FAO calls for agri-food systems and green spaces to be part of urban plans

Guangzhou / Rome – The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, today called on local governments to make agricultural food systems and green spaces part of their plans, policies and actions to make cities more sustainable and inclusive, as well as to create jobs and promote youth engagement, built on a “green industry, a green environment, green products and a green way of life,” he said.

Qu made the call during the opening of 2020 United Nations and Local Government (UCLG) World Council, practically offered by the city of Guangzhou, in China, and the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries.

The theme of the event was The Roll of the International Municipal and Regional Movement in COVID Times.

The Director-General emphasized the importance of addressing the COVID-19 pandemic from a long-term perspective.

“In times of need, it’s easy to fall into the trap of just focusing on addressing the most urgent needs. We need to adapt quickly and face the pandemic in a more holistic way so that we are better, more resilient. and can build urban food systems more inclusively, ”said the FAO chief.

He noted that the pandemic had hit densely populated urban areas “particularly hard”, and stressed the importance of exploiting the potential of local and municipal governments to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

A recent FAO survey on urban food systems and COVID-19, with responses from 77 countries, showed that local governments have played an important role in reducing the impact of the pandemic on the functioning of food systems, and the health and food security of people. For example, many cities have taken measures such as monitoring food markets and improving access to food for those affected through e-commerce or temporary food hubs.

“Giving a voice to local and local governments recognizes the importance of their proximity to communities, their ability to mobilize local stakeholders and their ability to identify the most vulnerable quickly,” Qu said.

Why are urban food systems and green areas important?

By 2050, nearly 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. About 70 percent of all food supplies are consumed by urban residents – a number that is gradually increasing.

Many urban and suburban communities are exposed to food and nutrition insecurity; at the same time they suffer from diet-related non-communicable diseases and the increase in overweight and obesity.

Expanding cities are hitting natural habitats, accounting for about 70 percent of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Sustainable urban food systems and more green spaces, including urban and suburban agriculture and forests, are essential for cities, making them more resilient to tackling the effects of climate change.

FAO actions for sustainable urban development

FAOs recently launched Green Cities Initiative aims to improve the livelihoods and well-being of urban and suburban populations in at least 100 cities around the world over the next three years, and wants 1,000 cities to join by 2030.

The initiative will support cities to implement innovative and context-specific urban green actions related to food systems and green spaces, including urban and suburban agriculture and forestry.

It is linked to FAOs Hand-in-hand initiative, aimed at ending poverty and hunger, focusing on the most needed countries and regions.

The FAO Urban Food Agenda Framework guide local and sub-national governments to integrate sustainable food systems into local policies, planning and action. FAO implements the Urban Food Agenda, which forms the core of the Green Cities initiative, in more than 20 countries.

Another important FAO action is the city-to-city exchange, which includes South-South and triangular cooperation for scaling up urban food systems.

More about the event

The Council was opened by LIU Qibao, Vice-Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference; Mohamed Boudra, President of UCLG; LIN Songtian, president of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries; and WEN Guohui, Mayor of Guangzhou.

The opening ceremony was also attended by Antonio Vitorino, Director-General of the International Organization for Migration; and Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN Habitat; as well as mayors from around the world. The opening session was chaired by Emilia Sáiz, UCLG’s Secretary General.

The UCLG 2020 World Council is expected to meet with 300 local representatives from cities and regional governments.

During the debates, several participants outlined COVID-19’s disastrous impact on people’s lives and livelihoods and the economy; recognizes the important role of local and regional governments in tackling them; and reiterated the need for global solidarity to fight the pandemic and build better – to create more inclusive, sustainable and pluralistic societies.

LIU Qibao, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said that municipal governments have already played an important role by taking actions to reduce the effects of the crisis.

UCLG President Mohamed Boudra stressed that local and regional governments must be key players in eradicating inequalities and unsustainable production and consumption patterns. He also called for reconsideration of urbanization and the re-evaluation of the relationship with nature.

LIN Songtian, president of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, stressed the need to build the capacity of urban governments.

WEN Guohui, Mayor of Guangzhou, outlined the measures taken by his city to fight COVID-19 and stressed the importance of cooperation.

Antonio Vitorino, director general of the International Organization for Migration, pointed out that the pandemic made even more clear the important role of migrants in contributing to vital services such as transport, health care and agri-food processing. He outlined how his organization works to build more inclusive societies and promote inclusive migration-sensitive governance.

UCLG is a global network of cities and local, regional and metropolitan governments and their associations, and the largest organization of sub-national governments in the world, with members in more than 140 countries. The World Council is the most important policy-making body of the World Organization.

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