Agent Provocateur is Global Geneva’s Oped Section. This article is scheduled to be published in the November, 2018 – January 2019 print and e-edition of the magazine.

Over the past decade, the importance of proper nutrition, especially between the moment of conception and the second birthday, has become abundantly clear. The right nutrition during this 1000-day window helps ensure a well-developed brain and strong body. Poor nutrition undermines that human capital. It programmes the body for slowed growth with less learning and lower earning later in life. At the other end of the spectrum, too much nutrition (and obesity) increases the risk of debilitating illness – such as type 2 diabetes.

As a doctor interested in public health, I would like everyone everywhere to have the opportunities they need to be healthy and to have long, fulfilling and joyful lives, both now and in decades to come.

Food systems need to work far better – and include ALL sectors

One of the key strands of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) envisages that every person in our world is able to access the nutrition they need, and that food is produced in ways that benefit producers and the planet. For that to happen, however, food systems need to work far better. This means linking food production, processing and distribution in a more effective manner. Farmers, fishermen, ministries, transport and storage companies, investors, health specialists and other of the numerous stakeholders need to agree on priorities, while aligning their efforts.

Since 2010 more than 60 nations have joined the Movement to Scale Up Nutrition (SUN), of which I served as coordinator for four years.  Each nation has brought together different interest groups, such as government, science, civil society, education and businesses, to agree on how to make their collaborative efforts more sensitive to the need for better nutrition, but also to pursue common results and to measure progress. We have evidence that this is already contributing significantly to better .

Proper nourishment is about more efficient food production…

The longer a country has been within the SUN Movement, the better the in-country nutritional environment, and the greater the improvement in children’s nutritional status.  On the other hand, in conflict-ridden countries where violence dominates, there is no link between time in the SUN Movement and nutritional outcomes. The SUN Movement has seen the greatest impact of efforts to improve child nutrition when they encourage self-reliance among adolescent girls and women.

Collaboration only works if people get together to discuss their differences

The SUN Movement sees value in different groups finding ways to collaborate more with each other, a locality or nation, for example.  Through this effort – and despite their differences – they are more likely to agree on what works best. They are then better able to align their plans leading toward more decisive action agendas. In turn, this leads to food systems that are not just about enabling people to refuel themselves, but to access food that is both nourishing and healthy; it is also produced in ways which regenerate ecosystems and mitigate climate enabling producers to have prosperous and resilient lives.

…but also distribution…

However, dialogue and collaboration only happens if there are places where members of different groups who do not agree are able to explore ways to collaborate and align.  These places are sometimes referred to as “safe spaces”: I believe they are needed whenever different groups are debating how to respond to complexity, whether at local, national and global levels.  This offers opportunities for those who would not normally set aside their institutional positions to work out how to make alignments.  This approach is now being advanced both internationally and within countries through the Food Systems Dialogues.

…proper storage, training, mentoring…

Working coalitions are the key

That is why I am now working with coalitions that focus on how food, land, ocean and water systems can benefit all people and be sustainable.  This involves encouraging dialogue on how these systems can best be nudged into place. Through a new entity based in Switzerland, 4SD, which stands for “Skills Systems and Synergies for Sustainable Development”, I am engaging regularly with some of those responsible for advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This means listening to the challenges they face and offering them advice which reflects the context in which they are working and the experience that I myself have gained over the years.  This mentoring approach benefits clients – because the advice is situation specific.  And it is great for me because I am constantly learning from those with whom I interact.

Developing skills through mentoring

4SD enables leaders who work on the 2030 Agenda to develop their skills through mentoring, tailored learning materials, and managed networks. An in-person workshop is offered to ensure that the mentoring responds to their needs and circumstances.

Our four learning themes include, first, radical listening, using emotions effectively, public speaking and presenting. Our change management section covers change processes and transformations, measuring progress, and managing expectations. The implementation phase covers prioritization, organization, and reporting, plus decision making: synergies & trade-offs. Coalition building is the fourth learning theme, focusing primarily on systems mind-sets, moderation and facilitation, inclusivity and dispute resolution. Within 4SD we are building our mentoring community: scheduling a residential immersion workshop on Living Systems for Sustainable Development for potential mentors for 5-7 November 2018.

Our Leadership Mentoring Programme will be initiated during 2019.  Participants will include professionals from local and national governments, international organisations, civil society, media, and the business community. The mentors offer strategic guidance and assist with personal development. Written materials and interactive learning modules are made available: these collate experiences and approaches which contribute to success.

All this can help leaders in the 2030 agenda respond more pertinently to the needs of people they serve. Or to partner them with stakeholders with whom they do not normally work. Such approaches are crucial for encouraging the kinds of transformation required for making the 2030 Agenda a reality.

Dr. David Nabarro is a medical doctor, international civil servant and diplomat. He served as special advisor to the UN Secretary General on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate Change. Nabarro is one of two recipients of the 2018 World Food Prize, which is shared with Dr. Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition. In 2016, Nabarro was nominated by the UK government to stand for the post of Director-General of the World Health Organization.