The United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition (UNSCN) was created in 1977 as the administrative coordinating committee, called ACC Subcommittee on Nutrition, then accountable to the Administrative Committee on Coordination of the UN (ACC), through an ECOSOC (UN Economic and Social Council) resolution.
The complexity and magnitude of malnutrition in the world is daunting and far too great for any one UN agency or organization to tackle and solve. Today, several UN agencies work on different nutritional aspects and the role of UNSCN stems from the need for a platform for sharing knowledge and for facilitating coordination of the collective work carried out in this field to ensure coherent and consistent policies, programmes and advocacy initiatives.
Consistent with the principles in the ECOSOC resolution, and mindful of the evolving nutrition landscape, the UNSCN is governed along the following lines:
The mandate and responsibility of the UNSCN falls within the UN system. The five UN agencies, FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO, with an explicit mandate to improve nutrition levels in the world, are members of UNSCN. However, membership to UNSCN is open to all UN agencies that have a significant interest or engagement in nutrition-related issues, and that are ready to contribute their knowledge and experience, and to support the work of UNSCN.
In addition, a selection of non-UN organizations may be invited to join UNSCN as associate members, in recognition of their strategic and global research and policy relevance, competence and experience in the field of nutrition.
UNSCN Functioning and Governing Structure
The UNSCN approach of fostering communication is through hosting plenary talks that are open to all members. This inclusive approach relates to any substantive work of UNSCN, and is implemented through face-to-face meetings, phone or video conferences, or electronic consultations and debates. Another important UNSCN principle is the delegation of responsibility to its members to lead or conduct research and policy work on nutrition, on its behalf.
To ensure both the efficiency and effectiveness of its processes and with a focus on results, UNSCN avails of a steering committee, which is composed of a representative of each constituent member, the UNSCN Secretariat and the UNSCN Chair. The steering committee ensures the oversight of the work of the Secretariat, approves its annual work plan and budget. It also intervenes to reach closure on any substantive issue, not concluded or resolved in the plenary sessions.
The UNSCN Chair is a senior UN official, appointed by consensus amongst the principals of the constituent member agencies. The Chair provides leadership in the inter-sectoral approach to nutrition, and is a high-level advocate for UN inter-agency collaboration in the fight against malnutrition in all its forms. The Chair ensures a robust strategic orientation of UNSCN work, with a strong focus on results. The Chair maintains regular interaction with ECOSOC or any other relevant UN body. The UNSCN Chair is appointed for a term of two years that is renewable once.
The UNSCN Secretariat is headed by the UNSCN Executive Secretary who is nominated by FAO. As a support to the Chair and the steering committee, the Secretariat ensures the smooth implementation of the annual work plan and the prudent management of UNSCN funding. It coordinates and oversees tasks delegated to members or other partners and coordinates the plenary talks, the UNSCN website and its products, and produces an annual activity report. The Secretariat is hosted in FAO since 1st January 2016.
- Provides global strategic guidance and advocacy in nutrition to ensure engagement and investment at the highest level and ensures progress towards nutrition security for all;
- Enhances dialogue and linkages, fostering joint nutrition action, partnerships and mutual accountability between UN agencies;
- Harmonizes concepts, including methodologies and guidelines, policies and strategies in response to the nutritional needs of countries;
- Facilitates knowledge exchange of practices, tools and needs, enhancing coherence of the global nutrition public goods agenda and identifying emerging issues;
- Communicates on global trends, progress and results and enhances global advocacy through networks and platforms;
- Engages in and facilitates dialogue with stakeholders across health, food security, water and sanitation and social protection constituencies for strengthening nutrition action and mainstreaming nutrition into development policies.