Urban Food Agenda

FAO at the World Urban Forum: Promoting food systems and green spaces for sustainable cities


FAO Urban Food Agenda priorities on integrating food systems and green spaces have drawn the attention to urban planning for the future of cities at the tenth World Urban Forum.

Cities of Opportunities: how to connect growth and innovation successfully in new urban contexts?
This was the main theme leading the tenth edition of the World Urban Forum (WUF 10), in which FAO took part in Abu Dhabi from 8 to 13 February.

The WUF is the most renowned international gathering for exchanging views and experiences on urban challenges in meeting the SDG and the New Urban Agenda (NUA) targets. The latter, signed in Quito in 2016, explicitly recognizes food systems, food security and nutrition as key priorities for sustainable urban development

Today, over half of the world’s population lives in cities. With the urban population expected to rise to 68% by 2050, urbanization is changing our world in fundamental ways. As urban areas continue to expand, the requirement for innovative and inclusive solutions that enhance sustainable development in urban, peri-urban areas and nearby rural spaces is growing.

That was the main rationale behind a dedicated Urban Food Agenda Exhibition Stand that FAO set up at the World Urban Forum. The booth hosted 15 events over the six days, with more than 300 people informed and trained on Urban Food issues. The booth was led by FAO and co-organized by external partners (CEMAS, Hivos, Ruaf), with essential contributions from other international organizations, NGOs, academia and research centers.

FAO has taken an active role in integrating food systems into the NUA as an integral part of the global commitment to sustainable cities. In March 2019, FAO launched its Framework for the Urban Food Agenda, which strongly aligns to the global commitment expressed in the NUA. The Framework aims to transform urban food systems to make them more sustainable by leveraging local government actions in the context of national and international policy frameworks.

Marcela Villarreal, Director of the Partnerships Division in FAO said, “Advocating for the food dimension to be included in city policy and planning is critical for the successful implementation of our own FAO Framework for the Urban Food Agenda.”
“It was extremely important for FAO to be present at the WUF, especially considering that often people who work on urban issues do not consider food. Our events and discussions at the WUF10 on the Urban Food Agenda increased awareness on the links between various components of urban policies and programmes and issues related to food,” she added.

FAO organized two major events during WUF10, including a networking session on Nature-based solutions and a training event on Integrating Food Systems into Urban Planning.

The first event included a very lively debate on the challenges of integrating green spaces (including agriculture and forestry) as nature based-solutions for making cities more resilient to global challenges and provide well-being and ecosystem services to urban population.
The training event, organized in partnership with Hivos/RUAF, emphasized the importance of developing integrated food systems policy and planning. It also underlined the importance of establishing a governance mechanism at various levels (national, regional, urban) and fostering dialogue among governments and non-governmental stakeholders such as civil society organizations and private sector. The training event offered visibility to ongoing initiatives, displayed new tools, and advocated for a full-fledged food system planning training module.

Cecilia Marocchino, from FAO – Food Systems, commented, “It was extremely interesting to see how urban planners, researchers, local governments, private sector, UN-Agencies and civil society organizations are increasingly connecting food systems and green spaces to urban policy and planning recognizing the key role of cities and local governments for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.   

“The booth shed light on health relationships that are flourishing between urban and rural regions through food. Visitors who only occasionally consider food in their plans were introduced to the innovative work that unites urban with rural and FAO created the space for dialogue across different disciplines” commented Richard McCarthy from Slow Food.

Simone Borelli, from FAO - Forestry said, “It was excellent that FAO was able to attend WUF10 with a multidisciplinary team, proving that we can contribute in a substantive manner to a wide range of areas that are crucial to sustainable urban development”.

FAO is fully committed to work on the Urban Food Agenda to support governments and urban planners in tackling the complexity of food systems transformation and management of green spaces.

If addressed well, such a global urban transition can provide plenty of opportunities for urban and rural dwellers, also contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.