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Presentation of the thematic sessions and the detailed program (to be completed shortly)

Context

In recent decades, under the impact of both globalization and decentralization, the governments of cities and urban areas (urban governments) have become increasingly powerful political actors. Since the 1990s they have mobilized to implement policies that are more engaged than those of their national states, especially in the environmental field (Rio Declaration, Agenda 21, the Aalborg Commitments, etc.). These governments have acted locally, while joining together at national or international levels to have an impact on the policies at these scales (Metropolis, UCLG, ICLEI, ORU Fogar, etc.).
It was national and international policies primarily that previously drove the food system, but since the 2008 food price crisis it has also emerged as a local policy issue. This is reflected in recent statements signed by city collectives that advocate the implementation of local policies to promote a more sustainable food system (the Bonn Declaration of Mayors – 2013; Seoul Declaration – ICLEI – 2015; “Milan Urban Food Policy Pact” – 2015). Research on this issue is also being mobilized, contributing to the building of exchange networks to improve knowledge on the initiatives taken by cities and their effects on food.
Thus, cities are addressing sustainability challenges caused by the dominant industrial food system and exacerbated by increasing urbanization that amplifies distancing and concentration phenomena. A multitude of actors have been mobilized to experiment with alternative models. Urban governments, aware of their available resources (knowledge concentration, financial means, public authorities, biomass, workforce, citizen initiatives, infrastructure, services and markets) are conducting experiments and building food policies aimed at both ensuring the food security of the population (urban and rural) and improving the sustainability of the food system by focusing on its environmental, social and economic impacts.
The phenomenon of the construction of food policies by urban governments is now beginning to be studied, especially in cities of industrialized and emerging countries where the formation and formalization of these policies is the longest established and most advanced (e.g. Toronto, Bristol). But these initiatives, which are to varying degrees structured into food policies, are also multiplying in developing countries in different contexts. While many studies have enlightened the issue of urban and peri-urban agriculture, other modes of action are still little known and rarely debated.
For this reason, the organizers have invited policymakers and/or technical managers from urban local authorities to share their experiences and exchange with other cities around the following subject areas:

1.    Market infrastructure and logistics

The creation of market infrastructure, central locations for food to flow into the city and to disperse throughout it, is an important driver that urban governments can mobilize to improve food security and sustainability of the food system. Market infrastructure includes wholesale markets, markets, retail stores or kiosks, supermarkets, fairs, development and management of street selling, storage warehouses and food processing areas (e.g. slaughterhouses, small-business estates, industrial zones). The organization of logistics (transport, exchange platforms) is also a driver that urban governments can utilize.

Presentations from Montevideo (Uruguay), Maputo (Mozambique), Kitwe and Lusaka (Zambia).

2.    Catering services

By catering services we mean the provision of food to schools and workplaces (company restaurants, areas for private catering, food courts, etc.). While local authorities do not directly manage catering services, they are able to play a role in their organization and regulation. For example, authorities can intervene to ensure access for all to quality food, to influence types of food production through public contracts, to improve the quality of jobs, educate consumers, reduce waste and pollution, etc.

Presentations from Colombo (Sri Lanka), Medellin (Colombia), Lima (Peru) and Sao Paulo (Brazil).

3.    New urban/rural relationships

Historically, cities have shown little concern for the specifics of food production, the working conditions and remuneration of farmers and the effects of production methods on the environment and biodiversity. Cities have been regarded simply as market opportunities that have encouraged competition including between their agricultural periphery and more remote areas. The geographic, economic and cognitive gap between urban and rural populations has generated misunderstandings and concerns. It is in response to this distancing that cities and rural areas are now seeking to invent new types of relationships that are more balanced and supportive. Such relationships include the re-localization of the urban food supply, urban investment in rural areas, the provision of urban services to local farmers, partnership or contractual agreements between urban and rural areas, but also experimental forms of food production and the contribution of city representatives in agricultural policies. To avoid reducing the subject solely to issues of re-localization and linkages with peri-urban agriculture or near hinterland, topics that have already been extensively covered elsewhere, there has been a preference for analyses of new forms of relationships between urban and remote rural areas.

Presentations from Colombo (Sri Lanka), Sao Paulo and Curitiba (Brazil), Quito (Ecuador), Tianjin (China) and Rosario (Argentina).
Updated: 27 October 2015