Leveraging urban and local food systems for sustainable food systems transformation

Food Systems and Food Safety Division (ESF)
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Time: Friday, 20. January 2023, 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Room: M4-M5

Languages: English, German, French


The panel was introduced by FAO Chief Economist Maximo Torero and the Moderator, Raimund Jehle, presenting the background for discussion.

As the Chairperson of the UN Committee on World Food Security, Gabriel Ferrero started the debate focusing on the value of a new Governance approach, and on the importance of the local dimension of food systems, now being recognized also in the CFS.

The local perspective was ensured by the two representatives of cities in the panel: the Mayor of Tunis, Souad Abderrahim and Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor of Bristol.

Calling for more visibility and education on food systems and nutrition, the former shared practical projects co-implemented by the municipality, especially to address local lack of capacity building.

Other examples were shared by Bristol, with Asher Craig focusing on the financial aspects of multi-stakeholder collaborations, and the involvement of different actors in decision-making.

Private sector was at the center of the intervention by Armen Harutyunyan, from The Eurasian Economic Commission, advocating for innovative acquisitions to be scaled up at the local level.

Brining in an academic perspective, Jane Battersby from the University of Cape Town listed some important key issues that urbanization will pose, and how these will reshape food systems and their governances.

The panel presented practical ways to get cities recognized in food systems transformation.

These include participatory governance instead of top-down approaches, innovative entry points and platforms such as the new Urban Food Systems Coalition.

Keynote Speaker

Máximo Torero Cullen is the Chief Economist of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). He joined the Organization in January 2019 as Assistant Director-General for the Economic and Social Development Department. Before joining FAO, he served at the World Bank Group in Washington, D.C. as the Executive Director for Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. Between 2006 and 2016, he led the Markets, Trade and Institutions Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). He is a professor at the University of the Pacific, Peru (on leave) and Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the University of Bonn, Germany. His major research work lies mostly in analyzing poverty, inequality, importance of geography and assets in explaining poverty, and in policies oriented towards poverty alleviation based on the role played by infrastructure, institutions, and on how technological breakthroughs (or discontinuities) can improve the welfare of households and small farmers. His experience encompasses Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia.

Panel Guests

Armen Harutyunyan was appointed Director of Agricultural Policy Department on November 2020. Before joining the Commission, he was Senior Advisor at the Global Center for Technology, Innovation and Sustainable Development in Singapore and previously Team Leader, Partnership and International Finance Officer at the United Nation in Armenia. Before starting career in international organizations, he served over five years as the Deputy Minister of Agriculture of Armenia and coordinated international trade, institutional reforms and international cooperation at the Ministry. He lectured Food Economics at the American University of Armenia and Behavioral Economics at the Executive MBA program at the Yerevan State Medical University. Armen Harutyunyan holds Master’s Degree in International Development from University of Bristol and Master of Public Administration Degree from Armenian State Public Administration Academy, as well as two year comprehensive certified program of the Texas A&M University in Armenia. He had completed executive education programs at Harvard, Stanford, UCL, London School of Public Relations and others. He is Fintech and Blockchain Fellow at the Singapore University of Social Sciences and Academic Council Member at the Global Fintech Institute.


Asher has spent over 30 years as a community activist, leader, management consultant and now local politician. She has championed the needs of the voice-less, with a particular emphasis on the social-economic development of BME and under-represented communities. She has led and Chaired a number of major partnerships and organisations at local, regional and national level and has worked in the field of employment & training, education & skills, recruitment, advocacy, equality & diversity within local government and the third sector.
Asher was elected as the Labour Councillor for the ward of St George West, Bristol in May 2016 and was appointed to the Cabinet with the wide reaching portfolio of Neighbourhoods in August 2016.
In March 2017 Asher was asked to step into the new role of Deputy Mayor – Communities, bringing into & elevating the issue of Public Health within her new portfolio. She is committed to address the inequities and multi-level public health risks that impact diverse urban populations through the lens of racial and ethnic health disparities at all levels. This has included work towards a more holistic, sustainable, inclusive and healthier food system, resulting in Bristol achieving Gold Sustainable Food City status in 2021 and building upon this momentum to produce the Bristol Good Food 2030 Framework and Actions plans in 2022.
In October 2021 she was appointed to a new portfolio comprising Children’s Services, Education and Equalities.
One of Asher’s proudest achievements is the development of a new groundbreaking and multiple award-winning Stepping Up leadership programme, using the Bristol “One City Approach”.
Asher is a member of Avon & Somerset Police & Crime Panel, trustee of a national education charity and awarding body and the proud mother of 3 daughters.

Currently serving as Ambassador at Large for Global Food Security at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation of the Government of Spain. Former Director General for Sustainable Development Policies from 2018 to 2021. In this position, he has been lead author and strategist of the 2030 Agenda Implementation Action Plan of Spain, coordinating the Spanish Voluntary National Review at the High Level Political Forum. Lead author of the Spanish Cooperation Joint Response Strategy to COVID-19 pandemic. He served in the Executive Office of the United Nations Secretary General from 2011 to 2017, including as Coordinator of the UN Secretary-General High Level Task Force on Global Food Security and as Team Leader of the UN Secretary General´s Special Representative for Food and Nutrition Security from 2016 to 2017, based in Rome. In this capacity, he was representative of the UN SG at the Advisory Committee of the Committee on World Food Security and at the Steering Committee of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program. He was part of the Milano Group on Sustainable Food Systems convened by UN SG Ban Ki-Moon in 2015 and made seminal contributions to linking ending hunger, poverty and climate-compatible sustainable food systems. Senior policy advisor on sustainable development to the UN Secretary General´s Special Advisor for the Post2015 Development Agenda Ms Amina J Mohammed from 2012 to 2016, leading on food security, agriculture and food systems, financing and climate change. Renowned as being part of the team facilitating the process leading to the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he was instrumental on crafting Ban Ki-Moon´s Zero Hunger Challenge and SDG 2. Before joining the UN, he was Deputy-Director General of Development Policies at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Spain from 2007-2010, leading on Spain´s global response to the global food crisis. He coordinated the 2009 Madrid High Level Meeting “Food Security for All” and substantially contributed to the reform of the Committee on World Food Security. In this position, he was lead author of the 2009-2012 Spanish Cooperation Master Plan and was instrumental on the set up of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), the L´Aquila Food Security Initiative, the UN Fund for the Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the „Spanish Fund for Cooperation on Water and Sanitation“. Full time Professor of Development Theory and Planning at the School of Agricultural Engineering and Environment at the Technological University of Valencia UPV (2000-2007) and Director of its Development Cooperation Centre (2004-2007). He founded and coordinated the Development Studies and Applied Ethics Research Group, his research and practice focuses on Sen‘s Capability Approach, development methodology, climate and sustainable development. An engineer by training, he holds a nationally awarded Ph. D on development planning and management. He is author or co-author of more than 50 publications including journal research papers, 3 books, book chapters and op-eds with a focus on rural development, climate and development effectiveness. With field level experience at project, program and policy levels on agriculture, rural development and renewable energy, in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Morocco, and Argentina, he has been advisor to national and subnational governments, social movements and NGOs on rural development planning, management and sustainable development policies.

Dr Jane Battersby is an urban geographer based at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She holds a doctoral degree from the University of Oxford, and has conducted research on urban food security, urban food systems and food systems governance. She focused on the interaction between food system and the urban system, and she has worked with NGOs, civil society, UN Agencies, and local governments, particularly in the African context.

Souad Abderrahim is the current Mayor of Tunis, Tunisia’s capital. She was elected on July 3, 2018. She is the first Arab woman to serve as mayor of an Arab capital. She is a member of Ennahda Movement. On 23 October 2011, she was elected to the Constituent Assembly, for Ennahdha representing the capital, Tunis.


Raimund Jehle, a national of Germany, has a PhD in agricultural economics. Prior to joining FAO, Jehle was a farmer, held several positions in academia and worked as a consultant for the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs in Brussels. Since joining FAO in 1999, he has served in various positions at FAO headquarters in Rome and, as of 2007, in the Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia in Hungary. Prior to his appointment as Regional Programme Leader, Jehle held the positions of Deputy Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia and Regional Initiative Coordinator. Parallel to his current position, he has served since 2016 as the FAO Representative in Albania, Armenia, Georgia and Republic of Moldova.


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