The nutrition challenges facing the world of today are daunting. One out of three people suffers from at least one form of malnutrition, and current trends suggest this may increase in the coming years. Every country in every region in the world is affected. The causes of malnutrition are multisectoral, and so reaching global and national goals requires addressing numerous underlying and structural factors as well as securing the concerted attention of a broad range of actors. 

Although the multisectoral nature of nutrition is well known, how nutrition is affected by linkages across the rural–urban continuum is not. Increased attention to the impact of changes in food systems, urbanization and rural transformation has highlighted the importance of territoriality and urban governance in addressing nutrition. Nutritionists now need to better understand how urban–rural linkages shape the factors that affect nutrition (factors that are often embedded in complex, non-health-related systems) and how these broader policies and programs are designed and governed.

This paper provides, first, an overview of nutrition and the urban–rural context and how, in general terms, this relates to integrated territorial governance and development. The discussion is then situated in the context of the global development agenda, particularly initiatives dealing with nutrition, urban settlements and urban–rural linkages. The paper then explores how the Guiding Principles for Urban–Rural Linkages (URL-GP) and Framework for Action (FfA) developed by UN-Habitat relate to nutrition actions. Recognizing that the links between urban-rural linkages are not direct, but mediated by other systems and factors, and noting that experiences with applying a territorial  approach to nutrition policies and programs are still limited, the paper concludes by outlining initial steps towards promoting more integrated territorial planning for nutrition, while also encouraging further thinking, initiatives and research in this direction.

The paper has been translated in all 6 UN official languages; pre-design language versions will become available in the week of 10-14 February.