Territorial and Institutional Tools
Propositions to go beyond
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1.To integrate food strategy into the Agenda 21.
Agenda 21 is an action plan to enact the ecological transition mainly through greenhouse gas emissions reduction, natural resources’ better management and an economic relocation. Sustainable food systems are not specifically taken into account and usually only specific and sporadic activities are promoted far from the potential of a fully comprehensive commitment of such issue.
All cases that are presented in this essay help us now to anticipate how food issues could contribute to orientate a new generation of Agenda 21 in which people wellness, quality of life and social cohesion could be among the priorities alongside climate and biodiversity. Food is related with numerous public competences such as
1. health improvement (in low income communities, schools, hospitals, workplaces, etc.),
2. (green) public procurement,
3. waste management,
4. spatial planning, (including allotments and community food growing in the case of cities) and
5. economic regeneration, (including jobs and cooking skills improvement), etc.; thus food is a common denominator able to unlock synergies between all these competencies.
Therefore, the next generation of Agenda 21 should present a global vision that necessarily integrates a food strategy, embedded in a short, medium and long term action plan. Such trend should not only occur at urban level, but also in districts, regions, etc., since food systems largely overcome the scale of cities and different levels of local authorities need to coordinate their efforts together. The appointment of « food managers » with well-defined responsibilities, whose role is to integrate the food action plan with the other territorial strategies, could help decision makers and elected officials to arbitrate between the numerous and competing priorities related to food issues. In parallel, international networks should also actively work to raise awareness on the importance of food issues and enable efficient campaigning and training for all decision makers, to increase skill and awareness on food issues.
2.To create territorial Agencies using plural-disciplinary approach based on subsidiarity and participation.
Until yesterday, we could pretend to ignore food-related impacts on health, local and global economy, environment etc. Today, in front of all evidences raised worldwide in different urban and rural contexts, this cannot be anymore an alibi for immobilism. However the lack of suitable governance tools hinders the efforts of decision makers. That’s why the experiment of Food Policy Council (FPC) launched in the USA three decades ago is very interesting.
Since the first FPC has occurred in Tennessee, their applicability and popularity has spread in all North America. They generally operate at the sub-national (local, regional, or province/state) level and may also serve more than one jurisdictional level. They can be either formally embedded in government structures, or operate outside government, with all possible intermediary situations and often seek to establish a long-term role in advising decision makers on food issues and advocating for food system reform, under different forms and functions. They are a good example of participatory democracy, in which citizens can play a meaningful role in policy deliberation, even when much of the expertise, power, and authority in food systems are all concentrated in higher levels of government and the private sector.
Assuming that the role of future Agenda 21 could be to develop specific food strategies based on an holistic vision of sustainable development, Territorial Agencies for Food Policies, on the model the FPCs, could become governance tools stating on food strategies, in which food governance could shift from an obligation of means to an obligation of results, following a frame of management sufficiently flexible and adaptable to local contexts, that refer back to a tailor-made food metrics system. The same should apply also to the relationships between all different levels of governance concerned (national-federal, regional, urban, etc.), all following common guiding principles. In such a picture, Territorial Agencies for Food Policies would become the conductors able to interpret the score according to orchestra size and instruments.
AFPs’ members should be distinguished in three different boards: (1) elected officials and (2) staff, both working at all levels and in different services of local authorities and consular chambers, (3) civil society, including the different sectors according to food life cycle approach: farmers, food companies caterers and distributors representatives, local experts, academics and ONGs. They would start by doing an initial state of the art, based on the analysis of food statistics, health, economical parameters and Agenda 21 metrics, in order to give insights on local food production potential, urban sprawling pressure, patterns of healthy food consumption and environmental impacts.
3. To connect the different territorial levels of the Agencies for Food Policies (AFP).
Large urban communities certainly deserve their own Agencies for Food Policies, but it is at regional level, that it is possible to better integrate food production and consumption in a coherent system made of urban and rural areas. Regional Agencies for Food Policies could be first introduced to coordinate and anticipate agricultural offer and food demand in order to reconcile urban and rural areas in a complementary and not rival relationship; to structure sustainable food supply chain that create employment; to support greener, eco-efficient food production and services and finally to give food a regional/local identity as a quality marker consumers can value.
At local level, these AFPs should work in relation with specific food logistics agencies established to be representative of suitable level of people concentration. The objective of such agencies would be to manage both information and goods flows, in order to match food offer and demand at local level while insuring that public buyers can have daily access to fresh local food at a fair price. The advantage of such system would be to optimize economic and environmental performances of transport by pooling orders made by all public bodies, thus creating suitable conditions for local food hubs’ economical rentability and in the same time giving small producers access to public procurement.
Finally, a European AFP is necessary to coordinate a transnational network, welcoming member states and also citizens to contribute to the definition of food policies based on the following pillars: healthy food, (taking into account all nutritional contents and not only calories), social and cultural cohesion, dynamism of local economies (with a focus on employment) and environmental impacts.
The European APF could be implemented in the Committee of the Regions (COR), the European Union’s assembly of regional and local representatives. As COR aims to secure sustainable development accross all european territories and encourage cooperation between local and regional authorities it could host an observatory, able to produce and disseminate food-related data and information useful for the network of local AFPs and also for the main European bodies, Commission, Council and Parliament in order to allow them to make change in overall strategies and directives that match better with the objective of sustainable food systems. European FPC would also be able to work in partnership with international structures such as FAO (Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations), OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), WHO (World Health organization), etc. to promote a unified governance model based on the four pillars described above, traduced at local level in a myriad of gastronomic diverse realities based on specific contexts.
Eleonora Morganti, (2011), « Urban food planning and transport sustainability: A case study in Parma, Italy », European Association of Agricultural Economists - EAAE, PhD Workshop, Apr. 2011, Nitra, Slovakia, p.15.