Bringing the voice of the local and regional governments constituency to the UN Food Systems Summit +2
The UN Food Systems Summit +2 Stocktaking Moment took place in Rome between 24 and 26 July 2023, at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Headquarters. A small delegation led by UCLG’s Special Envoy on Food Systems, Mohamed Sefiani, Mayor of Chefchaouen and President of UCLG Forum of Intermediary Cities represented the local and regional government constituency, to ensure the municipal voice was accounted for in the deliberations.
Indeed, with urban populations expected to reach 68% by 2050, and with cities consuming 70% of total food production, it is critical that local and regional governments, who are closest to these urban residents and their needs, are able to influence and share the leadership of important global decisions relating to sustainable, inclusive food systems transitions. As such, UCLG co-organised and participated in two key in-person events, in their role in the Secretariat of the Urban Food Systems Coalition, alongside FAO, GAIN and ICLEI.
The first session was an official side event entitled “City, subnational and national governments join actions with multiple actors towards healthy, inclusive, sustainable and resilient food systems”. Jane Battersby, Senior Lecturer of the University of Cape Town, who moderated the session, started by reflecting on how local governments’ actions can be scaled up towards greater food systems transitions. Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director of GAIN, highlighted the value of urban governments’ ability and opportunity to experiment and engage with urban citizens in a way that national governments do not.
As the opening panelist, Mayor of Chefchaouen and UCLG Special Envoy for Food Systems, Mohamed Sefiani, urged that as cities are the main centres of consumption and located close to marginalised and low-income inhabitants, local and regional governments bear a responsibility to foster inclusive access to healthy food for all, ensuring that no one is left behind. Maria Renata Siqueira, from Pacto Contra a Fome, highlighted the importance of multi-stakeholder approaches to working with data, research and technology to prevent food waste; while Tidjani Hassoumi, Niamey Municipality, shared their work with multiple towns and cities in their region, connecting urban and rural to ensure sustainable production practices. Giulia Bartezzaghi, Food Sustainability Lab, Politecnico di Milano, reflected on the need for a “new pact of reciprocity between cities and the countryside” to ensure nutritious food and sustainable practices.
The second session, “Leveraging Urbanization for Food Systems Transformation” looked at the role of cities as key entry points to ignite national and global food transitions. Collective follow-up actions were identified, such as capacity building, and the need for many more cities and local governments to be given the space and agency to engage in the design and implementation of policies and programs developed at national level. The session was moderated by FAO’s Corinna Hawkes, with Marco Sanchez providing the keynote. The panelists included Mohamed Sefiani, Mayor of Chefchaouen and UCLG Special Envoy for Food Systems, Anna Scavuzzo, Vice Mayor of Milan, Enrique Regalado Gamonal, Vice-Minister for Agricultural Development Policies and Monitoring, MIDAGRI, Peru, Joao Campari, Global Leader of WWF’s Food Practice, and Dr Jane Battersby, Senior Lecturer, University of Cape Town.
The sessions served to reiterate that local and regional governments are critical to fostering the emergence of a food democracy and guaranteeing the right to food, protecting the commons and ensuring that people in all their diversity, have agency in collectively transforming their food systems. As local and regional governments work towards sustainable and just food transitions, the commitments of the Pact should remain foregrounded, including:
Acknowledge that the search for never-ending economic growth demands systems of production and consumption that are both destructive and unsustainable. Envisage a future based on caring, sharing and solidarity, where the search for incessant GDP growth and unsustainable production and consumption is replaced by a universal quest for an ever-improving quality of life for all where the human rights of all are promoted, protected and realised. This can only be achieved by regenerating the planet and respecting the living world that sustains us. Commit to genuinely seek equity and opportunity for all, forging new development paradigms that protect the local and global commons, measuring progress through the lives of the poor, excluded and vulnerable populations, and not the rich and privileged. It also means changing our systems – from degenerative to regenerative, and from divisive to distributive – by design.
The work of the constituency of local and regional governments within the food systems agenda for 2023 does not stop here. The 51st Session of the Committee on World Food Security will be taking place in Rome, Italy from 23 – 27 October 2023 in which its Multi-Year Programme of Work (MYPoW) 2024-2027 will be discussed and adopted. UCLG is part of the Advisory Bureau and Group of the CFS and has contributed to the development of the MYPoW 2024-2027, particularly regarding its focus on urbanization and local and regional governments.