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This report summarizes the discussions, conclusions and recommendations of a regional seminar on “Feeding Asian Cities” held in Bangkok from 27 to 30 November 2000. The seminar, organized by the Regional Network of Local Authorities for the Management of Human Settlements (CityNet) and the Association of Food Marketing Agencies in Asia and the Pacific (AFMA) was convened with the technical support of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The seminar had three objectives:

1. to identify major food security challenges in feeding Asian cities and the role that city and local authorities (CLAs) can play in meeting those challenges;[1]

2. to prepare an action plan for the next ten years to strengthen the capacity of CLAs in enhancing urban food security;

3. to facilitate North-South and South-South collaboration and technical assistance partnerships among CLAs to address specific food supply and distribution constraints.

Approximately 100 participants from 27 countries attended the seminar. Most were Asian nationals, with strong representation from mayors and municipal officials. Other participants included representatives from government at various levels, international organizations, civil society and academia. The format of the seminar consisted of a limited number of keynote addresses and plenary sessions with emphasis on smaller group discussions taking place in workshops addressing specific issues. The seminar was directed specifically at CLAs and the role they can play in reducing urban food insecurity.


Asian cities are growing rapidly. Many, including Bangkok, Delhi, Jakarta and Shanghai, can be classified as “mega-urban” regions with populations in excess of 10 million inhabitants. The growth of these large cities is accompanied by an increase in the number of urban households living in poverty. In megacities such as Mumbai, it is estimated that 50 percent of the population lives in slums due to the growing incidence of urban poverty and the high cost of living.

Though the necessities of life such as housing and transportation have a firm place in the local policy agenda in Asian cities, food issues have yet to be emphasised. The inhabitants of Asia’s growing cities need to have access to good quality and affordable food. The extent of urban food insecurity and possible interventions to alleviate it is not sufficiently appreciated by central and local government institutions or by the international community. There is a need, addressed in part by this regional seminar, to raise awareness among urban decision makers.[2]

City and local authorities have an increasing range of responsibilities related to food supply and distribution (FSD). Examples of FSD responsibilities at the municipal level include: formulation of policies related to food trading; the levying of taxes and fees; the planning, construction and management of public markets, slaughterhouses and other infrastructure and the regulation of the urban land market. There are a number of constraints faced by CLAs in the execution of these responsibilities. Problems include lack of awareness, information and technical skills as well as financial resources. These problems often lead to bad investment decisions, clashes with central government policies and confrontations with the private sector. The increasing global nature of commerce and communications presents opportunities for highly needed cooperation between cities on FSD. Technical and financial cooperation between cities on FSD sets the stage for a sharing of information, resources and solutions by cities of the North and South as well as among Asian cities themselves and on a South-South basis. International cooperation in the area of FSD should also incorporate the agendas of other stakeholders. Although CLAs play a key part in food supply and distribution systems (FSDSs), they must also collaborate with central government agencies, the private sector and civil society to accomplish mutually agreed upon goals.

The importance of this seminar is clear. What is of utmost urgency is the need for follow-up to disseminate the results of the seminar and spur the establishment of effective policies and practices at the local level. There is also a need to establish more firmly North-South and South-South cooperation among CLAs and between these authorities and various international agencies. The opportunities to share experiences and expertise on an international level may be considered one of the potential benefits associated with living in a globalized world.


These proceedings consist primarily of a narrative summary of the seminar papers and workshop reports presented in Bangkok. The Bangkok declaration by mayors, city executives, planners and municipal officers and the related agenda for action are the concrete outcomes of the seminar and represent a successful galvanizing of leadership by the participants from CLAs. The technical overview that follows is based on the seminar papers listed in the annexes.

The document then presents the seminar’s four key papers and subsequently moves onto the seminar conclusion and recommendations, as well as a statement on North-South and South-South cooperation. The annexes contain supplementary documents or summaries thereof.


Argenti, O. (ed.) 1998. Actes du séminaire FAO-ISRA. (AC/00-97F) Rome: FAO.

Argenti, O. 2000. Food for the cities: food supply and distribution policies to reduce food insecurity. (DT/43-00E) Rome: FAO.

Wilhelm, L. 1997. Food Supply And Distribution To Francophone African Cities. (DT/31-97E) ROME: FAO.

[1] “Food security depends upon available income, consumers’ food habits and the costs faced by urban consumers in accessing food in hygienic conditions” (Argenti, 2000).
[2] A similar event for Francophone African cities was organized by FAO and the Senegalese Institute of Agricultural Research (ISRA) in Dakar in 1997 (Cf. Argenti, 1998; Wilhelm, 1997).

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