Remarks at the High-Level Meeting on Nutrition
Secretary of State
This program has become, in a very short time, a model of how to implement successfully the principles that the international community affirmed at the High-Level Forums for Aid Effectiveness in Paris and Accra. Together, this community of countries, international organizations, NGOs, civil society groups, and private sector companies has already achieved meaningful benchmarks in the fight to strengthen global nutrition. From Tanzania, which has created a nutrition-specific line in its national budget and posted nutritionists in every district nationwide, countries such as Guatemala, Uganda, Peru, Mozambique, and Burkina Faso, which have introduced new measures to improve financial accountability and strengthen their country’s commitment to nutrition, we are seeing the kinds of high-level reforms and political leadership needed to reach people on a broad scale.
Now, this is an accomplishment not only for those whose lives are being saved and improved, but also for the people like us in this room who believe passionately in the critical role that nutrition must play in order to produce thriving children, families, and communities. And I think it’s also an indicator of our better understanding of what works in development and what it takes to make progress together, because through the SUN movement, we are seeing better results with country-owned leadership. When programs are coordinated and evidence-based, we get better outcomes. When results are measured transparently and are used to improve strategies, and when all parties are held accountable for delivering on their promises, we actually can see the progress being made.
Now, I know that you’ve covered a lot of this ground already and will continue to do so in the consultations tomorrow and afterwards, so let me simply say this: The United States is firmly committed to our investments in global nutrition, and we believe fervently that improving nutrition for pregnant women and children under two is one of the smartest investments we or anyone can make. The science for this is unassailably clear: When we ensure that women and children receive essential nutrients within the 1,000-day window, we can set youngsters on a better path toward lifelong health. When we miss that window, children can suffer both physical and cognitive damage that cannot be reversed.
That urgency and the potential we all have to make a real difference is why our funding toward global nutrition has increased significantly in the past five years, from $35 million in 2007 to $90 million this year. Even last year, during a very difficult budgetary and financial environment, we increased our spending on nutrition by 20 percent, because we see these investments as both vital and as having a very high impact.
We also have fundamentally changed the way we are doing business by making nutrition a central element of two of our major initiatives, the Global Health Initiative and the Feed the Future Food Security Initiative. That means building clinics that help expectant mothers enrich their diets and those of their babies during life’s most critical stages of development, and creating extension programs that help farmers grow heartier crops that will nourish their families, adding micronutrients at various stages along the process, not just filling stomachs but really helping to create healthier people. And by focusing on nutrition, we think we accomplish a lot of our goals.
We are also rethinking how we deliver food aid in times of crisis. Now, the importance of this issue is obviously on our minds because of the emergency taking place in the Horn of Africa. This is not just a food emergency; it is also a nutrition emergency, especially for the large numbers of young children and pregnant women who are most vulnerable. Those who manage to survive the famines and the food shortages may still suffer lifelong damage from the under-nutrition they are living with today.
And we are reminded not only of the importance of delivering food, but delivering nutrient-rich food while also making the long-term investments in food security to try to avoid such crises in the future. (Inaudible) the United States is providing over $600 million in humanitarian assistance to the Horn of Africa, and we are continuing to invest in long-term agricultural development with a focus on nutrition, particularly with our Feed the Future partnerships in Ethiopia and Kenya. Thanks to the progress these governments and their development partners have made in strengthening their peoples’ food security, many more are now resilient in the face of this current drought.
I also must, as I do on every occasion like this, issue yet another appeal to al-Shabaab to permit aid workers access into the most famine-ravaged areas under their control. It does us little good to gather up the money to put our aid groups on notice to get everything organized to save lives if we cannot get access. And just on a personal basis, I don’t understand what possible political or ideological benefit comes from allowing women and children to starve in areas you’re responsible for.
When we put nutrition at the heart of our investments, we can help communities and countries become not only healthier, but more prosperous. And that’s a priority for the United States as well as a personal one for me, so while I enjoyed the partnership that I have with my Irish counterpart, Minister Gilmore, when we launched the 1,000 Day partnership in New York almost a year ago to this day, and why we are so enthusiastic about what has happened since.
We have 636 days left to meet our goal of building a sustainable global movement for nutrition that will last long after this 1,000 day period has passed. And I thank the UN for providing us the leadership, the impetus that this convening represents. We need, though, to get more leadership commitments from partner countries, we need to improve still more coordination among donors, we all need to reach deep to increase our financial commitments, and deliver more effectively the kind of assistance that we know is life-saving and enhancing.
At the end of November, people from around the world will gather in Busan, Korea for the Fourth High-Level Forum for Aid Effectiveness. I’m pleased that I will be attending that forum and representing the United States. And I will join with colleagues there to elevate development on the global agenda and to share our progress and to embrace a model of sustainability, partnership, and investment.
We’ve made strong progress, but we cannot be complacent. Let’s use these remaining days to demonstrate unequivocally to the world why development works. Speaking for my own country, we’re having one of our periodic debates about development – I was talking to Secretary Mitchell about that – and those of us who are convinced have to hold ourselves to a higher standard to make the case to our own people, our own governments in a time of budgetary squeezing. But I think we’re here today with all else going on during this very busy week because we know it makes a difference.
So let’s recommit ourselves to doing all we can to make the case and deliver the results that are needed. Thank you very much. (Applause.)