The Global Pact Saving Our Urban Food System

Today, just over half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. According to the United Nations, by 2050 this is expected to grow to almost 70 percent with an additional 2.4 billion urban dwellers worldwide.

Currently, global cities account for 3 percent of land mass but are responsible for the majority of resource consumption and emissions. As urban populations continue to grow, infrastructure stress, air quality and food security will be of increasing importance.

This requires strategic and sustainable infrastructure that enables healthy lifestyles for all. A key component of creating future cities is food. Food consumption has a strong impact on the environment, community health and quality of life. 

Acknowledging this challenge in 2014, the City of Milan decided to take bold action to solve these challenges at both a local and global level. Instead of focusing only on their city, they launched an international protocol aimed at tackling food-related issues at an urban level, to be adopted by as many world cities as possible. 

The Milan Urban Food Policy Pact

The Milan City Mayor led an engagement, along with 46 global cities to collectively define the contents of the Pact. They drafted and released the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP) in 2015. 

The Pact illustrates the role of cities in fostering sustainable urban food systems that are inclusive, resilient, safe and diverse, that provide healthy and affordable food to all people in a human rights-based framework.

It is a framework for action, listing a set of 37 voluntary, concrete actions, articulated in 6 categories, that every city Mayor around the world can use to improve food systems including governance, production, consumption and waste management. 

I met with Andrea and Cecile from the MUFPP Secretariat team. Their role is to ensure the momentum of the Pact around the world and facilitate the growth of relationships and action between Mayors. To date, they have 199 cities around the world committed to the Pact and every year they convene to share their insights and best practices. 

‘Food is a cross cutting theme for social and environmental challenges, which makes it really important for future cities.’ Cecile explained. ‘Our role is to inspire action from local councils around the world to address the urgent and critical issues of the world including climate change, poverty and social inequality.’ 

The Pact has a list of recommendations of initiatives as well as a monitoring framework guide for city councils. These act as a guide to help accelerate policy decisions at a local level. The MUFPP website is a rich source of information with case studies, frameworks, insights and articles to assist policy makers. 

The Priorities of the Pact

The priorities of the Pact guide the actions of urban policy makers around the world. 

These are to: 

  1. Ensure healthy food and sufficient drinking water as primary nourishment for everybody
    • Ensure access to healthy drinking water and sufficient food to all citizens as primary nourishment in order to protect human dignity and improve quality of life. 
  2. Promote the sustainability of the food system
    • Facilitate the consolidation of all the components and activities necessary for managing a sustainable food system and promote local production and consumption of fresh and seasonal quality food. 
  3. Increase the understanding of food
    • Promote a culture oriented to consumer awareness of healthy, safe, culturally appropriate, sustainable food produced and distributed with respect for human rights and the environment. 
  4. Fight against waste 
    • Reduce surpluses and food waste during the different stages of the food chin as a tool for limiting environmental impact and to contrast social and economic inequalities. 
  5. Support and promote scientific agri-food research
    • Increase the investment and commercialisation of agri-food research that focuses on sustainability and the urban system.

Benefits of Signing the Pact

After signing the Pact, City Councils have access to the MUFPP framework with recommendations and actions for implementing strategies that enhance urban food systems. 

‘The true value of signing the Pact is that cities become part of a global network,’ Andrea explained. ‘We have cities around the world forming relationships to share their insights which is sparking change in other cities. One example is the city of Toronto.
They created a food program for local migrants to build cooking skills and gain employment in the hospitality industry. This was very successful and the Toronto City Council shared it with the network and now places like Athens and Thessaloniki are implementing similar programs.’ Toronto is leading a range of initiatives including a food innovation lab, policy council and local food programs with charity partners. Their focus on measurement and understanding of impact has been an important part of their implementation. The slides from their presentation at the 2018 Summit can be found here

The MUFPP Annual Gathering and Mayors Summit and Milan Pact Awards (MPA).

A critical component of the Pact is the highly collaborative global network. ‘It is important for us to keep the councils connected, however time zones can be a bit of a challenge! We have regular regional calls for teams to share their insights throughout the year. However one of the highlights is the Annual Gathering and Milan Pact Awards.’ Cecile explained. 

The MUFPP Annual Gatherings  are an annual event to continue to promote best practice initiatives. They have 3 days of presentations sharing the initiatives, insights and impact of the food policy from cities around the world. The Annual Gatherings are also the occasion to celebrate the Milan Pact Awards,  a way to continue the momentum of evolving the local food policies and looking for innovative ways to engage communities. 

The categories of the MPA include:

  • Governance
  • Sustainable diets and nutrition 
  • Social and economic equity
  • Food production 
  • Food supply and distribution 
  • Food waste

This year’s Milan Pact Annual Gathering  will be in October in Montpellier, France. 

Governance case study:
Wanju, Republic of Korea- Local Food No. 1 Project (honorary mention in 2018 awards)

Smaller cities can often innovate quickly in ways that promote win-win development for both rural and urban residents, especially when there are shared concerns about the future of the food system. The City of Wanju with a population of 100,000 is in a region of 700,000 near the capital of Seoul. Beginning in 2009, Wanju food policies and implementation teams pursued three linked goals to (1) provide a sustainable farming guarantee to 3,000 family farmers, (2) build a healthy local food system for the region, and (3) create jobs with social and economic benefits to the circular (urban and rural) economy. A comprehensive plan launched in 2009 aimed to restore agricultural productivity, promote local processing, create markets, strengthen public organisations and strengthen communication between producers and consumers. Results include creating new farming communities, cooperative farming teams, farming and food hubs, direct sales markets and a local food certification system to help build trust between producers and consumers. By 2017, over 2,000 farmers participated in the Local Food No. 1 Project, and over 3,000 jobs related to production, processing, distribution and marketing have been created along with 300 social economic organisations.

Food Waste case study:
Turin- Progetto Organico Porta Palazzo: Towards Circular Markets

To reach multiple environmental, social and economic objectives related to food waste, the City of Turin focused on the food waste generated by the largest and most culturally diverse food market in the city (and the largest open air market in Europe). An efficient waste collection system developed by a private partner and collection of food waste assisted by many volunteers organized by a nongovernmental nonprofit organization are primary partners to city government. Interactions between vendors and volunteers extend far beyond efficient waste management to include provision of greater food access to the poor and homeless, civic engagement and inclusion of new asylum seekers or new residents in the city, public education and awareness raising about the benefits of waste collection, composting and food recovery. Within just a few months from inception organic matter collected for compost increased dramatically. The volunteer brigade is the backbone of the program and their services have extended to other areas of needed support, even beyond the food market to the second-hand market. Ongoing multi-sector public and private management of the program is made possible with both the political commitment of the city and strong engagement of civil society.

MUFPP and the Sustainable Development Goals

Milan Pact and FAO have developed the MUFPP Monitoring Framework to assess the progress made by cities in achieving a more sustainable food system. 45 cities took part in the technical consultation to define target topics for the indicators. As of now 13 pilot cities identified the 42 final indicators. Each indicator is related to specific targets of the SDGs and to a Milan Pact Category of its Framework for Action and will link the urban level to the global accountability of sustainable development goals.

By integrating the framework with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, cities will be able to report and track progress at a local level to understand the impact at a global level. 

MUFPP in Australia

Currently, Melbourne is the only city in Australia to have signed the Pact. Melbourne received mention at a recent annual awards for their Food City Policy. They have taken a food system approach to nutrition, engaging stakeholders in comprehensive and inclusive planning through a food policy advisory group to inform city food policy. The policy promotes ecological, economic development, social welfare, and socio-cultural benefits of urban agriculture and local food systems.

Read the City of Melbourne’s food policy and supporting documents here

City of Melbourne’s food policy. 

Andrea had a message for Australia ‘Don’t leave Melbourne alone!! We want to see the Pact being used and spread across Australia and the Asia Pacific region, addressing your food system challenges.’ 

Although the Pact is focused on city councils, it is possible for regional councils to also sign the Pact. ‘Ultimately, the pact is designed to increase health and wellbeing for people everywhere, however we know that the biggest impact happens when we focus on cities. Having said that, there are cases of different local authorities or other level of governance have signed the Pact and are adapting it to their local environment.’ Cecile shared. 

Food security, production and waste are challenges in all regions around the world. The Pact offers a framework that can then be adapted to the needs of the local community with the power of a global community. 


Meeting with Cecile and Andrea was incredibly inspiring. They had an amazing passion for their work and their mission to create a more sustainable food system around the world. As these challenges become more evident through population growth, global pacts will become more important. The unique aspect of this global Pact is the strong collaboration between cities and the ability to open up networks for best practice insights. This is a great opportunity for Australia to grow their connection with leaders around the world and share best practice insights from our food system. 


The team are very excited about stronger representation in Australia and the Asia Pacific region. If you think the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact could have an impact in your community, send this article to your local council and ask them to sign the Pact. 

Local councils can sign the Pact by emailing the Secretariat team who are more than happy to assist with any queries. 

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