Local solutions for global issues: sustainable city region food systems at the heart of the international agenda to fight hunger and food insecurity

Milan Urban Food Policy Pact 2nd annual Mayors Summit and UN Habitat III Conference

In the last few months, sustainable food systems in city regions and urban food security have been at the heart of the discussions, mainly through two major events:  the 2nd annual Mayors Summit of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP), that took place in FAO on 13-14 October 2016, and the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development – Habitat III – held in Quito, Ecuador, on 17-20 October 2016. FAO provided technical support and inputs in light of these events.

Milan Urban Food Policy Pact 2nd annual Mayors Summit, FAO, 13-14 October

The Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP) is an international agreement engaging over 120 cities worldwide for the improvement of food systems based on the principles of sustainability and social justice. It was signed by city Mayors on the occasion of the World Food Day 2015 celebrations at the Milan Expo.

For two days, mayors and representatives from over 50 cities, technical experts, national representatives, and other stakeholders met to review the progress of the Milan Pact. Speakers and participants discussed follow up activities and priorities for the coming years, and presented awards for good practices in building more sustainable and resilient food systems to 8 city regions: Baltimore, Birmingham, Lusaka, Mexico City, Quito, Riga, Toronto, Vancouver.

The technical workshop held on 13 October allowed participants to exchange ideas on how to monitor cities’ efforts in reaching the Pact goals, and how to enhance its implementation using city networks and city-to-city cooperation mechanisms. FAO’s Director of Partnerships, Advocacy and Capacity Development Division Marcela Villarreal, and Milan’s Special Advisor for International Relations, former Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy and EU Commissioner Emma Bonino opened the workshop stressing the key role that cities have in building sustainable and resilient food systems and in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

On 14 October, during the World Food Day celebrations, mayors and city representatives convened for the official ceremony of the Second Mayors Summit of the MUFPP. FAO’s Director-General José Graziano da Silva opened the Summit stressing that “all cities, big and small, can and must help build the sustainable, resilient food systems of the future”. Corinna Hawkes (Centre of Food Policy; IPES-Food) and Roberta Sonnino (Cardiff University) delivered keynote speeches that underlined the importance and the scope of such an international commitment to build sustainable food systems in an urbanizing context. It was followed by statements made by Mayor Sala of Milan, representatives of the Italian Food and Agriculture Ministry and the city of Rome.

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United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development – Habitat III –, Quito, 17-20 October

The conference, held every 20 years, aims at guiding the efforts around urbanization for a wide range of actors – countries, UN agencies, civil society, local governments – for the next two decades through the adoption of a New Urban Agenda (NUA).

Over the past two years, stakeholders have come together to formulate the NUA, through an extensive series of events and meetings. In addition, a group of 200 experts provided recommendations for drafting and implementing the NUA. On 20 October, nearly 170 UN Member States officially agreed on the NUA at the conclusion of the Habitat III Conference.

Particularly, FAO contributed to the advocacy efforts in collaboration with concerned civil society networks, local government networks, other UN agencies, experts and national delegations, to make food security and nutrition central in the agenda, and the importance of urban rural linkages and urban and territorial development to achieve sustainable and balanced urban and rural development. As a result, food security is specifically mentioned in the Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All, as one of the sustainability challenges cities are facing.

During the four days, 30,000 people attended the conference, and its more than 100 side events. It covered every aspect of urban development, and debated on how countries, cities and stakeholders can go about implementing the NUA, within their own local contexts. FAO organized three side events on (i) Integrating Sustainable Food Systems in the Urban Development; (ii) Planning for Food Systems in Urban Settlements: Learning from urban North America; and (iii) Optimizing Investment for Food Security and Nutrition in the NUA. Initiatives and programmes led by FAO were shared, such as the Food for the Cities Programme, that aims to build more sustainable and resilient city region food systems, piloting in 8 city regions.