The Landscape of Global Nutrition Governance 

Carly Hayes, University of Waterloo (Nexos Comunitarios intern)

Global governance is a term that is not well-defined by academics or practitioners – is there any way that we can really govern a world that consists of a vast multitude of different contexts and histories, especially in something as personal and cultural as the foods we eat? However, the idea that global governance only exists at the level of countries negotiating with each other at forums such as the United Nations does not capture the fluid and multi-directional nature of global governance. In the world of nutrition, the governance landscape is immense and has a long history, and it is important to understand how what happens at the global level of decision-making in efforts against malnutrition influences actions taken at the local level, where it can have its greatest impact. It would be impossible to cover all of the landmark moments in nutrition governance in a single blog post, but we can examine trends in the governance of nutrition, and how they aligns with the efforts taken in Peru.

Modern global food and nutrition governance began in 1944 with the establishment of the FAO, as a response to inequalities in the global food regime and the oversupply of food in parts of the world, compared to famines and malnourishment running rampant in others (McKeon, 2015). This watershed moment set the stage for the neoliberal, technology, and supply-side interventions that would characterize food governance for the next 60 years. However, it has been acknowledged now by governments that simply increasing the amount of food we produce will not solve problems of malnutrition, as we already produce more than enough food to provide every person on earth with 2800 calories per day (Food Tank, 2014).  Barriers to accessing food, such as isolation, inequality, varying climates, and poverty, need to be addressed as well in order to make any meaningful impact. Peru’s governance of malnutrition has mirrored these fluctuations in the paradigm of global governance, with efforts in the early 1970s being concentrated on the inflow and management of official development assistance coming from Western countries through the National Nutritional Support Office.

In recent years, however, particularly in light of the global food price crisis in 2007-2008, nutrition governance has shifted. This is reflected in the sustainable development goals, discussed in a previous blog post, which take a more “food systems” approach, rather than a “food aid” approach, including targets such as “ensuring sustainable food production,” “maintaining biodiversity,” and “increasing investments in rural infrastructure”(Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, 2015). One of the most widely recognized mechanisms in the global governance of nutrition presently is the World Health Assembly’s 2025 Global Targets for Maternal, Infant, and Child Nutrition, which has set inclusive targets and indicators that have been widely endorsed and have laid the foundation for the development of other multilateral nutrition agreements (World Health Assembly, 2015). The aim was to support the creation of an enabling environment for comprehensive food and nutrition policies that engage policymakers at the national level across sectors to recognize the multi-causality of malnutrition. This has shown a dramatic shift from historic government programming that focused on the simplistic need for more food.


Forty years from the establishment of the National Nutritional Support Office, Peru has participated in consultations about the Sustainable Development Goals and has designed decentralized programming that at least seeks to target the most vulnerable populations to overcome nutrition barriers related to equity (Benavides et al., 2016). It is yet to be seen whether Peru will shift their current “food aid” programming to align more closely with values of sustainability in terms of community empowerment and environmental protection in production under the new government. However, with shifts in governance changing towards global trends in non-communicable diseases and improving commodity markets, Peru must resist the urge to follow governance trends entirely and continue to “leave behind” the vulnerable populations that have not yet been beneficiaries of the country’s fast-paced economic and social development. While participation in agenda-setting at the global level is important, Peru must focus on translating the values and ambition of global targets to eradicate malnutrition into tangible actions to address the contextual needs of local communities in achieving sustainable food security.

Acosta, Andres Mejia (2011). “Analyzing Success in the Fight against Malnutrition in Peru.” IDS Working Papers. Volume 2011 , Number 367. Accessed Online:
Benavides, Martin et al. (2016). “Measuring the Sustainable Development Agenda in Peru.” Post-2015  Data Test: Country Level Experiences. Lima: GRADE. Accessed Online:
Food Tank (2014). “What We Need to Know About Hunger.” Food Tank. Accessed Online:
International Food Policy Research Institute (2016). From Promise to Impact: Ending Malnutrition by 2030. Washington: International Food Policy Research Institute.
McKeon, Nora (2015). Food Security Governance: Empowering communities, regulating corporations. New York: Routledge.
Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform (2015). “Sustainable Development Goal 2: End Hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” United Nation Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Accessed Online:
World Health Organization (2014). “Indicators for the Global Monitoring Framework on Maternal, Infant    and Young Child Nutrition.” Geneva: World Health Organization. Accessed Online:


Publicado por Nexos Comunitarios

[English] Nexos Comunitarios, is a Peruvian non-profit civil association, formed by a group of citizens, professionals, committed to reducing poverty in isolated communities within Peru; and in promoting a better understanding and true respect between different societies and cultures (nationally and internationally). --- [Español] Nexos Comunitarios, es una asociación civil sin fines de lucro, peruana, formada por un grupo de ciudadanas y ciudadanos, profesionales, comprometidos en reducir la pobreza existente en comunidades aisladas dentro de Perú; y en promover un mejor entendimiento y verdadero respeto entre sociedades y culturas diferentes (a nivel nacional e internacional).

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