Director-General  QU Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu

THE GUANGZHOU UNITED CITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS (UCLG) 2020 WORLD COUNCIL

THE ROLE OF THE INTERNATIONAL MUNICIPAL AND REGIONAL MOVEMENT 
IN COVID TIMES

11-13 November 2020

Intervention by the FAO Director-General, Dr. QU Dongyu

As prepared

 

 

Distinguished Guests, 

Colleagues, 

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. It is my pleasure to be with you on the occasion of the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) 2020 World Council and I welcome the focus of the Council on the Role of the International Municipal and Regional Movement in COVID-19 pandemic

2. These are difficult times. In the past months, we have witnessed how the pandemic has been damaging our societies, our economies and our food systems.  

3. The COVID-19 pandemic has added new challenges, worsening already precarious conditions for vulnerable groups. Densely populated urban areas have been hit particularly hard, as they are much more vulnerable to the spread of the virus. 

4. In many cases, restrictions to prevent the virus from spreading have brought disruptions in food supply chains, thus resulting in shortages and food price increases in urban areas. 

5. But the potential of local and municipal governments to take food system related actions to prevent this from happening has not been fully leveraged.  

6. FAO recently conducted a survey on Urban Food Systems and COVID-19. We collected 861 responses from 77 countries. About 57% of these replies were from members of local governments.

7. The results show that local administrations have played an active role in reducing the effects of the pandemic on food systems and on the health and food security of their citizens.

8. Many cities have put in place mechanisms for monitoring food markets, innovative food distribution mechanisms such as e-commerce and temporary food hubs to improve access for the most vulnerable.  

9. These actions were often taken without additional financial resources. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

10. In times of emergency, it is easy to fall into the trap of focusing only on addressing the most urgent needs. We need to adapt quickly and face the pandemic in a more holistic way, so that we can build better, more resilient and inclusive urban food systems. 

11. To deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, city and regional networks need to work together with UN Agencies and international donors to create an enabling environment that empowers local and regional governments with appropriate resources, a delegation of authority and proper links to national policy-decision making. 

12. Giving a voice to local and regional governments acknowledges the importance of their proximity to the communities, their capacity to mobilize local stakeholders and their ability to rapidly identify the most vulnerable. 

13. One may wonder why urban areas are so important for a sustainable food system transformation and why FAO is working on urban issues.  

14. Some key facts speak for themselves:

15. Urban inhabitants consume about 70 percent of the global food supply. Ongoing urbanization will certainly increase this share. 

16. Many urban and peri-urban communities are exposed to food and nutrition insecurity.  

17. At the same time, rates of overweight and obesity are on the rise, particularly in urban settings, contributing to the rapid diffusion of diet-related non-communicable diseases. 

18. Expanding cities are encroaching on natural habitats. Large tracts of agricultural land are being converted for urban development and industrial use. 

19. Deforestation, linked to urban sprawl, is leading to a loss of biodiversity. 

20. Cities are also significant contributors to climate change, accounting for about 70% of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

21. We need to act now to support local and regional governments in mainstreaming food systems and green spaces in their policy, planning and action to increase people’s well-being. 

22. The New Urban Agenda signed in Quito in 2016 recognizes urban food systems and green spaces as key areas for achieving sustainable urban development. 

23. Many cities, regions, and international city networks are acknowledging the strong linkage among urban food systems and green spaces on one hand, and the challenges related to climate change, food insecurity and malnutrition in urban areas on the other.     

24. In September, FAO launched the Green Cities Initiative to enhance its work in cities and regions. 

25. The Initiative works towards urbanization as an opportunity for cities to become more sustainable, more resilient, bringing nutritious food and a better life to all. 

26. FAO will support cities to implement innovative and context-specific urban green actions related to food systems and green spaces, including urban and peri-urban agriculture and forestry.  

27. Our Green Cities approach is linked to FAO’s Hand-in-Hand Initiative, which aims at eradicating poverty, hunger and all forms of malnutrition.  

28. At the center of the Green Cities Initiative, is FAO’s Urban Food Agenda, which addresses some of the key challenges faced by urban food systems, including the recent disruptions caused by COVID-19.

29. An important related effort of FAO is the city-to-city exchange, which includes South-South and triangular cooperation for scaling up urban food systems actions. 

30. We call upon local governments to mainstream food systems and green spaces into their urban and territorial plans, promoting green and inclusive transformation with a long term perspective, mindful of job generation and youth engagement by green industry, green environment and green way of lifestyle. 

31. We look forward to working in partnership with all of you towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda, for a world of thriving, beautiful and green cities and a future free of hunger. 

Thank you. 

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