Thailand is for the first time participating in a city-to-city cooperation programme funded by the European Union. On 22 February 2022, IURC organised a kick-off meeting between the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) and the Municipality of Milan to mark the beginning of their cooperation. In addition to the officials of both cities, the EU and Italian ambassadors to Thailand as well as a deputy permanent secretary of the BMA also participated to give a warm welcome to everyone.
The main focus of Bangkok and Milan cooperation will be urban food policy as Bangkok recently became a new signatory of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP). “Given the worldwide reputation of both cities, this [cooperation area] is entirely appropriate. It is an exciting and important topic and well suited to both cities,” HE David Daly, Ambassador of the European Union to Thailand, noted during his welcoming remarks. He went on to briefly introduce the Farm to Fork Strategy of the European Union, which aims to connect all actors across the food chain with the aim of achieving sustainable food systems as part of the European Green Deal, which is a set of policy initiatives by the European Commission with the overarching aim of making the European Union climate neutral in 2050.
“The launch of a city-to-city cooperation between these two local governments is therefore a unique and positive opportunity. We are confident that this cooperation will help both your cities to promote, to exchange knowledge and to promote technology that can help overcome many challenges, challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, or the challenge of the transition towards more sustainable, fairer, and greener practices by responding to the economic and social challenges,” said Ambassador Daly.
Dr. Chawin Sirinak, BMA Deputy Permanent Secretary, in his welcoming remarks listed several policies and strategies in the BMA’s attempt to tackle climate change and other issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic. These include the 20-Year Development Plan for Bangkok (2013-2032), Bangkok Masterplan on Climate Change 2013-2023, Bangkok Resilience Strategy and Bangkok Green Growth Approach. The Deputy Permanent Secretary expressed how the BMA welcomed the opportunity to be in the IURC and MUFPP networks of cities: “The BMA hopes that its participation in any activities organised by IURC and MUFPP will help [Bangkok] achieve its food system development goals and bring about an advancement of a sustainable city, for Bangkok and Milan, the founder of MUFPP.”
In addition to acknowledging the importance of city networks and cooperation in tackling global issues and achieving sustainability, HE Lorenzo Galanti, Ambassador of Italy to Thailand, noted the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact as a legacy of the Milan Expo 2015, whose success has inspired Rome’s candidature for the 2030 edition. He said, “I am pleased to underline that in fact the BMA joined the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact last year in August, as Dr. Chawin mentioned. It is of course with great excitement that we’re seeing the relations between Milan and Bangkok grow to such an extent because these kinds of relations are fundamental nourishment of relations between Italy and Thailand and proudly part also of the broader relationship between the European Union and the Kingdom of Thailand.”
After the three welcoming remarks, Mr. Pablo Gándara, IURC Asia & Australasia Team Leader, presented the programme’s background, objectives and activities, which include bilateral meetings, thematic webinars, study visits and competitive funds, as well as the prior engagement of the BMA in the New Green Possibilities International Forum in July 2022. Later, Bangkok and Milan took turns to introduce their cities’ visions and challenges as well as their food policy and projects.
The presenters on the BMA side included Mr. Jarupong Pengglieng, Director of Planning and City Capacity Promotion Division, International Affairs Office; Ms. Dusadee Swanghan, Director of Occupational Promotion Office, Social Development Department; Ms. Peeraya Somchaiyanon, Director of Food Sanitation Division, Health Department; and Ms. Suthisa Pornpermpoon, Director of Solid Waste and Sewage Management Office, Environment Department. Their presentations show Bangkok’s interest in dealing with the issues of food security, food safety and food waste management.
The presenters on the Milan side include Mr. Marco Mazziotti, Head of the EU Affairs; Mr. Filippo Gavazzeni, Head of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact Secretariat; and Mr. Andrea Magarini, Milan Food Policy Coordinator. There presenters reflected Milan’s leadership in the area of urban food policy and showcased several interesting projects, such as urban agriculture for school canteens, the Local Food Waste Hub, which facilitates food donation from supermarkets and company canteens to charities and has won the Earthshot Prize of Prince William, and the Stakeholders Analysis Tool helping to map all the stakeholders in a food system.
The meeting was also attended by other IURC colleagues, including Ms. Sandra Marin, Team Leader of IURC Central Coordination Services, Ms. Jacqueline Chang, Country Coordinator for Malaysia and Circular Economy Specialist, and Ms. Dini Laraswati, Country Coordinator for Indonesia, who listened attentively to the information being shared as IURC cities will work beyond their pairings in clusters with many more cities in other project countries.
The person giving the final words was Mr. Michel Mouchiroud, Deputy Head of EU Foreign Policy Instruments Asia-Pacific, who supervises the implementation of the IURC programme in the Asian and Australasian geographical area. He stressed how glad the European Union was in seeing Bangkok and Milan joining IURC and how impressed he personally was learning about the different innovative and forward-looking practices that both cities had presented.
“When we have leading cities, leading local governments like yourselves, as part of the programme, we are of course going to be a lot more attentive to how much you can provide in terms of knowledge and feedback for the rest of the network,” said Mr. Mouchiroud. “Because that’s what we try to build here, this decentralised cooperation between Europe and Asia and the rest of the cities in the network. It’s about exchanging knowledge, having as many good practices as possible to inspire others and move forward.”
The plan for this cooperation is for the two cities to regularly meet and exchange their challenges and solutions and to organise a visit of the Milan delegates to Bangkok in the first half of this year. The MUFPP Secretariat is also teaming up with IURC to organise the MUFPP & IURC Asia Pacific Food Policy Training throughout 2022. The introductory webinar will take place on 2 March 2022 and will be followed by six webinars in line with the six categories of the MUFPP.
For more information, please contact Mr. Siriwat Pokrajen, Project Assistant and Country Coordinator for Thailand, at email@example.com.