A new wave of evidence confirms the importance of nutrition to development. In particular, recent evidence shows strong links between infant undernutrition and cognitive development. This new evidence re-emphasizes the crucial role played by nutrition in the acceleration of development, no matter how it is defined. The link between foetal undernutrition and adult chronic disease has implications for development policy, including strengthening the economic productivity rationale for investing in nutrition. The community-based approach by the nutrition community serves as a model for other sectors to emulate, re-affirming the importance of community empowerment to the overall development process.
The broad changes taking place on the global stage also have implications for the nutrition community. The freer flow of finances, food, and information presents opportunities and challenges to the nutrition community. For example, the East Asian financial crisis of 1997 and 1998 threatens to eradicate the gains in nutrition status made by a large proportion of an entire generation. The increased liberalization of food trade requires the establishment of a benchmark set of food standards. Such benchmarks exist in the Codex Alimentarius and associated agreements, which might become blueprints for effective international regulation in a global environment. Although access to information and knowledge is uneven, their scope for accelerating declines in malnutrition seems very large indeed. The rapid rate of urbanization poses new challenges to the food and nutrition community and will require new models and approaches.
Finally, the human rights paradigm has emerged as a potentially powerful way of thinking about and practicing development. Nutrition is about much more than economic productivity arguments; it is about fundamental rights. A final challenge for all the readers of this document will be to work out - and to share with others - ways in which the potential of the human rights paradigm can be further unleashed to enhance every available resource in the fight against malnutrition.
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