Insights from the 7th Global Forum - Part 2

The account of the 7th MUFPP Global Forum continues by reviewing some of the most significant sessions of this international gathering that took place from 19th to 21st October 2021 in Barcelona, in the framework of the World Sustainable Food Capital 2021.

This time we are featuring the “State of the Pact and the regionalisation strategies” plenary, the “Food infrastructure to feed cities” parallel session and “The role of wholesale markets” side event.

State of the Pact and regionalisation strategies

The “State of the Pact and the regionalisation strategies” has been one of the key events of the Forum. The session aimed at giving an overview of what the Pact is today and what will be tomorrow focusing on four pillars: membership, knowledge, fora, and governance.

Membership – The Milan Urban Food Policy Pact started in 2015 in Milan with a core group of 100 cities. The signatory cities are now 217, with 19 new cities in 2021 only, among which Tokyo, Sydney, Los Angeles. The last city to join has been Wellington (the first one in New Zealand). The Milan Pact Mayors represent over 400 million people worldwide; “we have great potential; as food policy officers and we must be aware of that” highlighted Filippo Gavazzeni, head of the MUFPP Secretariat.
Eurasia and SouthWest Asia, Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, North and Central America, and South America are the 6 regions in which the signatory cities are distributed. The most populated region is Asia Pacific (with the lowest number of cities, 18), the second one is Africa (with 37 cities), while the region with the highest number of cities is Europe (with 99 cities). The majority of the cities represent a population ranging around 0.5-1 million people; only 3% of the cities have more than 1 million inhabitants, all these cities are in Asia Pacific.

Knowledge – The main MUFPP tool to collect knowledge is the Milan Pact Awards (MPA), promoted by the Municipality of Milan and the Cariplo Foundation. Over 6 years 400+ practices have been collected from signatory cities and made available on MUFPP website and YouTube channel in order to create a common platform of food policy knowledge that promotes the dissemination of innovative solutions. The submitted practices showed that cities are working mostly on governance issues (e.g. they are structuring better their food policies or are creating Food Councils) and sustainable diets and nutrition. Other important challenges that cities are addressing are: social and economic equity, food production, food supply and distribution and food waste prevention. In this regard, it should be mentioned the recent international prize won by Milan Municipality, the Earthshot Prize, whose winning model will be shared soon with the MUFPP community.
In 2020, with the Covid outbreak, a special edition of MPA was launched, The Milan Pact Talks. Cities were asked to share videos on their Covid responses to mitigate the food system shocks, in order to inspire other cities to take action immediately. The next Milan Pact Award Call will be launched next spring; starting from 2022 it will take place every 2 years and it will be combined with a fellowship program.
There are other 2 MUFPP resources to exchange and collect knowledge: the joint publication by RUAF, FAO and MUFPP Secretariat “The MUFPP Monitory Framework Handbook and Resources Pack”; and the web platform developed by RUAF, GAIN and the MUFPP Secretariat,

Fora – The Global Fora represent fundamental moments where cities can work together to advance more rapidly towards their common goals. The aim is to reinforce the network among cities and provide the appropriate arena for the sharing of best practices and experiences. From 2015 to today 7 international Fora have been organized (one per year). During the plenary the next Global Forum hosting city has been announced: the city of Rio de Janeiro will hold the MUFPP Global Forum in 2022.
The Regional Fora are concrete work and exchange opportunities within regional stakeholders. They are designed to give the chance to cities to focus on their common challenges and seek appropriate solutions for their geographical and socio-economic contexts. To date 16 regional fora have been organized (2 only in 2021: Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and Kazan, the first in the region Eurasia and SouthWest Asia).The increasing role and importance of the regional meetings is demonstrated by the fact that the 2021 Global Forum has dedicated 6 parallel sessions on regionalisation strategy, one for each region.

Governance – The MUFPP governance is ensured by a Steering Committee, elected by signatory cities every two years, representing the 6 regions. It provides strategic oversight to ensure the MUFPP mission and mandate are directly driven by and responsive to the needs of its members.

The second part of the plenary was dedicated to the regionalisation strategies in the 6 MUFPP regions. Led by the Steering Committee Coordinator, the city of Kazan, this part of the session gave the opportunity to the Steering Committee members to report back their strategies for the 2 years ahead to strengthen the regionalization process as emerged in the parallel sessions.

Food infrastructure to feed cities

The parallel session Food Infrastructure to feed cities, organised by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability highlighted examples of local governments using food infrastructure to promote local food systems transformations. 

What is food infrastructure? They are all those assets involved in the production, processing, storage, distribution, and retail of food; physical and technological structures, but also soft and social ones (such as food actors and their social practices).

Farmers markets are soft infrastructures that every city would need because they have to do not just with selling food, but with serving public goals. Markets are also key infrastructure in Barcelona, where a network of 43 municipal markets work in coordination with the wholesale markets, through a precise market city strategy.
Milan focuses both on public infrastructure (school canteens and the wholesale market) and private infrastructure (e.g. Food Aid Hub).
Almere (Netherlands) works to improve a fundamental soft infrastructure: the food environment, where people do their daily habits on food consumption.
From China we listened to the example of the grain and oil storage and distribution system, and the importance of the technology for this hard infrastructure, to decentralise and respond in emergency situations.
Bogota, during the pandemic, released a digital infrastructure for food procurement: an app that was able to showcase local producers and allow them to sell directly without intermediaries. 

The role of wholesale markets in transforming the food system

The side event “The role of wholesale markets in transforming the food system“, co-organized by World Wholesale Market Association and Mercabarna, allowed us to take a closer look at this specific food infrastructures and to analyse its role in the transition to healthier, more sustainable, equitable and resilient food systems. Directors of 5 different markets in the world shared insightful perspectives.

Wholesales markets are hubs where producers, traders, retailers and the food service sector come together. Their main goal is to provide food to the people (food security) and for this reason they represent the biggest allies for national and local governments to help the food system transformation. According to FAO recent studies, countries with wholesale markets experience less disruption, less price volatility, and less food shortage compared to those who do not have wholesale markets with effective and modern infrastructure. 

Not only does the wholesale market guarantee the supply of food for all the people, but also they can help cities to have the best food (healthy and quality food) at the best price, so that it is affordable for all; as well as they can facilitate the best circulation of food, helping cities not to be overcrowded by food distribution.

Wholesale markets can play a crucial role in also strengthening food systems, by increasing access to local products, organic or more sustainable food productions, as well as facilitating the reduction in meat consumption, by helping the agro-products technology sector to develop and provide alternative proteins and reducing food loss and waste.

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