By Tom Arnold
I am writing this blog some hours after a wonderful young Irish woman called Katie Taylor has won an Olympic Gold Medal for boxing. The country is ‘en fete’ and all our economic problems seem a little lighter.
Our island neighbour Britain has had a wonderful two weeks of the Olympics. The magnificent opening ceremony set the tone. Since then the organisation of the Games has been outstandingly good. British athletes have won more medals than anyone expected. In 1992, Queen Elizabeth spoke about her ‘annus horrabilis’. Twenty years on, as she celebrates her Diamond Jubilee on the throne, this seems to be an ‘annus mirabilis’ for Britain.
As the Games draw to a close on Sunday next, Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to host a Global Hunger Event in 10 Downing St is both imaginative and politically important. The Prime Minister and Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, hope that this event will mean that London 2012 has a lasting legacy in creating the political momentum to improve the nutrition of millions of children.
Inviting Vice President Michel Temer of Brazil to co-host this event with Prime Minister Cameron is also imaginative. Brazil harnessed political will and creative policies to radically reduce hunger in their society and thus can provide lessons for other countries. The meeting in Downing St can be seen symbolically as passing a torch of political commitment to reduce hunger from the organisers of the 2012 Olympic Games to the organisers of the next games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016: and the recipients of that torch have the experience to fan the flame of political commitment further.
The Downing St meeting will bring together an interesting collection of leaders from national politics, donor agencies, the private sector and civil society. We will explore how these various sectors can work more effectively together in pursuit of our common goal of reducing hunger. We will discuss how we can use the framework provided by the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, to which 28 countries have now committed, to focus on improving nutrition during pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life and thereby reduce stunting levels among children.
I will have the honour – and challenge – of moderating a roundtable which will discuss how we can use information for accountability to strengthen the SUN movement. We want to use the power of numbers to help governments scale up their efforts to tackle undernutrition. We will look at what new tools are available to collect relevant and real time information. We will explore how better information can strengthen the voice of civil society in ensuring commitments are met and in empowering communities.
The London 2012 Olympics have seen many acts of heroism and great sportsmanship. Let us hope that the legacy of one of the last acts of these Games, the hosting of the Global Hunger Event, will be improved nutrition for tens of millions of children, who can then aspire to Olympic glory in the future.