Improving the world, one breastfeeding dyad at a time
This fall, I had the honour to represent the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) at the 64th annual conference of the UNO DPI/NGO in Bonn (Germany). The theme of this conference was “Sustainable Societies, Responsive Citizens”. This theme was discussed in plenary discussions, panel discussions, Round Tables and workshops. Emphasis was also placed on youth participation. They partly had their own program but also joined in the regular discussions. There was a large NGO exhibition, and between the discussions and through an official invitation for a reception by the city of Bonn, there was much time to meet with persons of organisations from around the world.
The themes of the workshops and roundtable discussions were very broad. “Sustainable consumption and production aspects of a globalizing world” “Climate justice”, “civic engagement and voluntary action” were but a few of the themes of the roundtables. The keynote speakers addressed such topics as “green economy”, “poverty eradication”, “role of women in economy”, “consumer action” “climate” and “role of peace”. This conference also aimed to involve the participants and inform the preparatory process towards the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio + 20) in Rio de Janeiro, 4-6 June 2012. This aim was also clearly demonstrated at the final conference declaration.
I attended four workshops:
• Climate sustainability governance: ensuring greener economies, social wellbeing and ecological equity in a post-Rio+20 world.
• Population dynamics, reproductive health and rights and sustainability.
• Envisioning global future lifestyles and livelihoods for engaging citizens now
• What is the link between the 10YFJP, a green economy, MDGs, Poverty and happiness and sustainable consumption and production in the Rio + 20 Agenda?
From these themes it becomes clear what broad discussions were offered. And, as always, this world has its own abbreviations. MDGs stands for Millennium Development Goals, 10YFP stands for 10 Year Framework of Programs, developed by the UNEP, the “environmental” arm of UNO.
My personal input was rather small. I had the opportunity to share a document, written by Nancy Wight (of course with her permission) about the sustainability of breastfeeding on many occasions, especially in the working groups. In these smaller groups it also was easier to stress the importance of breastfeeding as a “sustainable” food. After all: which food is so perfectly delivered from producer to consumer, almost without production energy, without transportation, without waste?
What was bothering me at this conference was that these themes are so complicated, so intertwined, that it was not possible to have an overview. And of course: each group represented there was pushing “their” view, often in very abstract terms. Especially in the Round Table discussion the solutions that were offered were very broadly formulated. “The whole world should be changed” — but how to begin?
What became clearer and clearer for me in the course of the conference is that I as an individual or as an individual NGO (like the Academy) cannot change the world. But I can work on the small field that I understand — in our case the protection and promotion of breastfeeding, and this in itself will have an impact. In some discussions I brought this up as a possibility that can easily be shared with people as an opportunity to have a contribution themselves, both for health of mothers and children and for the sustainability of our society.
Especially after the workshops there were some good discussions with persons involved.
– I learned there are also Millenium Consumption Goals and breastfeeding would be a wonderful pattern of consumption for both societies with under consumption and overconsumption. It would perhaps be an opportunity to also find ways to connect here.
– On population dynamics I made contact with Dr. Siri Tellier and she emailed me after the conference both because of support of one of her students and because she would like to stay in touch about the role of breastfeeding in reproductive health.
In conclusion, conferences like this are too big to have a large impact for the ABM. Nevertheless it gives us an opportunity to have a broader perspective of the role of breastfeeding, not only as a health issue but also as a “sustainable way of life”.
Elien Rouw, MD, FABM, is a physician in Bühl, Germany, and member of the board of ABM
Opinions expressed on the ABM blog are those of individual members, not the organization as a whole.