Speech by An Taoiseach: Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business and Science

-   An Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Prime Minister Cameron, President Banda, Vice President Temer, distinguished guests,

Firstly, may I commend Prime Minister Cameron for his ongoing commitment to keeping the issues of hunger and nutrition at the top of the international agenda.

Today if I am correct is the birthday of the man who created the worldwide web Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

In a world that has never been as connected, it is surely to our shame that the issues of hunger, malnutrition and stunting remain recalcitrant.

I say this as leader of a country where famine and hunger run deep in our psyche.

In the 1840s we ate grass to fill our stomachs – with our children we lay down to die in graveyards – to be assured a Christian burial.

It is this generational memory that sees an Irishman or Irishwoman at emergency stations, clinics, agriculture projects, community groups and schools across the developing world.

That memory is also national, institutional.

At the Olympic Hunger Summit, as Taoiseach I joined Britain, Brazil and others in calling for decisive action on hunger and nutrition.

Our goal was clear: to transform the lives of millions of children before the next Olympic Games in Rio.

Today, we meet here to plan the means to achieve that goal.

The fact is we need critical investment in nutrition.

Tackling malnutrition and the devastation it brings to millions is not only morally right it makes sound economic sense.

We know that every year 11% of GDP in Africa and Asia is lost to under-nutrition.

We know to that every dollar spent on specific nutrition-programmes can give a return of up to $15.

We have, within our reach proven, affordable solutions to build a stronger, healthier population with the skills to drive economic-growth and social-development.

It is essential that we make these investments in nutrition now.

Malnutrition, hunger will not and cannot be solved by governments alone.

Rather governments, business, philanthropic foundations, the science community and civil society must work together in this critical, life-giving task.

I can tell you that Ireland is absolutely committed.

This is an issue we have supported and prioritised for many years.

Along with the US, and others, Ireland was a key driver of the 1,000 Days movement.

As you know this initiative focused on the critical period from pregnancy to the age of two .

We were proud to be a founding supporter of the Scaling-Up Nutrition movement one which has done so much to give us the platform for action that brings all of us here today.

We  support a comprehensive range of interventions to prevent stunting  in early childhood .


In Malawi, Mozambique and Ethiopia we are working with research and civil-society partners to tackle high, Vitamin-A deficiency rates through growing  nutritious, vitamin-enriched, varieties of sweet potato.

We support  programmes in partnership with the private sector, to fortify food-staples such as flour, oil, sugar and salt.

Ireland’s particular strength and standing in agri-food means Irish business and science can play a vital role here.

When I meet companies in the sector, I raise this all the time.

Right now we’re looking at the causes of under-nutrition leveraging our investments in critical sectors such as agriculture, health, water & sanitation, and social protection to deliver improvements in nutrition.

Last August, during the Olympic Hunger Summit, Prime Minister Cameron and I pledged to use our respective Presidencies of the EU and G8 as an opportunity to champion our shared priority of combating global-hunger and under-nutrition.

In Ireland’s case  we have worked closely with the European Commission and EU Member States on the development of a new, EU Nutrition Policy for EU external assistance.

In our Presidency the subject certainly hit home.

It was vital and human counterpoint in advanced talks on stability, jobs, budgets and European banking.

Not too many generations ago we were the starving parents, the emaciated, shrunken and swollen children were our own.

We are pleased then that our Presidency gives clear direction to the EU to step up its efforts on maternal and child under-nutrition, to tackle stunting and wasting, and to increase financial support to  partner countries.

This  sets a framework for  the EU and its Member States to  implement  policy commitments on under-nutrition and food insecurity.

And just as critically, to ensure that we are held accountable for them.

I’m delighted then to say that this new policy was adopted under by EU Foreign Ministers just last week, under the Irish Presidency.

Yes – they and all of us here know that we cannot tackle nutrition in a vacuum.

That is why, together with  the Mary Robinson Foundation on Climate Justice  in April my Government  hosted a  major, international conference in Dublin   to  bring the hunger, nutrition and climate-agenda together.

As we know, and has been said so often, it is those who have contributed least to climate change, who are feeling its effects the worst.

So we brought together the people living with the effects of climate change and the policy-makers so that we could  listen to, and learn from, the experiences of those men and women living the crisis of failed crops, inundation, erosion,  rising food-prices, hunger and under-nutrition.

They are our brothers our sisters.

Those men and women need to know that we are with them and are doing all we can to make sure they have the food to feed and nourish their families, to secure their lives, their communities, their futures.

Our new, global, sustainable-development goals are all about them, their families, their future.

Last month we launched Ireland’s new  policy  for international development, ‘One World, One Future’.

This reinforces Ireland’s readiness for the fight against global hunger and under-nutrition.

I want to endorse wholeheartedly the Nutrition for Growth Compact which is before us this morning.

Equally, I pledge here that  Ireland will double its nutrition efforts over the next eight years.

This means doubling of Ireland’s spend on nutrition by 2020.

We will do this through practical and real partnership with countries that have high burdens of under-nutrition.

We will  a lign  our  support with  their  needs.

But tackling this crisis, ending under-nutrition is not just about spend or money.

To do this we need skilled expertise  strong ,institutional capacity and collaboration right across the public service.

We need vital partnerships between business and government to deliver sustainable improvements in nutrition.

For our part I can tell you that Ireland will prioritise its resources of people, skill and money to achieve real impact visible, quantifiable results in nutrition.

Delivering on the commitments made here today will ensure that we can realise this vision of a world free from hunger and under-nutrition –  within our lifetime .

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