New Handbook for Parliamentarians – practical guidance on transforming food systems and improving nutrition

Produced by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and FAO, the publication seeks to support legislative processes to promote healthy diets for all.  Aimed at providing lawmakers with practical guidance on legislative processes that prioritize nutrition, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), published today a new Handbook for Parliamentarians, entitled “Food Systems and Nutrition”. The online Handbook was produced in collaboration with the Scaling-Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the African Union Development Agency’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD).

One out of three people globally suffers from at least one form of malnutrition, and the economic loss attributable to poor nutrition is estimated at $3.5 trillion per year. Recent research on the worldwide burden of disease has found that a suboptimal diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risk. Every country in the world is affected by one or more forms of malnutrition. Being one of the major global multi-sectoral issues, it is crucial that it be addressed by the world’s parliaments.

Writing in the Handbook’s foreword, FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu, and IPU Secretary General, Martin Chungong, noted how the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the weakness of our food systems. This is where parliaments play “a crucial role,” they noted. “Parliamentary action is fundamental to securing the right to adequate food for all. Parliamentarians guide and oversee public-sector policies and budget allocations towards transforming food systems that deliver healthy diets for all.”

Parliamentarians can play a major role in improving food systems in their respective countries, and the Handbook identifies entry points for parliamentary interventions. Recommended actions are described in these entry points using existing case studies, which cover the following four areas:

1. Representation. Parliamentarians must stay engaged with their constituents to know their needs and to advocate for their welfare. They can collaborate with advocacy groups and international organizations to stay informed of the pressing issues related to nutrition and food systems.

2. Legislation. Parliamentarians should be fully aware of, but not be deterred by, the complex causes leading to all forms of malnutrition. Enacting appropriate laws should be prioritized as determined by the level of need, the scale and scope of problems, and cost-effectiveness.

3. Budget. There are multiple steps in the budget cycle – planning, negotiation, spending, and review – at which Parliaments and Parliamentarians can place nutrition and food systems foremost in budget-related decisions.

4. Oversight. Parliamentarians can establish clear oversight processes by which to ensure that appropriate resources are provided to implement nutrition-related programmes, assess the impact and identify unintended negative effects on nutrition of government policies and actions in all sectors, and monitor progress towards meeting national and international commitments. The Hanbook is currently available in English, French and Spanish.

Source: FAO


Author: Saara Kämppi