REACH Facilitator highlights Myanmar experience during a panel discussion at recent EAT Asia-Pacific Food Forum in Jakarta, illustrating that good multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder collaboration is possible

REACH Facilitator highlights Myanmar experience during a panel discussion at recent EAT Asia-Pacific Food Forum in Jakarta, illustrating that good multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder collaboration is possible

Nearly 900 participants gathered in Jakarta for the regional EAT Forum in late October, ready to partake in active discussions about how to better connect the dots between food, health and climate in order to address the region’s health and environmental challenges. The two-day conference attracted activists, business executives, chefs, development partners, politicians and scientists, promoting transformative change across actors. As part of the line-up, Gerda Verburg, Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations and Coordinator of the SUN Movement, moderated a panel discussion devoted to Building (multi-stakeholder) trust to change behaviours to tackle multiple forms of malnutrition, where she prompted panelists to provide concrete examples of successes.

One of three panelists in the session, Sansan Myint shared her experience as the REACH Facilitator in Myanmar, and particularly how REACH has helped to animate the country’s multi-stakeholder platform. Dr. Myint spoke about REACH’s catalytic role in engaging multiple ministries in nutrition dialogue, including non-traditional ministries, such as the Ministries of Social Welfare, Planning and Finance, Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, and Education. She also mentioned her work in bringing together the nine UN agencies of the UN Network – their resources, talents and capacity – to support Government efforts on nutrition. In addition, she noted that the UN Network engages with the SUN Civil Society and donor community, and how the UN can serve as an effective mediator between stakeholder groups. These efforts to galvanize and sensitize multiple actors (including ministries) have since created an enabling environment for Myanmar to successfully launch a maternal cash transfer program in one of the most remote regions in the country. Under the programme, all pregnant women receive a modest stipend to enable them to consume nutritious food during the critical 1000 days period.

Another panelist shared inspiring Indonesian proverbs, and reminded the audience that trust is earned. Before closing the panel discussion, Gerda Verburg underscored the importance of respect among diverse actors, including for their different roles in identifying solutions and supporting impact. She also acknowledged the value of having an “independent and reliable and experienced convener/moderator, who is able to guide such a discussion, and to bring it towards concrete and measureable action,” very much along the lines of the work carried out by REACH at the country level.