BOX 2-1
Roles of ICLEI Projects in Local Agenda 21 Implementation

  1. Local Agenda 21 Incentive Grants Project

    Between 1997 and 2000 the Local Agenda 21 (LA21) incentive grants project provided grants, training, and program support to LA21 planning initiatives in 18 cities in Africa, Latin America, and Europe. ICLEI, in partnership with the Open Society Institute, designed the project to learn how open societies can be fostered and how quality of life can be improved.

  2. African Sustainable Cities Network

    The African Sustainable Cities Network (ASCN) aims to build the capacity of local governments to institute participatory environmental planning as an integrated function of public administration. By 2000, 31 African cities in 9 countries (Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) were participating in the ASCN and had signed the local government resolutions. The ASCN also focuses on capacity building and exchanges between these cities (and between African and European cities).

  3. European Sustainable Cities and Towns Campaign

    The European sustainable cities and towns campaign unites and assists local governments in engaging in LA21 activities. The campaign aims to promote sustainable development at the local level by strengthening partnerships. The project was launched following the First European Conference on Sustainable Cities and Towns held in Aalborg, Denmark, in May 1994, in the course of which the Aalborg Charter was adopted. To date, over 1,500 local and regional governments from 38 European countries have signed the charter. The campaign is the largest European initiative for LA21.

  4. Local Agenda 21 Charters Project

    Between 1997 and 2000 the Local Agenda 21 charters project aimed to establish partnerships between local governments in developed and developing countries to assist each other in the implementation of their LA21 action plans. Six African countries participated in the project: Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. Support was provided through regional training and technical assistance programs and the creation of a global monitoring and reporting system. Between local governments the assistance programs were linked through sustainable development agreements or Local Agenda 21 charters.

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a participatory, multi-stakeholder process to achieve the goals of Agenda 21 at the local level through the preparation and implementation of a long-term, strategic plan that addresses priority local sustainable development concerns. (UN, 2002b).

By the end of 2001 nearly 6,500 local governments in over 100 countries were involved in LA21 (Table 2-1). Of these local governments 44 percent had active programs and the remainder had committed to the process. In the four years between surveys the number of LA21 activities more than tripled (driven primarily by activities in Europe), and the number of participating countries nearly doubled. LA21 initiatives often have evolved at the local level in the absence of a national campaign. Indeed, 59 percent of the initiatives progressed without national-level impetus.

Progress can also be measured by an increase in the number of LA21 processes that have moved from the vision statement stage into the action planning stage—from 38 percent in 1997 to 61 percent in 2001 (Table 2-2). Most of these have focused on the environment (Figure 2-1). Prominent environmental issues addressed include air quality and water resources management (Table 2-3). Over the next three to five years the prominence of natural resources management issues will increase (Table 2-3).

TABLE 2-1 Number of Local Governments Involved in Local Agenda 21 Activities in December 2001, by Region


Number of Countries

Number of Local Governments










Latin America



Middle East



North America




SOURCE: UN (2002b).

Private Sector Implementation of Agenda 21

Companies, especially multinational corporations, dominate the transformation of natural resources into products and services. Increasingly they find it in their own interests to meet sustainable development goals. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development maintains a collection of case studies of the sustainability transition from a wide variety of firms (WBCSD, 2002). The private-sector re-

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