WHEN THE SUN MEETS THE STATE
My doctoral dissertation, Governing Global Nutrition: The Politics of Pro-Poor Policy Reform in Southeast Asia, investigates the influence of the United Nations Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement. SUN acts as a non-binding agreement. Since 2009, 60 countries have signed on, publicly committing to introduce pro-poor policies for maternal and child nutrition. Scholarly research, however, has yet to examine whether SUN contributes to policy change. Using original fieldwork, conducted in Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand between 2014-16, my research reveals the political conditions needed for global efforts to improve policies for nutrition.
Crucially, I highlight the role of two state characteristics in introducing policies that primarily benefit the poor: state capacity and political regime. I show how varying combinations of state capacity and political regime influence the type of coalition that emerges in response to SUN. The type of coalition that mobilizes – and the way in which it uses SUN to strengthen its position in domestic debates – affects opportunities for pro-poor policy reform. These findings form the basis of my book-length project, the first scholarly analysis of SUN. My research intervenes in key debates on “what works” in global governance, elaborating on when and how the United Nations can contribute to the development of policies that can reduce poverty and inequality.