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19 February

The “2016 Munich Security Report” came out ahead of the Munich Security Conference gathering diplomats, politicians, and military & security experts every February. A lot of dark suits and grey hair. It is a worth reading report with good illustrations. A few things that jumped at me: A table comparing ‘old’ international organizations with ‘new’ Chinese-led ones to show the creation of a parallel order (a point we made in our latest Horizons) [p.11];  a section on Daesh that raises more questions than provides answers – problematic for a prominent security report [18-22];  a map of Africa showing each country’s median age which I thought was a good reminder of UNICEF’s role on the continent [p.32]; an assertion that “70 percent of nations worldwide explicitly qualify climate change as a national security concern” [p.44]. Discussions at the Conference itself were dominated by the Syrian conflict, the refugee crisis, and whether the NATO-Russia relation was heading towards a “new Cold War”.  Noticeable was the first ever plenary session on global health security. While not much will be news to you, the growing emphasis on the health-security nexus in this forum matters for how it (re)frames the debate. Médecins sans Frontières President Joanne Liu urged attendees to not (i) focus on epidemic responses only (but also consider the security of health providers for instance), nor (ii) make national security the main driver of response (but rather follow humanitarian law).

Cesar Victora came to UNICEF House to present “Breastfeeding in the 21st century: epidemiology, mechanisms, and lifelong effect” (his presentation is here [HT Julia Krasevec]). He pulled out a long list of killer facts from systematic reviews and meta-analyses on the relations between breastfeeding and children/mother outcomes: e.g., improving breastfeeding could save 820,000 under-5 children annually; longer breastfeeding can increase children’s IQ by 3 points; every year she breastfeeds, a mother reduces her risk of breast cancer by 6%. The wildest part of Victora’s talk was to argue that the feeding mode was the second most important (after the delivery mode) determinant of an infant’s microbiome which in turn influences her immune and cognitive capacities. That got us talking in the hallways. For more, read p. 486 of the paper and its super interesting references like this Nature article taking stock of the growing gut-to-brain research space.  

My map of the week is from Mekonnen and Hoekstra’s “Four billion people facing severe water scarcity”. Previous studies used annual water flow averages and large spatial units (river basin resolutions) to estimate that 1.7 to 3.1 billion people suffered severe water scarcity. This study focuses on monthly flows and uses a finer spatial resolution to show that 4 billion people are affected. That’s 2/3 of the world population! They live in areas with high population density, intense irrigated agriculture and/or low natural water availability. Half of them are in India and China.

My quote of the week is from my son Liam confiding in his friend Oliver: “My mom works at UNICEF but doesn’t do the real UNICEF work; she just sits in front of a computer all day”.

Bon week end!


Katell Le Goulven
Chief, Policy Planning

+ 1 917 246 2236 (c)
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