SE079 Urban Food Agenda. How can we bridge the local-national-global governance gap?


  • FAO
  • World Centre for Sustainable Food Systems (CEMAS)
  • Milan Urban Food Policy Pact

Food and agriculture are being challenged by urbanization and growth of urban demographics. At least 55% of the world's population already lives in urban areas, who consumes an estimated 70% of all food produced globally. The next three decades will see spikes of urban expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia. With this background it is safe to state that the actions taken in urban areas, and by urban dwellers, will have significant ample implications on the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda. FAO has recently launched the FAO Framework on the Urban Food Agenda in Rome and New York.

This Framework serves as a corporate strategy for responding to the demands for implementing the New Urban Agenda ensuring resilient food systems and good nutrition along the rural-urban continuum. The framework guides on integrated actions across sectors, actors and level of governments, arguably the needed essence for directing to the planet's sustainability. Indeed, breaking silos and promoting a systemic approach appear for once feasible through a place-based solution strategy leveraging action of local governments.

However, sub-national governments have reiterated in a number of occasions their need for a global Forum that goes beyond discussion and exchange of lessons learnt among the sub-national and local governments. They rather have urged multilateral independent organizations, in particular FAO, to facilitate action-oriented processes that engage the local leaders with national governments and international influencers (e.g. private corporations, philanthropic entities, international civil organizations, non-food sector alliances etc.) for discussing pertinent issues impacting food systems in urban areas and agree on a position as an independent forum.

This side event will foster a dialogue among global stakeholders for understanding ways to strengthen partnership around the urban food agenda and agree on relevant recommendations for developing a roadmap to facilitate a non-governmental forum for action.

The side event will include a keynote presentation on current and foreseen work of FAO with partners in the Urban Food Agenda. Examples of good practices of cities and territories to promote rural revitalization and overall food system transformation, will be highlighted. Following, a panel discussion will be guided to determine milestones needed to establish a functional mechanism that can influence the global urban food governance.

Key speakers/presenters

  • Mr. Kostas Stamoulis, Senior Advisor, SP1, FAO
  • Mr. Jamie Morrison, Strategic Program Leader, SP4, FAO
  • Ms. Barbara Emanuel,  Manager of Toronto Food Strategy, Toronto Public Health
  • Mr. Fabio Massimo Pallottini, Board Member, World Union of Wholesale Markets
  • Ms. Susanne Schlaack, Head of Division, German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture
  • Ms. Marcela Villarreal, Director, Partnerships Division, FAO

Main themes/issues discussed

The main theme of the discussion was how to bridge the gaps between national and local governments in implementing successful urban food policies that are holistic and inclusive.  

An innovative experience of Toronto illustrated how the city leveraged climate change action adopting a food systems approach to promote safe and healthy food and improve the life within its communities.  However, even a city that has 30 years of history on food policies, work of the local government faces many challenges, having many responsibilities and low means to intervene.  Often, national policies clash with municipality priorities due to a difference in mandate, such as export orientation vs. promoting local food production and consumption.

Berlin’s experience illustrated a winning example on food nutrition strategies which include rural-urban-linkages, short supply chains and climate resilience.  However, a gap in the local to national dialogue is also an issue there, with ministries often focusing primarily on national priorities. Putting the topic of Food Systems on the international agenda may help national governments to gain an international perspective.   

The Rome wholesale market (the biggest in Italy and the 4th in Europe) is an example of good collaboration among local and national governments. It is the fruit of public policies which integrate food distribution and supply combining urban agriculture, food sustainability and distribution, zero waste and traditional markets.

Summary of key points

The discussion was focused on the opportunity to establish global mechanisms to influence action at a global level.  It highlighted the importance of using existing global mechanisms instead of establishing new platforms.  In addition, nation city networks were acknowledged as key players in bridging the national-local food governance gaps.  The experience of Food Secure Canada / Canadian Alliance on food security underlined that the role of the Alliance was instrumental in the development of the Canada’s first-ever food policy launched in 2019.  Furthermore, the key role of FAO in facilitating the collaboration across the different government level actors was explicitly recognized. 

Key take away messages

The food systems multi-stakeholders and multi-level approach is key for addressing the complex socio-economic and ecological issues that constrain food security and nutrition across the rural-urban continuum.

At global level there is a clear need to create adequate coordination mechanisms between the different levels of governments and different institutions to ensure policy coherence.  A multi-stakeholder fora have not been established that facilitate urban food action-oriented discussions and enable collaboration of local with national governments.  A possible global mechanism should be built on what FAO and partners have already built and achieved, and upon identifying actual gaps in local to national dialogue.  This would accelerate constructive dialogue and actions at all government levels, leveraging on FAO’s existing partnerships on the Urban Food Agenda.

An international technical consultation is needed to further share major challenges and explore possible strategies for effective multi-level food systems governance.

CFS 46 Side Event: SE079 Urban Food Agenda. How can we bridge the local-national-global governance gap?


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