Policy Research | Recipe for Success: Accelerating Nutrition Governance

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Over the last decade, addressing malnutrition has ramped up through the creation of global initiatives—including the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement or the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition—to accelerate progress. Amid a global pandemic—and recurrent shocks and crises driven by climate change, conflict, and economic downturn—now is the time to renew commitment to addressing all forms of malnutrition more sustainably.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) recognizes the importance of country-owned, country-led nutrition interventions; however, more research and guidance on how to better localize nutrition interventions and enhance country ownership is needed. As such, the purpose of this policy analysis is to examine how existing U.S. government (USG) policies, systems, and structures enable or hinder the localization of the USG’s nutrition programming, as well as nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive approaches implemented by USG-funded nutrition actors. Through better understanding of enabling and limiting factors, USG and nutrition actors can further commit to localization and better design nutrition programming for scale up.

There are numerous terms used in the humanitarian and development sectors, from “country-ownership” to “localization” and “locally led” approaches; this analysis uses these terms interchangeably, all advancing the principle of subsidiarity from Catholic social teaching: that communities closest to challenges should be artisans of their own development. For the purposes of this analysis, CRS examined localization of nutrition policy and programs through a framework for nutrition governance adapted from studies by Tufts University, the Institute of Development Studies, and others.

Recommendations for Donors:

To advance localization of nutrition programming, it is recommended that donors, and specifically the USG, should:

  1. Strengthen and institutionalize its approach to nutrition governance.
  2. Prioritize strengthening host country capacities and linkages at all levels (e.g., community, regional, and national) in its nutrition programming.
  3. Improve coordination and reduce silos within USG nutrition programming.
  4. Prioritize including host country nationals as key personnel within solicitations for nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive programming.
  5. Require nutrition development solicitations to include detailed and realistic transition/sustainability/exit plans, with milestones for the transition to local partners, built into every stage of the project.
  6. Support and strengthen existing national platforms or systems, such as multi-stakeholder platforms or monitoring and evaluation systems, rather than creating parallel structures, to improve localization of nutrition programming and sustainability.
  7. Provide additional clarity on the Refine and Implement (R&I) process, allow flexibility in initiating project activities earlier and improve the sharing of data collected through R&I.
  8. Identify and remove barriers that create funding delays and avoid early termination of nutrition programs at all costs.

Recommendations for USG-funded Nutrition Implementers:

To advance localization of USG-funded nutrition programming, implementers should consider the following in their project design and implementation:

  1. Develop plans to formalize and fund roles for community cadres (e.g., community volunteers, extension workers, etc.).
  2. Invest in fewer, high-impact nutrition interventions tailored to the local context.
  3. Improve coordination of nutrition activities with local partners, sectors, and other donors.
  4. Create and promote accountability mechanisms for nutrition programming.
  5. Build in more frequent opportunities for capacity strengthening with relevant stakeholders.

For more information, please contact [email protected]