


United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization


United Nations Population Fund


United Nations High Commission for Refugees


United Nations Children's Fund


United Nations University


World Alliance for Nutrition as a Human Right


World Food Programme


World Health Organization


World Trade Organization