CEMAS was created as a result of the València City Council’s determination to develop sustainable food policies. In October 2016, the first agreement signed between Mayor Joan Ribó and FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva marked the start of a succession of initiatives in this field.
After the signing of the Memorandum of understanding between FAO and València in October 2016, the city was designated World Food Capital for 2017. Several congresses took place that same year, culminating in the third summit of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, which was attended by over 100 representatives from cities and city networks around the world.
In 2018 Mayor Joan Ribó took part in an International Symposium on Agroecology at the FAO headquarters, and the creation of CEMAS was approved in the plenary meeting of the council.
Finally, in 2019 the Centre’s statutes were approved, its governing board was appointed and CEMAS was presented by the Mayor before the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Vicente Domingo was appointed as director, and CEMAS was officially inaugurated in the presence of Queen Letizia in July. Finally, during the COP 25, the new FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu, learned first-hand about CEMAS’ projects.
Memorandum of collaboration and understanding between FAO and the city of València
In October 2016, the city of València and FAO signed a Memorandum of understanding in Rome, making València the first city in the world to sign a collaboration agreement with the organization.
As stated in this agreement, FAO recognises that: “València City Council is currently engaged in the process of changing its farming and food policies in its peri-urban croplands with the aim of putting an end to their ongoing destruction and degradation by implementing new policies based on the sustainable production of food – predominantly organically-grown – and its subsequent distribution and commercialisation in the city through the mechanisms of local markets, ‘zero kilometre’ and farmers’ markets”.
The key lines of this agreement between FAO and the city of València are the reinforcement of sustainable urban food systems; collaboration for research, technical advice, dissemination and communication in subjects relating to agriculture, maritime-fishing activity, food, development, the rural and coastal economy; and educating the public about healthy nutrition.
Milan Pact mayors’ summit
The third summit of mayors from the signatory cities to the Milan Pact took place between 19 and 21 October 2017.
This event focused international attention on València as a city at the forefront of the development and implementation of sustainable food policies.
The summit was attended by 400 delegates, leading experts, mayors and representatives from almost 100 cities around the world, heads of the most important international city networks as well as high-level representatives of other United Nations agencies.
The València Declaration was particularly significant. This text – drafted in coordination with the more than 160 cities that subscribe to the Milan Pact – urges the United Nations, and particularly its Secretariat-General, to become more involved in local administrations throughout the world. It urges them to take a greater role in the discussion, implementation and lines of action in regard to food issues, climate change, the fight against hunger, protecting smallholders, food sovereignty, poverty and food waste.
In this context, the city of València organised a wide range of actions and events during 2017. The Dialogues on Nutrition and Sustainable Food Systems congress took place at the Polytechnic University of València in April, and the Civil Society, Food and Sustainable Cities congress was held in September in the Palau de l’Exposició Convention Centre. Both events also served as a meeting point for experts, academics, senior officials from European public institutions, and mayors and representatives of local administrations.
Second International Symposium on Agroecology (FAO, Rome, April 2018)
With the slogan Initiative to scale up agroecology, Joan Ribó, Mayor of València, took part in a conference at the second International Symposium on Agroecology held at the FAO headquarters in Rome.
The meeting offered evidence of the heightened interest among a variety of sectors and public officials in how to produce, manage and consume food more sustainably and responsibly in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
It also highlighted the transformation capacity of the world’s cities to consolidate these policies.
CEMAS at the United Nations General Assembly (February 2019)
According to Joan Ribó, Mayor of València, “the centre should be a leading world hub for all matters relating to sustainable food systems in urban environments, and a driving force promoting sustainable and ecological food policies in local administrations around the world”.
Inauguration of CEMAS (July 2019)
Queen Letizia presided the inauguration of the CEMAS headquarters at La Base de La Marina building in València. The event was attended by top-ranking FAO officials and representatives from the central and regional governments. Others present included leading international figures such as the Nobel laureate Edward Rubin and the activist Vandana Shiva, along with representatives from the university and research world, city networks and civil society.
Meeting between the FAO Director-General and the CEMAS
During the COP 25, the new FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu, learned first-hand about CEMAS’ projects in a meeting with València’s mayor, Joan Ribó and the Centre’s Director, Vicente Domingo. During the meeting, they explained the peculiarities of València’s historic system for irrigating its farmlands, which has received the distinction of GIAHS (Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems).