Towards the UN Food Systems Summit and Beyond


Local and Regional Governments Day, “Inclusive and sustainable urban food systems for urban and territorial development”, on the occasion of the United Nations Food Systems Summit and Strengthening Territorial Food Systems to enable the Right to Food on the occasion of the 7th Global Forum of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact

The world faces the huge challenge of improving food systems and guaranteeing healthy and nutritious food for all, especially considering the impact of the crises stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. An integrated approach to food systems is required to secure people’s access and right to food, guaranteeing social inclusion and prosperity, transforming our relationship with nature – boosting solidarity and setting people’s wellbeing and aspirations at the heart of improved food systems.

Local and regional governments are playing a crucial role in ensuring the global agendas become a reality. The current situation shows that local public service provision is vital to ensuring that people and the planet are duly protected and that the right to food is guaranteed.

In the framework of the UN Food Systems Summit, the Local and Regional Governments Day on “Inclusive and sustainable urban food systems for territorial development” took place virtually on September 22, co-organized by the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments, facilitated by United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and the Food and Agriculture Organization, in partnership with the Working Group on Urban Food Systems, and brought together local, regional and national governments, representatives of UN agencies, and civil society together to illustrate the importance of local action for sustainable and inclusive food systems. The event also highlighted the crucial importance of partnerships amongst different spheres of government and stakeholders and their crucial support to a multi-level governance for sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.

The Secretary General of UCLG, Emilia Saiz, introduced the spirit of the LRG Day, by reiterating the importance of local and regional governments to be at the decision-making table when it comes to food systems policy noting that guaranteeing the right to food depends on their inclusion within policy processes as closest sphere of government to the communities. She stressed that “the local and regional governments day has an objective to bring the transformative policies championed by local and regional governments to the global level ensuring that international policy processes and food policy reflect the dreams and aspirations of communities”.

These remarks were echoed by Jamie Morrison, Director, Food Systems Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, who highlighted the importance of government mechanisms that promote meaningful and inclusive engagement and multi-stakeholder participation and that “food systems transformation requires horizontal and vertical policy coherence at different levels of government, linking the national, regional and local administrations.”

The first panel moderated by Mohamed Nbou, Director of Climate, Biodiversity and Food Systems, UCLG-Africa, shared experiences on how local and regional governments have been contributing to food systems through territorial approaches that enhance access to sustainable and healthy diets, while tackling the climate emergency and biodiversity loss crises. During the panel, Donatien Beugre, President of San Pédro and Virginia Cardozo, Director of Health, Montevideo, highlighted the importance of making links between the urban and the rural, between cities and territories, to ensure nutritious food is accessible to all and that food systems are balanced and sustainable. Bruno Oliveira, Head of International Relations and Cooperation at the Municipality of Rio de Janeiro and Malay Choudhury, Additional Secretary, Local Government Division Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development, and Cooperatives at the Government of Bangladesh stressed the importance of multilevel governance to achieve sustainable food systems with a particular focus on metropolitan and territorial development and bringing relevant actors to tackle the complex challenges faced together, underlining the role of civil society and solidarity in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, securing the most vulnerable maintained access to food. The panel concluded with remarks from Vicente Domingo, Director, CEMAS, and Daniel Adeniyi, Professional Officer, Urban Systems, ICLEI Africa who both highlighted the vital role that multilateralism will play in ensuring that food systems are inclusive and that the inclusion of civil society in these processes will be key.

The second panel moderated by Kostas Stamoulis, Senior Advisor, FAO, focused on how partnerships for urban food systems and multilevel governance can amplify the actions of local and regional governments and accelerate progress towards sustainable and equitable food systems. During the panel, Thanawat Tiensin, Chairperson, Committee on World Food Security stressed the importance of making the CFS more inclusive with the voices of all actors relevant to food systems while Gabriel Ferrero, Ambassador at Large for Global Food Security, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Spain underlined the importance of local and regional governments in shaping and transforming policy for the better, through the integration of relevant territorial actores. Mohamed Sefiani, Mayor of Chefchaouen, Morocco and Mücahit Sami Küçüktığlı, Director of Foreign Relations, City of Konya, and Secretary general of Union of Agricultural Cities of Turkey underlined the importance of different types of cities in the path towards agricultural sustainability starting from small towns and intermediary cities to metropolises. Finally, the panel concluded with remarks from Gilchrist Okuom, Minister Agriculture, Irrigation Livestock and Fisheries, Kisumu County, who highlighted the role of local and regional governments in the provision of food not only through food related services but also through local public services such as mobility and Jane Battersby, Associate Professor, African Center for Cities, University of Cape Town who stresses that we lack an institutional hub to connect on these issues as a constituency and that an urban food systems coalition would be an opportunity to do this.

Lawrence Haddad, GAIN Executive Director, wrapped up the the LRG Day by recalling that we will need to come under one united voice to ensure that local and regional governments are heard throughout international policy processes related to food and that we should promote heterogeneity and diversity but that we should speak as one, with a clear joint demand for a alliance on urban food systems.

This notion was then brought up again during the “Strengthening Territorial Food Systems to enable the Right to Food” event organized by UCLG held on the occasion of the 7th Global Forum of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact in Barcelona.

The session counted on a variety of different voices including the Secretary General of UCLG, Emilia Saiz, who kicked off the discussion, by underlining that we need to democratize food access, ensuring food is understood as not a privilege, but a basic human right and the Mayor of Strasbourg, Jeanne Barseghian, who brought to light the “intrinsic link between the right to food and our health and that of the planet noting we must ensure food security for all to truly leave no one and no place behind.”

The panel continued with interventions from Emily Mattheisen, FIAN International and Manuel de Araújo, Mayor of Quelimane who both underlined the importance of reaching the most vulnerable facets of our population with sustainable and equitable food systems policy and that dialogue with civil society and all actors is key in this regard. Emil Dardak, Vice-Governor of East Java highlighted the role that regions have to play as intermediaries between different municipalities and actors when it comes to food security noting the importance of ensuring fair pricing and access to food for all while Mücahit Sami Küçüktığlı, Manager of the Foreign Relations Department, Konya Metropolitan Municipality, Secretary General, International Agricultural Cities Union stressed the importance of cooperation when it comes to food systems and that they affected not only by climate change but also by human mobility and migration. Hugo Salomão, International Relations Director, Belo Horizonte highlighted the relationship between participatory democracy and food systems noting that we cannot truly achieve equitable food systems without consulting all actors involved. Rodrigo Messias, UCLG World Secretariat wrapped up the session recalling the importance of overcoming the rural-urban divide and that the outcomes of the session would feed into the general strategy of UCLG in ensuring local and regional governments’ voices are heard within policy processes related to foo.

Rethinking our food systems is an integral part of our relationship with the planet. The outcomes of the session are set to feed our advocacy during the UNFSS and, more broadly, become a part of the inputs that will feed the Pact for the Future that our organization was mandated to develop. Through the transformation of our food systems, we will be also transforming our society into one that cares for its planet, and for its people.

By addressing the challenges that food faces and co-creating solutions, we will feed into the renewal of the social contract for people, planet, and government.