45 Cities Will Sign Urban Food Policy Pact on World Food Day in Milan

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The Milan Expo began in May 2015,\ and focused on the theme of “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” Cities will be vital in accomplishing the goal of feeding the world; around 15 percent of the world’s food is now grown in urban areas, and the global proportion of people living in cities will likely reach 65 percent by 2025. The Urban Food Policy Pact (UFPP) will unite city leaders worldwide to create more just and sustainable urban food systems.

The pact will address the potential of cities to contribute to food security through urban agriculture, and its proponents expect it to be one of the most significant legacies of the Milan Expo 2015.

Milan is taking the lead on drafting the international protocol by engaging mayors and urban food policymakers worldwide. Coordinating urban food policies across the globe aims to address two of the world’s most severe emergencies: food security and sustainable development. Giuliano Pisapia, the Mayor of Milan, launched the idea of the UFPP at the 2014 summit of C40 cities in Johannesburg. Milan has already drafted an urban food policy through a participatory process, which will be implemented over the next five years. The drafting process began by assessing  strengths and weaknesses of the existing urban food system.

Food Smart Cities for Development (FSCD), an international project working to create a network of smart cities to implement sustainable food policies locally and globally, is spearheading the UFPP.

Throughout 2015, the European Year for Development, the organization hosted events in accordance with the Milan Expo and hoping to garner more participation from cities and NGOs around the world.

According to Barbara Turk, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy of the City of New York, equity and justice will be at the forefront of the UFPP.

“We want to do a broader engagement as we go forward,” says Turk, emphasizing the need for participatory decision-making in urban food systems. Turk’s office is involved in the planning process for the UFPP and is coordinating with FSCD to streamline decision-making.

Advisory organizations have also contributed valuable support in aligning the Urban Food Policy Pact with relevant international initiatives. Collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy, the European Union, and the United Nations, has also taken place. Other groups, including Slow Food, the European Commission, the World Health Organization’s Healthy Cities program, and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food for Cities program, have provided consultation.

“The forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognize the importance of building sustainable cities and implementing new policies. The City of Milan hopes to lead other urban areas around the world on this journey, starting with food policy,” says Maurizio Baruffi, Chief of Staff of the Mayor of Milan.

“By signing the UFPP, cities commit to using the Framework for Action attached to the Pact, as a starting point to address the development of their own urban food systems. They also share developments with participating international agencies when appropriate. The actions are voluntary, but nonetheless, after the signing of the UFPP, cities will continue working together. Among the first duties of the network of cities will be the identification of mechanisms and indicators to make themselves mutually accountable for progress on the UFPP.” 

In September of 2014, the content of the UFPP was discussed through webinars. Leaders then met in London in February of 2015 to debate the standards and indicators that should be included in the protocol. The final pact was signed on World Food Day by the mayors of 45 cities, at an official ceremony concluding the EXPO Milano 2015.

Urban agriculture is a central goal of the UFPP. “In many urban areas of developing countries the possibility to grow food within the city is a way to improve food security and income of the population, especially women,” says Baruffi. “The metropolitan area of Milan includes a large agricultural area cultivated mostly with cereals for livestock feed. A few years ago, encouraged by purchasing groups and vegetable sharing schemes, some farmers began growing produce once again. Cities can boost local food networks by re-localizing public food procurement. Growing more food locally in cities is a way to preserve land and biodiversity, improving the quality of the urban environment. Finally, urban gardens everywhere are a great opportunity to reconnect people with land and to educate citizens on the true value of food. Food waste can be prevented through education as well.”

The timely signing of the new agreement is crucial to advance urban food policies that can cultivate better urban food systems. According to Baruffi, “it is not always easy to identify a common framework for action at a local level. Nevertheless, the experience of the UFPP shows that the will to improve the sustainability of local food system is a powerful tool to overcome these difficulties.”

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