Many thanks for the opportunity to comment on the draft document.
The draft captures some of the key principles concerning governance issues with increasing rural-urban linkages, such as the need for context-specific interventions, the importance of participation by marginalised actors who will be most affected by policy, vertical and horizontal governance gaps, and the role of non-state actors.
However a political economy approach would enable a more refined appreciation of the configuration of different actors and sectors involved in food policy at the local and regional levels and how the weight afforded to them differs between places. There are two paragraphs where the role of non local government actors in the policy making process is not fully acknowledged.
Firstly, under 'Evidence for Context Specific Interventions' the draft states that solutions need to be context specific 'in order to account for the local political structure, the relationship between rural and urban areas, and the local food security situation and food system structure, with the associated challenges and opportunities' (page 15). A political economy approach enables us to acknowledge that it is not only political or local government structures that can affect the applicability of solutions, but also the interactions and channels of influences between the state, society, and markets.
Secondly, the paragraph on 'Non-state Actors' states that 'coordination and collaboration extends beyond government, particularly as non-state actors are playing important roles in addressing challenges and opportunities associated with urbanization and rural transformation. For example, the private sector plays an integral role in housing provision and upgrading in rural and urban areas. While many civil society organizations are playing key roles in upskilling and facilitating access to information for smallholders to access markets in rural and urban areas.' (Page 17).
I agree that it is crucial to recognise the roles of civil society and the private sector but suggest that the examples do not sufficiently capture their involvement in policy development and implementation. In many cases the role of civil society groups goes considerably beyond information provision; civil society often plays a crucial advocacy role to gain support for policies and can hold local governments to account. In some places private sector standards, particularly over food safety issues, serve as benchmarks for more stringent public standards.
Please be advised that the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) is currently preparing a report on the role of cities in building sustainable food systems that takes a political economy approach. Due for completion in September, this report would be a useful resource for future drafts of the background document.