Food and nutrition security, health and gender equality: partnerships for climate-resilient sustainable development

by Cristina Tirado

Food and nutrition security, health, gender equality, climate change and environmental degradation, including loss of biodiversity are closely interlinked. Climate change and environmental degradation undermine the ability of people to move out of poverty and compromise their full enjoyment of human rights.  This has a direct impact on the health and food and nutrition security of millions of people – particularly women and their children.

There are 925 million hungry people in the world and three quarters of all hungry people in the world – some 700 million – live in rural areas. Half of them are farming families, who survive of marginal lands or holdings too small to support their needs, while the other half are landless families dependent on farming, herding, fishing or forest resources, as well as the urban poor. Food and nutrition insecurity and ill health are associated with poverty and gender inequality: 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women and girls.  Furthermore, globally and with few exceptions, rural women fare worse than rural men and urban women and men for every indicator for which data are available.

Several factors are critical to countering these challenges:

  • Women’s empowerment, engagement and transformational leadership play a critical role in the shift to sustainable and resilient development pathways that ensure global health, food and nutrition security and prosperity. Increasing women’s access to and control over productive resources would enable them to increase yields on their farms, leading to increased incomes. Research indicates that an increase in women’s incomes translates into improved child nutrition, health and education.
  • A climate justice approach with an emphasis on protecting human rights, participation, transparency and accountability, together with investments in social safety nets and in sustainable livelihoods, can make development more inclusive and equitable.
  • Integrated strategies are needed to address the interlinked issues of food and nutrition security, health, gender equality, climate change and environmental degradation.

Stakeholders in the different fields have identified successful strategies for addressing the challenges that climate change and environmental degradation pose to food and nutrition security and health. But there is a tendency to address these issues through siloed approaches, which reduces their effectiveness and impact. The future we want should ensure that these strategies are integrated and addressed from a gender responsive and human rights perspective. This calls for effective, transparent and results-oriented partnerships working together to achieve equitable and climate-resilient sustainable development.

Multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholders partnerships are critical to promoting synergies and reaching common goals on food and nutrition security, health and climate change in the context of RIO+20 and the post-2015 MDG framework.  Key priorities must be to protect and build human and social capital, focusing on education, social protection and capacity building; to protect and uphold human rights and to adopt a climate justice approach to these linked challenges; to address gender inequalities and to socially and economically empower women; to support civil society organizations so that they can better interact with the public and private sectors and more effectively engage in policy dialogue with governments; and to build government capacity for joint planning across ministries and sectors. This also requires aligned donor support for cross-sectoral programming and implementation among UN agencies and other stakeholders.

The Public Health Institute organized in collaboration with the World Food Program, the World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, IFAD, MRFCJ and UNDP  a high level event in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Rio+20 “Partnerships for the integration of food and nutrition security, health and gender equality to achieve climate-resilient sustainable development.” You can see the event at


For more information, please read the Outreach magazine from the Stakeholder Forum featured this event and the associated interview :

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