The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda is grounded in the ambition to leave no-one behind. It calls on all countries and stakeholders to act together to end hunger and prevent all forms of malnutrition by 2030. However two years after the global commitments were adopted in New York in 2015, world hunger appears to be on the rise, peaking at 815 million last year. After a decade during which hunger rates declined, this recent increase could signal a reversal of progress.

In an increasingly urbanised world, conflict and climate change put pressure on global food systems, increasing hunger and malnutrition, with the weakest, women, children and the urban poor, most at risk.

With the adoption of the New Urban Agenda at the UN Habitat III Conference in Quito in 2016, there is a renewed impetus to address food and nutrition insecurity in cities. However many questions still remain. Can the urban agenda play a bigger role in reversing this alarming trend in malnutrition and if so, how? SNV tackles these questions in its upcoming paper The Urban Agenda: Meeting the food and nutrition security needs of the urban poor.

Urban food and nutrition security is a cross-cutting theme relevant to several of the Global Goals - #1 no poverty; #2 zero hunger, #3 health and well-being and #11 sustainable cities. However, the targets remain in their silos and don’t address urban nutrition properly. SDG11 makes no reference to food, while SDG2 does not address the urban angle.The New Urban Agenda addresses this gap and has put a spotlight on the question of nourishing a growing urban population.

A women's market in Khulna

Urbanisation presents an opportunity to harness urban food systems for sustainable development and well-being. The New Urban Agenda calls on national and local governments to ensure that cities fulfil the social function of providing equal access to basic services, including food. Recognising the interlinkages, it states “We will promote the integration of food security and the nutritional needs of urban residents, particularly the urban poor, in urban and territorial planning, in order to end hunger and malnutrition”.

Over 150 cities worldwide have signed up to the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact; providing a platform for city-to-city networks to share best practices on implementing sustainable food systems. Although at a smaller scale, earlier this year, several development actors, from the public sector to academia and to civil society, came together to sign the Bellagio Communiqué. “Integrating urban food security within local, regional and national urban policy processes” is needed to achieving “sustainable urbanisation and addressing urban inequalities across the globe.”

Many global agreements are voluntary with limited apparent accountability and the extent to which they translate in policy and action at the local level remains in question, but the momentum continues. A key turning point will be when indeed commitments translate into practical local urban food policies. In shaping the inclusive cities of the future, policy-makers at all administrative levels will need to adopt a long term vision- ensuring affordable and nutritious food for all.

Achieving the 2030 Agenda will be challenging. It requires renewed efforts with new ways of working and thinking. As we move towards the 9th World Urban Forum, in February 2018, stakeholders must take stock of what has been committed. But more so of what is needed to advance a vision for a better urban future where everyone benefits. And no one is left behind.