Agenda Alimentaire Urbain

A sustainable transformation of urban food systems: FAO Expert Panel at the 2023 Global Forum for Food and Agriculture


When 70 percent of global food is consumed in urban areas, the fundamental role of cities for food systems transformation becomes extremely evident. Urban food consumption, but also all activities associated with feeding urban populations (processing, transport, distribution), are increasing in importance with urbanization.

The influence of cities is also expanding: urban areas are already home to 55 percent of the world’s population, while 90 percent live within 1 hour from a city of 20000 or more inhabitants, making urban food systems even more influential for the surrounding peri-urban and rural areas.

As rural and urban areas are also becoming more and more integrated, so are their food systems. These changes need to be recognized and reflected in governance structures for food systems management to achieve a sustainable food systems transformation.

In this context, cities and local governments can significantly contribute to achieving affordable healthy diets for all, in a sustainable way. Food waste reduction, circular food economy and shifts in urban diets to more sustainable patterns are key entry points for sustainable food systems transformation

It is evident that the capacities of local governments and their policy space should be strengthened. However, the value and the potential role of city and local governments is not recognized in policy practice.

As a recognition of the important role of urban and local food systems, FAO launched an Urban Food Agenda in 2019 with the objective, inter alia, to support local and national governments in implementing sustainable and inclusive urban food policies.

The important role of cities has also started being recognized in global fora, such as the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit. As a result of the Summit’s activities and deliberations, a Coalition on Urban Food Systems has been created to support urban food systems transformation, and to ensure that it is appropriately reflected in the national pathways and related national policies and programmes.

To make more concrete progresses on the topic, FAO has been invited to co-host an Expert Panel during the next Global Forum for Food and Agriculture, hosted by the German Ministry of Agriculture in Berlin, from 18 to 21 January.

The FAO panel “Leveraging urban and local food systems for sustainable food systems transformation will be held on Friday 20 January, 11.30-13 (CET), in Berlin (in person only).

The expert panel will try to identify innovative ways for strengthening the role and function of urban, local and territorial food systems to sustainable food systems transformation, by looking at recent trends and new sources of data and information.

The event will be moderated by the FAO Regional Programme Leader for Europe and Central Asia, Raimund Jehle while the FAO Chief Economist Maximo Torero will deliver the opening remarks.

The mixed panel will see representatives from local governments – the Mayor of Tunis, Souad Abderrahim, and the Deputy Mayor of Bristol, Asher Craig – debating on specific issues with expert academics on the topic, Jane Battersby from the University of Cape Town, and global/regional organizations, with Gabriel Ferrero as Chairperson of the UN Committee on World Food Security, and Armen Harutyunyan, from the Eurasian Economic Commission to close the panel.

The event will also explore appropriate forms of food systems governance which reflect food systems dynamics.  In this context, the expert panel will focus on the empowerment of city and local stakeholders by national governments and other regional and global actors to play their role in achieving sustainable food systems transformation.

More details on the Expert Panel and the Agenda HERE