IBFAN – GIFA works to increase the role and capacity of civil society in the international, regional and national policy setting arena, so as to provide a counterweight to the influence of the private sector in infant and young child feeding. We work towards increased clarity and coherence in international instruments, so as to provide a strong international policy framework for IBFAN and its allies.
Based in Geneva, IBFAN-GIFA acts as a Global Liaison office role for the entire IBFAN network. It is the interface between IBFAN groups worldwide and the UN agencies and their intergovernmental governing bodies, human rights treaty bodies and international NGOs. The IBFAN affiliation provides IBFAN-GIFA with an opportunity to solicit direct contributions and participation from regional offices and national groups in international action and communicate these efforts at national, regional and international levels. The groups and regional office provide IBFAN-GIFA with information from the field which strengthens the Geneva office’s advocacy capacity. In turn, IBFAN-GIFA ensures that regional offices receive in a timely manner all relevant information about the developments at international level to allow them to use it in national processes, policy debates and programme formulations.
The two way relationship between IBFAN-GIFA and the IBFAN network of regional and national offices is well illustrated on the example of the work with human rights treaty bodies, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee) in particular. IBFAN-GIFA receives from them contributions which make it possible to submit regularly alternative NGO reports to the CRC Committee and thus successfully inform and influence their recommendations to state parties. At the same time, IBFAN-GIFA aims to equip the network with the necessary tools and understanding of human rights so that they can influence effectively infant and young child feeding policies at country level, using human rights arguments and action. In 2012, 17 IBFAN alternative reports were submitted and recommendations addressing infant and young child feeding were issued by the Committee to 17 member states. Moreover, IBFAN-GIFA ensures the network’s continuous input in the processes and policies of the World Health Organisation as they relate to infant and young child feeding, maternal health, the institutional reform of WHO and conflicts of interest issues.
With regard to the liaison/networking with international NGOs/coalitions/allies, IBFAN - GIFA has built strong alliances and collaborates closely with a number of key international NGOs, in particular those in the breastfeeding and environmental movements, and with the humanitarian community. Such organisations and institutions include: the IFE interagency Core, People’s Health Movement, FoodFirst International Action Network, the department of Gender and Nutrition of the University of Hoenheim, the Democratising Global Health Coalition, Consumers International, and Geneva Forum for Health, etc.
Technical support role serves the global IBFAN Network as the office specialized in specific issues such as: prevention of obesity; infant feeding in emergencies; infant feeding and HIV/AIDS; complementary feeding; contamination of infant formula and environmental health. The office is also providing support to the network on crosscutting issues such as: Gender issues: IBFAN-GIFA has been leading work on the following issues: maternity protection at work, chemical residues in breastmilk and male-mediated developmental toxicity, and linking gender with right to adequate food and nutrition, sexual and reproductive health rights; Child rights and human rights perspectives: In addition to being an interface with the treaty bodies, the office has developed technical expertise in human rights and has been organizing trainings and orientation sessions for the network to strengthen capacity in this area. Policy analysis: IBFAN-GIFA scrutinizes policy documents and new initiatives to promote the role of public-interest civil society groups in the international policy setting arena and to counterweigh the influence of the private sector with commercial interests in infant and young child feeding.
The supportive role of IBFAN - GIFA for the regions has gradually become less important and has turned into a partnership among equals. IBFAN - GIFA now plays more the role of catalyst. With its access to information at international level and its technical capacity, it brings issues to the attention of the Regional Coordinating Offices (RCOs), and assists in strengthening their capacity and that of their regions. This capacity includes project planning, management and administration. The current level of cooperation between IBFAN - GIFA and regional and national IBFAN groups has brought considerable results. However, IBFAN-GIFA can see further possibilities for strengthening of this cooperation, especially in the area of building specific capacity of regional offices, and provision of stronger technical support.