British Ambassador’s speech at launch of SESAN-ENERGUATE nutrition project in Guatemala

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The British Ambassador, Sarah Dickson, gave a speech at the launch today of a nutrition project, "illuminating life through the window of a 1000 days" being run the Guatemalan Ministry of Food and Nutritional Security (SESAN) and ENERGUATE (a subsidiary of the British investment fund ACTIS)

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Thank you very much for inviting me to the launch of this joint project between SESAN and ENERGUATE. I think it is a great contribution to the national and international efforts to eradicate malnutrition in Guatemala.

As a professional and as a mother, I cringe at the statistics that tell us that nearly half of all children under 5 years in Guatemala suffer from some degree of malnutrition. The task ahead of us is difficult but not impossible.

I want to applaud this strategic alliance between SESAN and ENERGUATE. ENERGUATE is a subsidiary of the British investment fund ACTIS. They have put their trust in Guatemala by investing significant capital in the acquisition of two electricity distribution companies.

But this is not just a transaction. Jaime Tupper (CEO) has told me about their goals of delivering excellence in customer service, creating jobs, and developing corporate social responsibility programmes.

Other companies in Guatemala are also doing their bit in the fight against malnutrition through initiatives such as the “Alliance for Nutrition”. I applaud these efforts too.

The British Government is also committed to the global fight against malnutrition. During the G8 Summit, a couple of months ago in Northern Ireland, the Heads of State agreed to support investments that have a measurable impact on reducing poverty and child malnutrition. Guatemala had a voice in this process. Prior to the start of the Summit, Guatemala was the only country in Latin America, represented by the Vice President, which participated in a special forum in London on Nutrition and Growth.

During this meeting in London, Guatemala announced plans to invest 34% of the nation’s general budget in the fight against malnutrition by 2014. It also used the meeting to exchange best practices with other countries and suffering from similar problems to help strengthen the Zero Hunger Pact.

The nearly 100 representatives from governments, civil society and companies reaffirmed their commitment to continue the fight against malnutrition through business and science. Guatemala and all participants renewed their commitment to accelerate efforts to achieve a significant reduction of chronic malnutrition and improve nutrition worldwide. They committed funds amounting to 4 billion dollars.

Since then, we have begun working closely with SESAN to help their fight against malnutrition. Just this past weekend the Embassy hosted a breakfast with SESAN to raise funds for a nutritional rehabilitation centre in Baja Verapaz.

Moreover, with its contributions to the European Union and the United Nations, the United Kingdom supports the fight against malnutrition through specific programmes.

From 2006-2015 the European Union in Guatemala has committed more than 60 million Euros (about 600 million Quetzals) in programmes ranging from support for government capacity in the fight against malnutrition to direct work with communities, some that already have become success stories.

The World Food Programme of the United Nations has invested over $36 million (about 285 million Quetzals) in the last three years in fortified complementary food for children, pregnant and lactating mothers, capacity building to improve food and child care, and for work with municipalities, amongst others.

As you can see Guatemala is not alone in this struggle. I would like to congratulate the work SESAN is doing on coordinating local efforts and to share their experience at international level. The commitments made in London are a clear demonstration of their commitment to this issue, a priority of the President and Vice President of the Republic.

I’m sure you will agree with me that the fight against malnutrition is only one element of the fight against poverty. As G8 leaders agreed, it is imperative to avail ourselves of instruments such as trade and science to eliminate both problems.

Free trade and investments as ACTIS’s open the door to the creation of jobs and economic development. And the use of science in developing improved crops or fortified foods accelerates the chances of recovery for those who suffer from malnutrition.

I urge the private sector and the Government to continue to work together and come to us with their proposals for doing more. Working together with transparency, dedication and clear objectives can help us to make a difference and provide development opportunities to children who are the future of Guatemala.

Thank you very much.