Rivitalization of Mediterranean Diet – Palermo – World Conference

INTRODUCTION
The Mediterranean is currently seen mostly as a dividing sea, but culturally diverse countries are still found united within the Mediterranean diet heritage, without for this to distort the identity of each of them.
The Mediterranean diet, acknowledged by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity, is the testimony of the strong conjunction between people, who are living in the same sea, their territories and their ways of life, that today need to be strongly safeguarded from an increasing erosion process and revitalized as a contemporary sustainable and healthy life style. In the Mediterranean there are different food cultures, expressed in the wide variety of foods of the Mediterranean diet, scientifically recognized as one of the healthiest diets in the world. Paradoxically, these existing impressive quantity of scientific publications on the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, did not result in changing current unhealthy and unsustainable food consumption patterns in Mediterranean countries.
Across the Mediterranean region, there is an “inequalitarian drift” in the current relations between Northern Mediterranean countries and Southern-Eastern ones, where many difficulties are encountered due to the existing economic, social and cultural disparities.
In fact, the macroeconomic indicators of the Mediterranean region emphasize the marked heterogeneity among the countries and a growing gap between the advanced economies in the northern shores and the less developed ones in the southern/eastern ones. The Mediterranean is today a region in which growing ecological, economic, social and cultural challenges coexist with unresolved international tensions. Significant discrepancies in development levels between Northern and Eastern countries, together with regional conflicts, raise more challenges for the sustainable future of the Mediterranean areas.
Within the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development debate on the sustainability of food systems, the interest on sustainable diets has grown in recent years, by linking consumption and production. Therefore, the interest on the Mediterranean diet also as a sustainable diet model, with multiple benefits and country-specific variations, has been reawakened.
The underpinning rationale of the Palermo World Conference is that a better understanding of the complexity and multidimensionality of the sustainability of food systems will strengthen the dialogue between North and South countries to address growing challenges for food security, nutrition and sustainability, in the Mediterranean region.
To face these diverse yet interdependent challenges, there is a need for the identification and further strengthening of joint regional strategies and programs, in which the potential of “research, innovation, sharing knowledge and capacity building” should be highlighted as driving forces for the shift towards more sustainable food systems in the region, as essential instruments for supporting the implementation of an inclusive economy in the Mediterranean, delivering on the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

THE CONFERENCE OF PALERMO SCOPE AND OBJECTIVES
The Second World Conference on the Revitalization of the Mediterranean Diet has the scope, with a science-based approach, to continue strengthening the dialogue on food security, nutrition and sustainability, between North and South Mediterranean countries, which is crucial in the current Mediterranean and global scenario, towards a shift towards more sustainable food systems in the region, for ensuring sustainable development, security, stability and general well-being for present and future generations in the region.
It is foreseen to be a contribution to the 5+5 Dialogue “Sommet des Deux Rives”, that will be held in Marseille on 24 June 2019.
By strengthening multi-stakeholder dialogues, from North to South and from South to South, the World Conference has the aim to enhance a broader international acknowledgement on the Mediterranean diet as a sustainable diet model for contemporary Mediterranean lifestyles , with country specific variations.T he Mediterranean diet, as an expression of the diversity of Mediterranean food cultures and their different food and culinary systems, has not yet been fully regarded as a significant resource of sustainable development in the Mediterranean region, a potential ‘driver’ in addressing demand towards more sustainable food consumption, thereby influencing the production as a result.
Starting from the safeguarding of Mediterranean marine ecosystems and the enhancement of blue fish and artisan small scale fisheries, as a symbol of the revitalization of the Mediterranean diet, the World Conference looks to catalyze and consolidate a broader multi-stakeholder interest on the following multiple benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, as a sustainable diet model for contemporary lifestyles:
1) Recognized and well-documented major health and nutrition benefits, in the prevention of chronic diseases and in reducing public health costs as well as in the overall improvement of the well-being;
2) Low environmental impact and richness in biodiversity, appreciation of biodiversity value, reduction of pressure on natural resources and mitigation of climate change;
3) Positive local economic returns, sustainable territorial development, reduction of rural poverty;
4) High social and cultural value of food, reduction of food wastes, growth of mutual respect, identity recovery, social inclusion and consumer empowerment.

KEY OBJECTIVES
1.To continue to reinforce science-based dialogues between North and South Mediterranean countries to better understand the growing interdependent challenges that all populations are facing in the Mediterranean region, as well as towards the achievement of the Agenda 2030’s SDGs in the Mediterranean region;
2.To identify strategies, programs, projects and actions for improving the sustainability of food systems in the Mediterranean region;
3.To acknowledge the Mediterranean diet as a sustainable diet model, with country-specific variations, for contemporary Mediterranean lifestyles;
4.To consolidate the initiative of the World Conference on the Revitalization of the Mediterranean Diet as a permanent forum for transdisciplinary dialogues on Mediterranean sustainable food systems using the Mediterranean diet as a lever for bridging consumption and production in a sustainable and healthy way;
5.To foster the development of a “Mediterranean Multi-stakeholder Platform on Sustainable Food Systems” within the United Nations One Planet Sustainable Food Systems Programme, to facilitate public and private partnerships to unlock the potential of research, innovation, sharing knowledge and capacity building, between North and South Mediterranean countries, for a shift towards more sustainable food consumption and sustainable food production in the region.