The Global Nutrition Report 2021 (GNR) offers the world’s most comprehensive picture of the state of nutrition in the world and assesses the scale of the challenges faced in tackling unhealthy diets and malnutrition in all its forms. This year’s report provides a concise data-driven update on the state of the world’s diet and nutrition, to be released annually thereafter. Independent analysis of the best nutrition data is essential for evidence-based, timely and effective actions to ensure that we deliver on our global commitment to end poor diets and malnutrition. This is an intentional change from GNR’s tradition of exploring specific themes in depth, which will also continue as needed to assess topical global issues of importance to nutrition.
The report’s findings lay bare the unsustainability of the status quo and how we continue to cope with a global nutrition crisis. Poor diets and the resulting malnutrition in all its forms are at an unacceptable level in the world, creating one of the world’s greatest societal challenges today. The need for bolder, sustained and better coordinated action on nutrition that goes beyond the nutrition community has never been greater. Given the vast and interconnected health, economic and environmental burdens, this global nutrition crisis is a reality we can no longer afford to ignore.
Ending unhealthy diets and malnutrition in all its forms is a goal intrinsically linked to some of the world’s most pressing challenges
The Covid-19 pandemic is fueling the global nutritional crisis and underscoring the importance of good nutrition for our health. Achieving healthy diets and ending malnutrition has become an even greater challenge than before, especially for the most vulnerable groups such as people living in poverty, women and children, and populations living in poverty. fragile states. At the same time, the strong links between poor metabolic health, including obesity and diabetes, and the worst outcomes of Covid-19 have highlighted the importance of improving nutrition for good health around the world. . Addressing unhealthy diets and malnutrition, as well as the underlying inequalities, policies and systems that drive them, is therefore an essential element in recovering from the impacts of the pandemic and ensuring that populations are resilient to such shocks in the future.
We are seeing limited public resources and shifting spending priorities due to Covid-19; yet investments in nutrition are vital for sustainable economic development. Although the nutritional crisis predates the pandemic, it is only made more urgent by the potential damage that loss of resources can inflict on global food security and human health. International and domestic public resources have been hampered due to an economic downturn, while significant amounts of funding are devoted to the fight against the pandemic. This risks seeing populations, especially in the poorest and most fragile countries, experience a reduction in vital aid to prevent or alleviate malnutrition. Funding for recovery from a pandemic must make nutrition a key component if the world is to ‘build back better’, with significant economic returns to be derived from investments in nutrition. Innovative approaches and increased private sector action will be needed to increase the funding available to the levels required to meet nutritional goals and end malnutrition in all its forms.
The nutritional crisis is both a cause and a symptom of the climate emergency. On the one hand, our current diets are the main drivers of environmental pollution and demand for resources. On the other hand, global warming and pollution affect access to food. The growing urgency to address the climate emergency and key milestones such as the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) are mobilizing leaders to act. Just as addressing climate change must be a key part of efforts to improve diets and nutrition, nutrition and healthy and sustainable diets must also be an important part of the climate conversation. We will only succeed in meeting these global challenges if we work together.
The need for greater accountability and a new role for GNR
In recognition of the urgency of the nutritional crisis which represents one of our greatest global challenges today, 2021 has been declared the Nutrition for Growth Year of Action, with the Tokyo Summit on Nutrition for Growth (N4G) in December, representing a historic opportunity for stakeholders to accelerate efforts towards stronger nutrition action covering food, health and social protection systems. This follows the United Nations Food Systems Summit in September, which highlighted the need to accelerate the transformation of food systems to enable better diets and improve nutrition. These two key events and their common goal of ending malnutrition in all its forms should be a turning point in taking concrete and collective action. The critical need to increase accountability was a central theme of a joint statement published before the two summits, which called for a “A comprehensive accountability framework, to monitor nutrition commitments and how they translate into impact”.
Of course, many actors – including governments, donors and the private sector – have made commitments to nutrition in the past. Since 2014, the GNR has been entrusted with the role of monitoring these commitments, which do not bring the level of change that we expect today.
Where resources are stretched, better tools for commitment-making and stronger accountability in nutrition are essential to close action gaps and ensure that commitments translate into impact. GNR has therefore developed the Nutrition Accountability Framework (NAF), the first independent and comprehensive global global accountability framework for nutrition.
In this new role, the GNR has been endorsed by world leaders, including the government of japan as the organizer of the N4G 2021 Summit and the World Health Organization (WHO), lead and advance global responsibility for nutrition. This is the first time that accountability for nutrition commitments has been prioritized, with an emphasis on the quality, as well as quantity, of the commitments. The NAF, launched in September 2021, will help shape, track and publicly monitor these commitments to ensure the world is equipped with the tools necessary to assess the collective impact of our action and correct the situation where necessary.
The scale of the challenges we face in the fight to improve poor diets and end global malnutrition may seem daunting, but this fight is winnable.
Over the past two years, we have seen world leaders step up and take strong action to address the unprecedented global challenge of Covid-19. The pandemic has also shown us that the only way forward is to work together, not in isolation. We need the same recognition of the nutritional crisis that everyone faces, in all countries. We must come together and go further, wider and bolder than ever.
The need to prioritize and invest in nutrition has never been greater. Data is the fuel for action. We call on leaders to use the findings of the Global Nutrition Report 2021 make the commitments that will lead to healthy populations, prosperous economies and a sustainable planet.
Read the full report here.