- The MSP needs to ‘marry’ formal and informal structures to ensure functionality in the Kyrgyz context – although the platform appears strong on paper, stakeholders have requested terms of reference in order to clarify roles and accountability, and to enforce the current memorandum of understanding between networks;
- Coalescing around a single issue strengthens platform coordination – the establishing of inter-network technical working groups (eg on flour fortification) has provided models of successful network coordination;
- Importance of building sub-national capacity – MSP stakeholders have recognised the need for vertical coordination, in order to reach the most nutritionally vulnerable populations, via initial links in three regions;
- Continuous advocacy efforts by stakeholders are required to ensure issues of nutrition and multi-sectorality stay high on the national agenda – Kyrgyzstan has an unstable political system, with frequent changes in government and weak governance in general.
Purpose of MSP
The Kyrgyzstan MSP was set up as part of the country’s objective on joining the SUN Movement in 2011, to create an enabling environment/structural support to improve nutrition. The SUN MSP is the first model of inter-sectoral coordination for nutrition in the Kyrgyz Republic (KR). As such it was closely involved in the development of the Food Security and Nutrition Plan (FSNP 2015-2017), and has worked collectively to ensure that all sectors were involved in developing the most recent FSNP (2018-2022), which has yet to be finalised.
The MSP is not involved directly in implementation, but does seek to influence nutrition policy and programming, for example in the area of food fortification. Platform networks have coordinated to push through legislative reform regarding availability and distribution of fortified flour, both at the national and regional levels.
Successful advocacy efforts have been made by stakeholders to elevate the status of the SUN MSP by increasing the involvement of key decision-makers and political figures. The platform (and by association, the SUN Movement) is now under the formal leadership of Chairman of the revitalised Food and Nutrition Security Council (the First Vice Prime Minister), who delegates his roles and responsibilities between two positions: a SUN Movement co-coordinator (the Member of Parliament and head of the Parliamentarian Network); and a technical coordinator (the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Food Industry and Melioration, serving as the Government focal point).
Government commitment to the MSP appears high, although every change of government (a frequent occurrence in Kyrgyzstan) requires new advocacy efforts to ensure nutrition remains prominent on the agenda. For example, a new health minister has just been appointed and actors describe having to build a new relationship and ‘talk in’ the concept of multi-sector nutrition once again. National coordination has been on a rotational basis, starting with the Ministry of Health and then moving to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Melioration. There are plans to move the role to another ministry, such as the Ministry of Education or Social Protection, but stakeholders have voiced concerns that other ministries outside health and agriculture lack the necessary technical and human capacity to support the platform.
Figure: Organogram of the Kyrgyzstan SUN MSP
As discussed, the platform coordinator role was leveraged for greater impact to a higher level within the national government, that of First Vice Prime Minister, although due to a recent change in government this position now needs to be reassigned to a new VPM. Key MSP stakeholders have been strategic from the platform’s inception in their identification of potential nutrition champions. For example, participation in the 2014 Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in Rome was a turning point in the current MSP focal point’s own understanding of multi-sectorality, where he heard other ministers of agriculture from different countries talk about nutrition interventions (the visit was organised by the SUN MSP donor convenor who accompanied him).
Similarly, the MSP’s Civil Alliance network identified the parliamentarian and Chair of the National Committee of Kyrgyzstan on Population and Development, Mr. Osmonbek Artykbaev, as a potential nutrition champion due to his involvement over many years with food fortification initiatives and introducing nutrition issues onto the parliamentary agenda. This resulted in his successful nomination as a SUN Global Nutrition Champion in 2017. Unfortunately, Mr Artykbaev is currently facing corruption charges, which could be a serious setback for the SUN MSP since he had proved an energetic and effective leader of the platform. The involvement of MPs via the parliamentarian network has been particularly important in gaining traction for nutrition in the country.
The MSP was formalised by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in June 2016 between all SUN networks, and an MSP strategy (2016-2020) was subsequently developed. The MOU has been viewed by stakeholders as an important step in clarifying roles and accountability for each network. On paper (the SUN MOU and MSP Strategy), decision-making and action appears inclusive with all partners collaborating on shared goals. In reality, however, the partnership tends to be a looser arrangement with less coordination and communication on efforts such as advocacy events, and with overlapping activities. Findings from a recent analysis of existing strategies, policies and regulatory frameworks show that there is still a lack of proper understanding of the mechanism of multisectoral cooperation and platforms.
Structural challenges have arisen from aligning existing formal entities such as the (previously inactive) Food Security and Nutrition Council, with more informal, voluntary networks such as those set up via the SUN platform. Stakeholders have requested (and received) technical assistance from the SUN Secretariat (via MQSUN+) to strengthen platform functionality by establishing clear governance, coordination and accountability mechanisms as an integral part of the Food Security and Nutrition Plan (2018-2022), as well as sub-national governance and coordination mechanisms. Terms of Reference (TORs) for each network have been developed to define separate roles and build capacity for different networks and sectors to work together more effectively. This includes the integration of parallel structures such as the UN and Donor SUN MSP network with the influential Development Partners’ Coordination Committee on Agriculture, Food Security and Rural Development (known as the DPCC). Actors recognise that there is a need for a joint framework for all networks, to help prevent fragmentation. However, strategic plans have yet to be agreed and implemented.
More successfully, inter-network technical working groups have been set up to work on various aspects of food security and nutrition, including developing legislation on regulating the import of unfortified flour, introduction of a surveillance system on neural tube defects and introduction of indicators on food security and nutrition into the National Statistical Committee database. The working group on flour fortification unified network members from civil society, Government and parliamentarians, and the business sector around a common cause. Following the amendment of legislation and other actions, sales of fortified flour increased from 18% to 52% within the country.
When the country first joined the SUN Movement, MSP networks and working groups used to meet regularly prior to monthly teleconferences organised by the Global SUN Secretariat, but this has declined due to fewer global interactions. Each network has a focal point and holds internal meetings, although it is difficult to obtain verification of these. The largest meet-up of the SUN MSP is the Joint Annual Assessment, which in 2018 brought together over 40 individuals with representation from all networks (though some were better represented than others). There did not appear to have been any network meetings (or email contact) between network members, prior to the JAA (2018), to discuss progress in preparation for the one-day event.
The SUN MSP has five autonomous networks, including the Government and Parliamentarian network, Civil Alliance, UN and Donor partners, Academia and Business. The two MSP networks regarded by stakeholders as the most active and effective to date are the Parliamentarian network and the Civil Alliance, especially in their joint efforts to strengthen legislation and uptake of fortified flour to combat high levels of anaemia.
Partnership types within the platform range from the very active large alliances of over 60 country-wide NGOs engaged in nutrition (the Civil Alliance was created as a network for the SUN MSP) to the Parliamentarian network of 12 MPs and the Business network, comprising mainly salt and flour producers. The Academia network (comprising academics from universities, medical researchers and paediatricians) has provided an expert view on nutrition issues such as anaemia or iodine deficiency, but does not appear to have regular meet-ups. Government is represented primarily by stakeholders from the Ministries of Agriculture (where the current MSP coordination sits) and Health (where it sat previously), with the network recognising the need for further advocacy to engage other relevant ministries such as education and social protection. As mentioned, there appears to be some crossover between the DPCC and the Donor and UN networks for the SUN MSP, which the new TORs developed under the FSNP (2018-2022) are attempting to resolve via integration of these parallel structures.
Although the Kyrgy Government is described as very centralised with limited decision-making at the regional (oblast) level, MSP stakeholders have recognised the need to decentralise in order to reach the most vulnerable populations, such as rural women and children. Expansion of the platform at sub-national level was initiated at the end of 2017 with orientation meetings conducted in three regions (Issyk-Kul, Naryn and Jalalabad). MSP networks, such as the civil alliance and business networks, have also established connections at sub-national level particularly in relation to fortification initiatives. Two regional representatives from the civil alliance were funded to attend the SUN Joint Annual Assessment (in May, 2018) for the first time.
In 2013, donor coordinators, UNICEF and the World Bank, were given an initial grant (USD 235,400) from the SUN fund to create an enabling environment/structural support to improve nutrition, out of which came the SUN MSP. Since then, the platform has also received funding for technical assistance from the SUN Secretariat (via MQSUN+) to strengthen its functionality by establishing clear governance, coordination and accountability mechanisms as an integral part of the Food Security and Nutrition Plan (2018-2022), as well as sub-national governance and coordination mechanisms. However, there is no specific state budget for the ongoing functioning of the SUN MSP: the platform’s MOU does not include obligations for the expenditure or allocation of funds, with each network expected to bear the costs of participation in joint activities. Donors such as UNICEF and WFP are currently the principal funders of the MSP.
Other important aspects of MSP design
Adaptive capacity & sustainability
The SUN MSP in Kyrgyzstan is currently in a transition phase: the structure is in place on paper, but some elements (and overall coordination) need strengthening, and it is facing serious challenges with a recent loss of key nutrition champions. However, the platform has shown itself to be adaptive over time, with changes in coordinators, positioning of nutrition within government, moves to create a coordinating technical secretariat within an existing structure (the FSNC), and developing mechanisms for successful coordination, in particular the technical working group on flour fortification. The broader political situation in the country is described as very fluid, with frequent changes of government that make working with state actors very challenging: the SUN MSP has been described as ‘filling a gap for non-state actors until parliament is more stable’. In many ways, the platform’s challenges are no different to those confronting the rest of the country, particularly issues concerning weak governance and financial instability.