Sustainable development working group session

22-24 MAY 2013 | WORLDWIDE

The third session of the United Nations General Assembly’s Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals opened on Wednesday, May 22 in New York. OWG Co-chair Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya, opened the session highlighting that the issues for discussion are fundamental to human survival. He said the new development agenda must carry over and complete the unfinished business of the UN Millennium Development Goals, stressing the need to maintain momentum, engagement and enthusiasm.

PMNCH submitted a document to the OWG underlining the links between nutrition and sustainable development, making the following points among other evidence-based arguments:

Investing in nutrition for women and children is essential for sustainable development

  • The nutritional status of populations is intricately linked with the four dimensions of sustainable development as, defined by the UN System Taskforce on Sustainable Development: economic development, environmental sustainability, social inclusion, and peace and security.
  • Reducing malnutrition is thus a prerequisite for sustainable development and should be a priority in the post-2015 development agenda.
  • Malnutrition is a major contributor to disease and early deaths, particularly for women and children, and undernutrition can lead to irreversible health and developmental problems across generations.

Improved nutritional status improves economic growth

  • Access to sufficient, nutritious food enables all people to fully realize their potential and contributes to economic growth.
  • Healthy and well-nourished women are more productive, save more and invest more.
  • Healthy, well-nourished children have improved cognitive development and learning, increased school attendance, improved educational attainment and higher lifetime earnings potential.

Addressing social factors is critical to improving nutrition security

  • Social barriers can prevent access to nutritious and affordable foods, particularly for women and children.
  • Better access to contraception, and reduced social and cultural gender inequalities, increases women’s participation in the workforce.
  • Rising incomes for women translate into benefits for their families, as they tend to spend a higher share of their earnings than men on food, healthcare, home improvement and education.

Environmental impacts

  • Malnutrition is associated with poor food production and access.
  • Severe soil and water pollution and land degradation from unsustainable farming practices exacerbate environmental degradation.
  • When compounded with climate change, food stability is further compromised.

Peace and security

  • Particularly in low-income settings, climate change poses an increasing burden on environmental systems already under stress due to population pressures and conflict.
  • Reduced food security can place already vulnerable people further into poverty.
  • Poor health and nutrition are associated with greater probability of civil conflict.


  • The post-2015 process calls for a people-centered and planet-sensitive sustainable development agenda that is based on principles of equity and sustainability.
  • A cross-sectoral approach to health and nutrition, which incorporates the economic, environmental, social, and peace and security benefits related to improved nutrition as a goal, should be one of the key components of the post-2015 framework.

Related links and documents

  • Health and the next global development agenda
    More information about the UN post-2015 consultation process and PMNCH position on health in the future sustainable development framework
  • IISD RS report
    Report on the Third Session of the Open Working Group (OWG) of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the International Institute for Sustainable Development – Reporting Services Division