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Local Agenda 21 Survey

A Study of Responses by Local Authorities
and Their National and International Associations
to Agenda 21

Prepared by

in Cooperation with

United Nations Department for
Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development

February 1997

Table of Contents

I. Introduction

By 1996 most local authorities in each country should have undertaken a consultative process with their populations and achieved a consensus on a 'local Agenda 21' for the community.

Agenda 21, Section 28.28

The Local Agenda 21 concept was formulated and launched by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) in 1991 as a framework for local governments worldwide to engage in implementing the outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED)1. ICLEI, along with partner national and international local government associations and organizations (LGOs), championed the Local Agenda 21 concept during the 1991-1992 UNCED preparatory process. These efforts led to the integration of the Local Agenda 21 concept in the main outcome of UNCED, Agenda 21.

Following UNCED, local governments, national and international LGOs, and international bodies and UN agencies entered a period of experimentation with the implementation of the Local Agenda 21 concept. The lead actors in these efforts were the local governments themselves which worked, often with the support of their national municipal associations, to develop the Local Agenda 21 planning approaches appropriate to their circumstances. However, international programmes played a critical role in documenting and analyzing these growing local experiences, and in facilitating the exchange of Local Agenda 21 approaches and tools (Annex 1).

The accumulation and exchange of practical experiences helped to identify a set of universal elements and factors for the success of Local Agenda 21 planning. While these elements and factors are being continually updated and revised by local practitioners, five key elements have been defined for Local Agenda 21 planning in the 1992-1996 period. These are:

  • Multi-sectoral engagement in the planning process through a local stakeholders group which serves as the coordination and policy body for preparing a long-term sustainable development action plan.

  • Consultation with community groups, NGOs, business, churches, government agencies, professional groups and unions in order to create a shared vision and to identify proposals and priorities for action.

  • Participatory assessment of local social, economic and environmental conditions and needs.

  • Participatory target-setting through negotiations among key stakeholders in order to achieve the vision and goals set forth in the action plan.

  • Monitoring and reporting procedures, including local indicators, to track progress and to allow participants to hold each other accountable to the action plan.

The rapid growth in interest and action around the Local Agenda 21 framework was recognized by the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). At its second session in 1994, the Commission adopted decisions in support of Local Agenda 21 and opened the way for a special event to focus global attention on this growing movement. The third CSD session included a "Day of Local Authorities" which brought the experiences of local governments into the Commission's discussions through the presentation of case studies, a panel discussion with mayors and other municipal leaders, and an exhibition showcasing Local Agenda 21 programmes in six cities.2

At the fourth session of the CSD, with the 1997, five-year review of Agenda 21 by a Special Session of the UN General Assembly in mind, the UN Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development (DPCSD) and ICLEI announced their plans to jointly conduct a detailed stock-taking of the Local Agenda 21 movement. The CSD responded enthusiastically:

[The CSD] welcomes the initiative of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, together with the Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development of the United Nations Secretariat, to assess the state of local Agenda 21 initiatives through a world-wide survey, and invited Governments and national sustainable development coordination institutions to give their full support in gathering this valuable information for the 1997 review process.

Document # E/CN.17/1996/28, Decision 4/9, paragraph (f)


I. Survey Methodology

Between April 1996 and January 1997 ICLEI, in collaboration with the DPCSD, undertook a detailed assessment of the Local Agenda 21 movement and the implementation of Chapter 28 of Agenda 21. Two complementary surveys were prepared and distributed to document both the quantity and quality of Local Agenda 21 activity.

The first survey was directed specifically to national governments, National Sustainable Development Councils (NSDCs), and national and regional LGOs (henceforth the national/regional survey). Its primary purpose was to collect quantitative data on the range and extent of Local Agenda 21 efforts on a country-by-country basis. The distribution of this survey targeted the known list of 92 NCSDs and the corresponding Permanent Missions of the countries to the UN as well as 148 regional and national LGOs. Seventy-five (75) NCSDs were reached due to the incomplete contact information available at the time of distribution. The distribution of this survey produced a total of 53 responses, representing a 24% response rate. The responses reported on activities in 58 countries.

A second survey (henceforth the "local government survey") was distributed to a list of 196 local governments from ICLEI's data-base of local governments which had indicated a commitment to Local Agenda 21. The purpose of this survey was to obtain an overview of the qualitative aspects of Local Agenda 21 planning and implementation in the sample local communities. The distribution of this survey produced a total of 90 responses representing a 46% response rate. The responses reflected a sample of local activities in 26 countries.

To distinguish between Local Agenda 21 activities and other kinds of environmental planning and management processes that were reported in the survey responses, ICLEI defined the Local Agenda 21 process as follows:

Local Agenda 21 is a participatory, multi-sectoral process to achieve the goals of Agenda 21 at the local level through the preparation and implementation of a long-term, strategic action plan that addresses priority local sustainable development concerns.

On the basis of this definition of Local Agenda 21, a number of responses were omitted from the final tabulation of Local Agenda 21 activities. Among the reported activities that were not included in the tabulations are:

  • activities stemming from the delegation of national or state-level Agenda 21 responsibilities to local governments;

  • planning that was based on a one-time consultation process rather than an ongoing participatory process of local sustainable development decision making;

  • processes that did not engage a diversity of local sectors;

  • activities that did not apply the sustainable development concept; that is, an integrated approach to environmental, social and economic issues.

The survey responses were double-checked through telephone interviews, comparisons with national Local Agenda 21 survey results, and regional consultation meetings with LGOs and local government officials. This work was completed in January 1997. As a result, the responses of 44 of the 53 national/regional surveys were accepted as valid manifestations of Local Agenda 21, and these validated responses were used to derive the quantitative findings of this report. Similarly, the responses of all of the 90 local government surveys were assessed, and 76 of the reporting local governments from 24 countries were confirmed as having valid Local Agenda 21 planning processes. These validated Local Agenda 21 processes were used to derive the qualitative findings and conclusions of this report.


III. Survey Findings

A. Findings of the National/Regional Survey

The national/regional survey revealed that as of November 30, 1996, more than 1,800 local governments in 64 countries were involved in Local Agenda 21 activities. Of this number, ICLEI confirmed that Local Agenda 21 planning was underway in 933 municipalities from 43 countries and was just getting started in an additional 879 municipalities. Most of these planning processes are being undertaken under the name of "Local Agenda 21." However, the Local Agenda 21 mandate is being implemented in a number of cities and towns under a different local name or through an established international assistance programme, such as the UNCHS Sustainable Cities Programme, the UNDP Capacity 21 Programme or the GTZ Urban Environmental Management Programme.

Local Agenda 21 activities are most concentrated in the eleven countries where national Local Agenda 21 campaigns are underway--in Australia, Bolivia, China, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (see Figure 1). In these countries, 1,487 local governments--representing 82% of the reported total--have established Local Agenda 21 planning efforts. An additional 6% of the reported total, or 117 Local Agenda 21 processes, have been established in the nine countries where national Local Agenda 21 campaigns are just now getting underway--in Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Malawi, Peru, South Africa, and the United States. The remaining 208 reported Local Agenda 21 processes are taking place in 44 countries that do not have national campaigns. These findings highlight the critical importance of national Local Agenda 21 campaigns to the implementation of Agenda 21, Chapter 28. A detailed description of these campaigns can be found in section IV.A of this report.

Municipalities in developed countries account for 1,631 or 90% of the identified Local Agenda 21 planning processes. Nevertheless, Local Agenda 21 planning is rapidly increasing in 42 developing countries and economies-in-transition, where 181 Local Agenda 21 planning processes were identified (see Figure 2).

The national/regional survey also documented the types of activities being undertaken as part of Local Agenda 21 planning. Of the 933 Local Agenda 21 processes that were identified to be underway, all have established a consultative process with local residents, 516 have established a local "stakeholders group" to oversee this process, and 666 have begun the preparation of a local action plan. Among the most advanced processes, 237 have established a framework to monitor and report on the achievement of action plan objectives, and 210 have established local indicators for monitoring purposes.

The national/regional survey asked respondents to rank the criteria that they used to design the Local Agenda 21 activities in their country or region. Box 1 presents these criteria in the order of their priority to the respondents.


Region National Campaign Established # of LA21s Started National Campaign Starting # of LA21s Started No National Campaign # of LA21s Started
SUBTOTALS 11 countries 1487 9 countries 117 44 countries 208

TOTAL: 1812 Local Agenda 21 initiatives in 64 countries


Region Developed Countries # of LA21s $766 or above* # of LA21s $765 or less* # of LA21s
SUBTOTAL 22 countries 1631 27 countries 118 15 countries 63

Total: 1812 Local Agenda 21 Initiatives in 64 countries

*Economies are divided according to GNP per capita, calculated using the World Bank Attas method.

Box 1. Criteria For Local Agenda 21 Planning

Q: What are the range of criteria you are using to define your Local Agenda 21 or sustainable development planning process? Rank all suitable responses in order of importance.


  1. It must address economic, social and ecological needs together.

  2. It must include a consensus on a vision for a sustainable future.

  3. It must include a participatory process with local residents.

  4. It must establish a Stakeholders Group, Forum or equivalent multi-sectoral community group to oversee the process.

  5. It must prepare an Action Plan with concrete long-term targets.

  6. It must prepare an Action Plan (without long-term targets).

  7. It must establish a monitoring and reporting framework.

  8. It must establish indicators to monitor progress.

      Interestingly, the prioritization of criteria provided in the responses to this question reflect the chronological order of Local Agenda 21 planning--starting with defining the process and building consensus and ending with the monitoring the implementation of an action plan. This result highlights the fact that most local governments are still in the early stages of Local Agenda 21 planning and at present are giving greater attention to participation and consensus-building in the preparation of a Local Agenda 21 action plans than to measures required for the implementation these action plans.

      Further details about the nature of Local Agenda 21 planning were documented by the local government survey.

      B. Findings of the Local Government Survey

      The results of the local government survey provide a closer look at the qualitative aspects of the Local Agenda 21 planning that has been taking place since UNCED.

      1. The Focus of Local Agenda 21 Planning

      The local government survey sought to ascertain whether local governments actually were using the Local Agenda 21 process to integrate social, economic and environmental planning (sustainable development planning) or whether the process was being dominated by existing environmental planning approaches. The responses presented in Box 2 indicate that most local governments are taking a sustainable development approach, although a significant percentage of local governments in developed countries are giving priority to environmental sustainability considerations.

      Box 2. The Thematic Focus of Local Agenda 21 Planning

      Q: Which of the following best describes the approach you are taking in your Local Agenda 21 or sustainable development planning process? (Responses show the percentage of respondents that listed each approach as their number one priority.)


      All Developed Countries Developing Countries & Economies-in-Transition
      Addressing environmental, economic and social concerns equally. 41% 40% 43%
      Focusing on protection of the environment. 25% 29% 7%
      Improving environmental and social conditions within the constraints of what is economically acceptable. 18% 18% 21%
      Letting local residents decide what is most important. 9% 6% 21%
      Focusing on economic development, but making sure that environmental and social concerns are better considered. 0% 0% 0%
      No answer. 7% 7% 8%

      These responses reveal that Local Agenda 21 approaches in developing countries and economies-in-transition are more comprehensive in their application of the sustainable development concept. In addition, Local Agenda 21 processes in developing countries and economies-in-transition appear to be more responsive to the immediate needs of local residents. In contrast, in the developed countries Local Agenda 21 planning is more likely to focus, at least initially, on environmental protection. This may reflect the reality that the Local Agenda 21 movement in communities in developed countries is often managed by a local environmental department or organization.

      2. Participation in the Planning Process

      The different approaches taken to participation and consensus-building for Local Agenda 21 planning are reflected in Box 3. On average, each of the Local Agenda 21 processes confirmed by the local government survey used three different instruments for consultation and participation.

      Box 3. Local Agenda 21 Approaches to Consultation and Participation

      Q: What ways is your local authority using to consult community members as part of the requirements for a Local Agenda 21? (More than one response is allowed by each respondent.)


      Total Percent
      Working groups or multi-sectoral roundtables 52 68%
      Questionnaires/surveys 49 64%
      Community meetings and forums 45 59%
      Focus groups 35 46%
      Planning that includes negotiations with different sectors in the community 31 41%
      Visioning exercises with stakeholders 30 39%

      The answers in Box 3 demonstrate the central importance given to multi-sectoral "stakeholder groups" in the implementation of Local Agenda 21 planning. As presented in Box 4, below, the local government survey also identified the extent of participation of different sectors and local constituencies in these stakeholder groups.

      In addition to the sectors and groups listed in Box 4, survey respondents also listed the participation of the following groups: cultural organizations, political parties, service providers, churches, consumer groups, international organizations, social clubs, and representatives for the elderly, disabled, or unemployed. During the survey validation process, a number of localities mentioned difficulties in obtaining the support and participation of local branches of multi-national corporations. Others clarified that, although women's organizations may not be involved, women are well represented through their roles as representatives of other types of organizations.

      As can be seen from these responses, while local governments are taking a broad based approach, a significant percentage of Local Agenda 21 processes need to strengthen efforts to involve minorities and/or indigenous peoples.

      Box 4. The Participation of Different Sectors in Local Agenda 21 Planning

      Q: Which of the following sectors is your local authority formally including in the process to plan, implement and monitor your Action Plan for Local Agenda 21 or sustainable development?


      Total Percent
      Business sector 63 83%
      Community organizations 62 82%
      NGOs 60 79%
      Educational sector 53 70%
      Scientific institutions (universities) 44 58%
      Government other than municipal 40 53%
      Youth 40 53%
      Women 40 53%
      Trade unions 39 51%
      Ethnic minorities 17 22%
      Indigenous peoples 17 22%

      3. The Preparation of Local Agenda 21 Action Plans

      The local government survey asked the respondents to describe their progress in producing a Local Agenda 21 action plan. Such an action plan is viewed by the majority of participating local governments as the primary product of the participatory planning process. The responses to this question are presented in Box 5.

      Box 5. Progress in Producing Local Agenda 21 Action Plans

      Q: What is the status of your community's Local Agenda 21 or sustainable development Action Plan. (Each respondent selected one of the following responses.)


      All Developed Countries Developing Countries & Economies-in-Transition
      Has already produced an Action Plan. 38% 37% 43%
      Committed to produce one by the end of 1996. 34% 35% 19%
      Committed to produce an Action Plan by some later date. 11% 10% 14%
      Intention to produce an Action Plan, but details not decided. 14% 15% 14%
      Not yet decided if we will produce an Action Plan. 3% 3% 0%

      The reason that preparation of action plans in developing countries and economies-in-transition might be slightly more advanced is that action plans in these communities are more focused on addressing short-term needs. The legitimacy of Local Agenda 21 in these countries appears to be dependent on the timely completion of planning activities and the start of concrete action. This hypothesis is supported by the survey responses to a question about the term of the action plans, which are presented in Box 6.

      Box 6. The Time Horizon of Local Agenda 21 Action Plans

      Q: What time horizon best describes how your local authority is setting solutions for your Action Plan?


      All Developed Countries Developing Countries & Economies-in-Transition
      Next year 4% 2% 14%
      Next 2 years 10% 11% 7%
      Next 3 years 8% 3% 29%
      Next 4 years 5% 3% 14%
      Next 5 to 10 years 32% 34% 22%
      Next 10 to 25 years 20% 23% 7%
      Next 25 to 100 years 4% 3% 7%
      Don't know at this time 8% 10% 0%
      No answer 9% 11% 0%

      The responses indicate that Local Agenda 21 processes in developing countries and economies-in-transition often are focused on short-term results. Efforts in developed countries seem to be better positioned to address one of the key challenges of sustainable development planning--consideration of the long-term impacts of development and the ability to sustain healthy social, environmental and economic conditions over long periods of time.

      4. The Implementation of Local Agenda 21 Action Plans

      Thirty-three of the surveyed local governments that have completed action plans--most of which are from developed countries--provided greater details about the measures that they are taking to ensure the implementation of their action plans. The responses are presented in Box 7.

      These responses illustrate the commitment of local governments to change their existing policies and practices to implement and comply with the Local Agenda 21 action plans that have been prepared in partnership with local stakeholders.

      Box 7. Implementation Measures for Local Agenda 21 Action Plans

      Q: If you have completed your Local Agenda 21 or other sustainable development Action Plan, which of the following does it include? (33 respondents. More than one response was allowed.)


      Total Percent
      Concrete measurable targets 24 73%
      Formal relationships to the statutory plans of the local authority such as the municipal development plan, land use plan, transportation plan etc. 21 64%
      Indicators of other mechanisms to evaluate changing conditions 18 55%
      An internal management system in the municipality to ensure compliance 13 39%


      IV. Analysis of Survey Results

      A. The Role of National and Regional Local Agenda 21 Campaigns

      The ICLEI/DPCSD survey indicates that the magnitude of response to Chapter 28 was primarily achieved through the mobilization of existing capacities in the local government community; namely, through the independent contributions of national and international associations of local government.

      A close review of survey findings shows that Local Agenda 21 activities are most advanced where these associations have established national or regional campaigns. As of December 1996 national municipal association campaigns were underway in eight countries--Australia, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. In addition, national governments had established campaigns in Bolivia, China and Japan. These eleven campaigns involve 82% of the total documented Local Agenda 21 planning efforts. As of the same date, new national campaigns were being established in the following additional countries: Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Malawi, Peru, South Africa, and the United States. These countries account for an additional 6% of the total documented Local Agenda 21 efforts.

      National associations of local government have been able to enlist hundreds of local authorities to begin Local Agenda 21 planning because of their established legitimacy with local government leaders and their institutional capacity to provide country-specific training and technical support. A typical national campaign is overseen by a multi-stakeholder national steering committee that is staffed by the national association. The campaign manages a recruitment effort, prepares guidance materials, organizes training workshops, operates special projects on activities like indicators development, and liaises with the central government. A more detailed description of a national campaign can be found in Box 8. Parallel and often in service to these national campaigns, international associations of local government have established regional Local Agenda 21 campaigns. The European Campaign for Sustainable Cities & Towns is a joint effort of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions, EuroCities, ICLEI, and the United Towns Organization, financially supported by the European Union. Since its establishment in 1994, the European Campaign has recruited 281 cities and towns to establish a Local Agenda 21 planning process. The Campaign facilitates experience sharing among these communities through a best practice database, a recognition program, and biennial congresses. The most recent congress, hosted by the City of Lisbon, Portugal in October 1996, attracted more than 1,000 participants from 37 countries. ICLEI is currently establishing similar campaigns in Africa and Latin America.

      The ICLEI/DPCSD survey indicates that the primary types of support provided to local authorities by national campaigns (in the order of prevalence) are 1) information, 2) support materials and tools, 3) training, 4) seminars, 5) exchanges and 6) seed money.

      Box 8. The Anatomy of a National Campaign--The Case of the United Kingdom


      The United Kingdom (UK) Local Agenda 21 National Campaign was established in 1993 by the UK's five local authority associations--the Association of District Councils, the Association of County Councils, the Association of Metro Authorities, the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities and the Association of Local Authorities in Northern Ireland. The establishment of the Campaign followed the participation of these associations in the UK's national delegation to UNCED. Since then, the Campaign has recruited more than 60% of the UK's local authorities to commit to a Local Agenda 21 planning process. The Campaign has also served as an organizational model for the creation of Local Agenda 21 campaigns across the world.

      The first step in the creation of the Campaign was the establishment of a Steering Committee, made up of senior local elected officials, to govern the Campaign's activities. The Steering Committee recruited the Local Government Management Board (LGMB)--a technical agency of the local authority associations--to serve as the Campaign secretariat. Recognizing the multi-sector and partnership-building approach to Local Agenda 21, the voluntary membership of the Steering Group was soon broadened to include senior representatives of environmental NGOs, the business sector, women's groups, the educational sector, academia, and trade unions.

      For their first task, the Steering Group defined the substantive elements of Local Agenda 21 in the UK context, recognizing the need to implement these elements differently according to local circumstances. The first two focus on the internal operations of local authorities: 1) managing and improving municipal environmental performance 2) integrating sustainable development into municipal policies and activities. The other four focus on the local community: 3) awareness-raising and education, 4) public consultation and participation, 5) partnership-building, 6) measuring, monitoring and reporting on progress towards sustainability.

      The Campaign then developed manuals, tools, pilot projects and seminars to assist local authorities to take action in each of these areas. The Campaign has published a Step-by-Step Guide to Local Agenda 21 and a variety of guidance documents on specific aspects of Local Agenda 21 planning, such as greening economic development. A monthly newsletter is published and a national database on Local Agenda 21 has been established.

      Since 1994 the Steering Group has commissioned annual surveys of Local Agenda 21 activities. The January 1997 survey revealed that the respondents are doing the following:

      • 42% --committed to making changes in their operations to undertake Local Agenda 21.,
      • 24%--committed to complete their sustainable development strategies (Action Plans) in 1996,
      • 44%--planning to produce their sustainable development strategies in the future year,
      • 39%--appointing new staff to support Local Agenda 21 planning,
      • 93%--establishing forums, roundtables or working groups to involve their communities,
      • 13%--had established an environmental management system with 37% considering it,
      • 50%--had started work on a State of the Environment Report , and
      • 53%--were developing indicators for sustainable development.

      In summary, through the UK Local Agenda 21 Campaign the UK local authority associations have quickly and voluntarily made Local Agenda 21 a part of everyday business for the majority of UK local authorities. The high rate of success in such a short period of time can be explained by the importance of national municipal associations, the role of the Steering Group members and their respective networks in influencing local authorities, and the readiness of the local authorities themselves to take a leadership role in sustainable development.

      • Source: ICLEI (1996) in Gilbert et al, Making Cities Work: The Role of Local Authorities in the Urban Environment, Earthscan Publications, London.

      B. Different Approaches in Developing and Developed Countries

      The detailed descriptions of Local Agenda 21 activities provided by the local government survey represent a sample of only four percent of the Local Agenda 21 planning processes identified by the national/regional survey. Nevertheless, the accuracy and representativeness of these descriptions were confirmed by interviews with national and regional Local Agenda 21 campaigns as well as Local Agenda 21 international support programmes.

      The national/regional survey reveals that Local Agenda 21 planning currently is more prevalent in developed countries. This may arise from the fact that LGOs from these countries were able to participate in UNCED process, and were therefore able to rapidly disseminate information about Local Agenda 21 in their countries. Of perhaps greater importance is the fact that local governments in developed countries have tended to adapt existing environmental planning procedures (that may not exist in their developing country counterparts) for Local Agenda 21 purposes. This may explain the tendency in developed countries to focus Local Agenda 21 planning on environmental sustainability.

      For example, a 1996 survey by the UK Local Government Management Board of Local Agenda 21 activities in 297 UK local authorities documents the environmental focus of those efforts, but also reveals a growing interest in using the Local Agenda 21 process to address other issues. The majority of these survey respondents indicated that sustainable development principles were having a significant influence on energy, waste, land use and environmental policies and strategies. By comparison, the same survey group reported that sustainable development principles were having a minor influence in the municipality's strategies and policies for poverty alleviation, tourism, housing services, and economic development and health strategies.3

      While the number of Local Agenda 21 processes in developing countries and economies-in-transition is still small, the establishment of national campaigns and the growing support for Local Agenda 21 planning from donor agencies could produce a rapid increase in Local Agenda 21 planning in the developing world. This likelihood is supported by the tendency of local governments in these countries to use Local Agenda 21 planning to address immediate development or service needs.

      C. Obstacles to Local Agenda 21 Planning

      In counterpoint to forces that are facilitating the spread of Local Agenda 21 planning, both the national/regional survey and the local government survey asked respondents to identify obstacles to starting or implementing a Local Agenda 21 process. In the national/regional survey, the responding NCSDs, national governments, and LGOs listed lack of financial support, lack of information, and lack of expertise as the three major obstacles. This response implies that NCSDs, national governments and LGOs need greater assistance to establish national campaigns. In this past, such assistance has been provided by international LGOs, such as ICLEI, and international assistance programmes, such as the UNDP Capacity 21 Programme. These activities will need to be expanded to overcome the obstacles to national campaigns in many countries.

      The respondents to the local government survey listed lack of financial support, lack of community consensus to set priorities, lack of support from national governments, and lack of information as their major obstacles. Local governments would appear to be seeking the financial assistance of national governments and the technical assistance of national campaigns. At the same time, case study analysis indicates that local governments only succeed in Local Agenda 21 planning where a cooperative social and political climate exists. Follow-up interviews indicated that the implementation of Local Agenda 21 action plans will require support in the form of national government policy reform in addition to the support that governments may be providing through national campaigns.

      D. Local Agenda 21 Impacts, 1992-1996

      The ICLEI/DPCSD survey was unable to evaluate the local-level impacts of Local Agenda 21 planning activities. For this purpose, ICLEI undertook a detailed, comparative review of local practice through the documentation and evaluation of 29 case studies.4 The primary conclusion of this case study review is that the greatest impact of Local Agenda 21 during its first years has been to reform the process of governance at the local level so that the key requirements of sustainable development can be factored into local planning and budgeting.

      As is illustrated by the case of Cajamarca, Peru (Box 9), the implementation of the Local Agenda 21 process requires local governments to decentralize governance, reform their current departmental structures, and change traditional operational procedures. Most Local Agenda 21 efforts started by creating new organizational structures to implement planning. On the one hand, new stakeholder planning bodies are created to coordinate community-wide involvement and partnership formation for sustainable development. On the other hand, local governments institute internal reforms, such as the creation of interdepartmental planning units or the establishment of neighborhood or village-level government units.

      Box 9. Local Agenda 21 in Cajamarca, Peru


      The Provincial Municipality of Cajamarca, Peru ranks among the poorest communities in the world. In 1993, the infant mortality rate was 82% higher than the Peruvian national average, and was 30% higher than the average for the world's low income countries. The Province's main river has been polluted by mining operations and untreated sewage. Farming on the steep Andean hillsides, overgrazing, and cutting of trees for fuel has resulted in severe soil erosion.

      In 1993, the Mayor of Cajamarca initiated an extensive Local Agenda 21 planning effort for the Province. This effort had two main components. The first was a dramatic decentralization of the provincial government so that local government decisions would reflect the needs of the Province's many small and remote communities. Cajamarca City was divided into 12 neighborhood Councils and the surrounding countryside into 64 "minor populated centers" (MPCs), each with their own elected Mayors and Councils. The Provincial Council was reconstituted into a body with 48 Mayors from the MPCs, 12 Cajamarca City Mayors, 12 District Mayors, and the Provincial Mayor.

      The second element of the initiative is the creation of a Provincial Sustainable Development Plan. An Inter-Institutional Consensus Building Committee was established with representation from the Province's different jurisdictions, NGOs, private sector, and key constituency groups. Six "Theme Boards" were established under this Committee to develop action proposals in the following areas: Education; Natural Resources and Agricultural Production; Production and Employment; Cultural Heritage and Tourism; Urban Environment; and Women's Issues, Family, and Population. These Theme Boards were charged with creating a strategic plan for their respective areas. Training workshops were held in the new local authorities to gather local input, and educational notebooks were prepared for the local Mayors to use in discussing proposals and ideas with their constituents.

      The plans prepared by the Theme Boards were integrated into a Provincial Sustainable Development Plan, which was submitted to the Provincial Council in August, 1994. Having received approval, after a series of public education workshops about the Plan, the Plan was submitted for public approval through a citizens' referendum.

      Since that time, the Theme Boards have continued their work, raising funds and creating partnerships to implement the Plan. Projects have included provision of potable water, sanitation, environmental education, and rural electrification. In total, the Local Agenda 21 process has mobilized more than US $21 million for sustainable development activities since 1993.

      • Source: The Provincial Municipality of Cajamarca and UNDPCSD/ICLEI, The Role of Local Authorities in Sustainable Development, New York, April, 1995.

      These activities generally consume the first years of the Local Agenda 21 planning. Such institutional reforms may not immediately produce concrete improvements in development or environmental conditions. Nevertheless, they are changing the fundamental approaches and policy focus of hundreds of local governments. As a result, these local governments are becoming more open, more participatory, and more dedicated agents of the sustainable development agenda.

      In some cases--primarily in those communities that started work prior to 1992--local governments have reached the stage in the process where they are implementing their Local Agenda 21 action plans. The case of Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, (Box 10) illustrates the extent to which these plans can have an impact on local investment decisions. The Kanagawa Agenda 21 involves 52 projects being implemented with a US$ 149 million budget.

      In developing countries, implementation tends to begin by addressing a few priority problems. In this way, the Local Agenda 21 is used to produce some near-term impacts. For instance, the Local Agenda 21 effort in Quito, Ecuador is focusing on the stabilization and restoration of the many ravines in that city's low income South Zone. Local Agenda 21 efforts in Pimpri Chinchwad, India are focusing on slum upgrading. In Jinja, Uganda efforts are focused on solid waste management.

      Regardless of these examples, an evaluation of the long-term impacts of Local Agenda 21 planning would be premature at this time. Even in countries where Local Agenda 21 is most established, these impacts are just beginning to be documented. For instance, the 1996 Local Agenda 21 survey for UK local governments assessed the impacts of Local Agenda 21 planning in 13 topic areas. The respondents reported that Local Agenda 21 was having a medium impact on local "resource use" and a small impact on "empowerment," "limiting pollution," "biodiversity" and beautification of living areas, while little impact was reported in such areas as "meeting basic needs," "living without fear," and "satisfying work."5

      Another area of uncertainty is the potential impact of Local Agenda 21 action plans on the global objectives of Agenda 21. Of necessity, a Local Agenda 21 must address established local priorities. While Local Agenda 21 action plans in rich countries tend to include actions on issues such as climate change and the protection of biodiversity, these issues may not receive much attention in communities of the developing world. This being said, most documented Local Agenda 21 processes have, at a minimum, educated local residents about Agenda 21 and the linkages between local and global problems.

      Box 10. Local Agenda 21 in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan


      In 1993, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan adopted a civic charter for global environmental protection, called the Kanagawa Environment Declaration, as well as a local action plan called Agenda 21 Kanagawa. Agenda 21 Kanagawa was developed through an intensive process of dialogue that involved thousands of local residents and businesses, as well as the local authorities within Kanagawa.

      Kanagawa Prefecture is the home of some eight million residents who live primarily in the Yokohama and Kawasaki metropolitan areas in the eastern part of the Prefecture along Tokyo Bay. With a gross domestic product equivalent to that of Sweden, Kanagawa is also one of the most highly industrialized regions of the world. Through its policies and actions, the Prefecture and its local municipalities can have an impact on the global environment.

      In the late 1980s and early 1990s the Prefecture became aware that the focus of environmental concern had shifted away from end-of-the-pipe industrial pollution problems to the more complex and non-point source issues of consumer lifestyles, the structure of urban space, and the gradual loss of natural lands to urbanization. Furthermore, the impact of local activities on the global environment, as demonstrated by Kanagawa's contribution to the ozone depletion problem, played a part in this changing awareness.

      Agenda 21 Kanagawa was formulated by a new Interdepartmental Liaison and Coordination Committee, made up of the heads of every department within the Prefecture and chaired by the Vice Governor. A working level committee made up of section chiefs from each department was established to review detailed proposals. A secretariat within the Environment Department managed the public consultation and internal review processes.

      Public input was provided through three sectoral "conferences" or committees: one for citizens and non-governmental organizations, one for private enterprise, and one for local municipalities in Kanagawa. In addition, neighborhood consultative meetings were organized and a direct mail package and questionnaire was sent to thousands of residents.

      The final Agenda 21 Kanagawa is a detailed and comprehensive document. The FY 1994 budget for the 52 environmental protection projects implemented within the framework of the Agenda totaled US$149 million. Initiatives to date include the construction of 100 "eco-housing" units which make use of rain water and recycled materials and are highly energy efficient. A Prefecture-wide system has been established to recover and destroy ozone depleting CFCs. Subsidies are provided for the purchase of non-CFC equipment. The Prefecture has set a target to reduce consumption of tropical timber in public projects by 70% over a three-year period, and is working with the local construction industry to reduce the widespread practice of using such timber for concrete moldings.

      In terms of management reforms, a new Kanagawa Council for Global Environmental Protection has been established to continue the inter-departmentalism initiated through the Local Agenda 21 development effort. Finally, in each prefectural section an individual employee has been assigned to manage in-house environmental performance and to educate prefectural staff.

      • Source: Kanagawa Prefecture and UNDPCSD/ICLEI, The Role of Local Authorities in Sustainable Development, New York, April, 1995.


      V. Recommendations and Conclusions

      The Local Agenda 21 movement launched during the preparatory process for the UN Conference on Environment and Development has become one of UNCED's most extensive follow-up activities. In the years that have passed since the adoption of Agenda 21, national governments and international agencies have placed increasing emphasis on the critical role of cities and towns in the global sustainable development agenda. This emphasis was reflected at the Second UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), whose Habitat Agenda, paragraph 211 states that the United Nations system should:

      211 (g) encourage the involvement of all interested parties at the local level in the formulation of local measures, programmes and actions necessary to implement and monitor the Habitat Agenda, and national plans of action througth, inter alia, Local Agenda 21 processes, as mandated by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.

      The ICLEI/DPCSD survey highlights that the continued growth of the Local Agenda 21 movement and it effectiveness in achieving lasting impacts--as well as the implementation both Agenda 21 and the Habitat Agenda--could be supported through the following activities.

      Recommendation #1.

      • Provide support for national Local Agenda 21 campaigns.

      The survey's findings demonstrate that the mechanism of the national campaign--formally endorsed and financially supported by the national government--has been the most powerful catalyst of Local Agenda 21 planning. While national governments have played an important facilitating role in the establishment of these campaigns, the survey documents the central role that has been played by local government organizations as the managers of these campaigns.

      While international agencies and national governments have supported pilot Local Agenda 21 activities in individual cities, LGOs have used these individual models to generate a true national movement involving hundreds of local governments. The results of the survey highlight the importance of operating national Local Agenda 21 campaigns through a national municipal association or other LGO, rather than as a traditional international technical assistance programme. At the same time, the most successful Local Agenda 21 campaigns are governed by representatives from a wide variety of stakeholders. In essence, successful national campaigns apply the same multi-stakeholder approach that is used for Local Agenda 21 planning at the local level.

      Recommendation #2.

      • Make national and international investment and development assistance programmes responsive to Local Agenda 21 action plans.

      The extensive commitment of local governments to the implementation of Agenda 21 has led many observers to conclude that Agenda 21 can be fully implemented through local-level activities. The ICLEI/DPCSD survey does not substantiate this conclusion. The local government survey identified a number of obstacles to Local Agenda 21 planning and, in specific, to the implementation of Local Agenda 21 action plans. National governments and the United Nations system cannot assume that local governments will be successful in implementing their Local Agenda 21 action plans without considerable national and international assistance.

      Towards this end, national governments and international development assistance institutions should review their current procedures for selecting development assistance projects. Local Agenda 21 action plans provide these institutions with a menu of local projects that are designed according to local priorities and needs, and are supported by local stakeholders. Cases from the field demonstrate that national and international investment and development assistance programmes often overlook these local action plans during the preparation and design of local development projects. The result in some communities has been duplication of effort and competition between external programmes and Local Agenda 21 activities, thus undermining the Local Agenda 21 processes. Caution should be taken to avoid such circumstances. Similar caution needs to be taken by private sector investors.

      The implementation of Agenda 21 would be facilitated if national and international programmes adjusted their procedures and project cycles so as to focus their investments on the implementation of the Local Agenda 21 action plans that have been prepared through extensive consultation and analysis at the local level.

      Recommendation #3.

      • Create a supportive national policy and fiscal framework for the implementation of Local Agenda 21 Action Plans.

      In addition to external financial assistance, the successful implementation of Local Agenda 21 action plans in most countries will require the establishment of a supportive national-level policy framework as well as the improvement of fiscal conditions at the municipal level. While local governments and their local partners have a variety of mechanisms to influence local consumption, development, and resource management, these mechanisms are often undermined by national policies and economic arrangements. For example, local water conservation programmes are not likely to succeed if national governments maintain water subsidies that promote consumption and waste. Similarly, local governments may be able to reduce noxious emissions from automobiles by reducing private vehicle use, but only national governments can eliminate lead from gasoline or increase vehicle fuel efficiency standards.

      Many similar examples of the need for national governments to support local sustainable development initiatives can be cited. Therefore, the preparation of a special report by the DPCSD is recommended to identify hindering conditions and the alternative supportive measures that national governments can take for Local Agenda 21 implementation. As a first step, such a report could focus on the reforms and measures required at the national level to support local-level action in the area of key international conventions, such as the conventions for protection of the seas, waste management, climate change, biodiversity etc. In each of these areas, the report would review the regulatory frameworks, economic incentives and disincentives, and municipal financial mechanisms that would enable effective local implementation of Agenda 21.


      In conclusion, the local government community remains committed to the implementation of Agenda 21. Having renewed the United Nations' commitment to the Local Agenda 21 process at the UN Conference on Human Settlements, local government organizations are preparing for the expansion of the Local Agenda 21 movement. The continued growth of this movement will require that new resources for Local Agenda 21 planning are deployed in keeping with the principles of Local Agenda 21 itself; that is, in partnership with the national, regional and international associations of local government that initiated Local Agenda 21 and that have made it such a success for the United Nations and for a growing number of cities and towns throughout the world.

      Finally, Agenda 21 will never be achieved through planning alone. The ability of the Local Agenda 21 movement to achieve real, positive impacts on social and environmental conditions will require the establishment of supportive national government frameworks in each country for local sustainable development.


      Annex 1. International Support Programmes

      A. United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS)/United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

      The joint UNCHS/UNEP Sustainable Cities Programme (SCP) was the first major international support programme for Local Agenda 21-styled planning. Established by UNCHS in 1990, before the Local Agenda 21 effort was mandated by UNCED, the SCP promotes a broad-based, participatory process for the development of a sustainable urban environment, emphasizing cross-sectoral coordination and decentralization of decision-making.

      At the local-level the SCP acts as a technical cooperation programme, using carefully planned and structured city demonstration projects to strengthen the capacities and abilities of the participating local authorities and their partners in the public, private and community sectors. The focus of this technical support is environmental planning and management (EPM), for which purpose the SCP has developed a distinct EPM planning approach. The EPM approach is being continuously developed and refined to reflect local experiences and needs.

      SCP city demonstration projects have been implemented in eleven cities--Accra, Concepci—n, Dakar, Dar Es Salaam, Ibadan, Ismailia, Katowice, Madras, Tunis, Shenyang and Wuhan. In Chile, Egypt and Tanzania, plans are in place to replicate the demonstration projects in other cities.

      The SCP actively facilitates the exchange of experience and expertise in EPM at the regional and international levels.

      The Localising Agenda 21 programme was launched by UNCHS during the preparatory process for Habitat II to support selected towns in Kenya, Morocco, and Viet Nam. In translating the human settlements components of Agenda 21 into concrete local action, the programme works on stimulating joint venture initiatives between local authorities, the private sector and community groups in the formulation and execution of broad-based environmental action plans.

      The programme works by focusing 70% of its activity on one priority town in each country with the other 30% of the activity shared among partner towns. In the priority towns, the programme strategy includes: awareness building through conducting broad-based workshops to reach consensus on priority areas for action, capacity building, development of tools to support implementation of pilot action plans, and the exchange of information and experiences with other towns facing similar problems.


      Mr. Jochen Eigen, Coordinator
      Sustainable Cities Programme
      United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS)
      P.O. Box 30030
      Nairobi, Kenya
      Tel: +254-2-623225
      Fax: +254-2-624264

      Mr. Raf Tuts, Programme Manager
      Localising Agenda 21
      United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS)
      P.O. Box 30030
      Nairobi, Kenya
      Tel: +254-2-623726
      Fax: +254-2-624265
      Email: r.tuts@unep.no

      B. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

      Two UNDP programmes, in particular, support Agenda 21 planning activities at the local-level. These are the Capacity 21 Programme and the Local Initiatives for the Urban Environment (LIFE) Programme.

      The LIFE Programme was established in 1992 as a follow-up to UNCED with the specific purpose of providing direct, small-grant assistance to local sustainable development projects. The Programme catalyses national dialogue, sets strategies and mobilizes country support, and identifies and supports collaborative small-scale projects. In addition to the LIFE Programme's local grant support, the Programme has also provided support funding to international city networks to disseminate experiences and promote Local Agenda 21.

      The small-grants process is administered through national coordinators and national selection committees consisting of representatives of central government, local government organizations, NGOs and national experts in sustainable development. Since 1993, the Programme has become active in 12 countries. Phase 2 of the Programme involves more than 150 small-scale projects.

      The Capacity 21 programme was launched in 1992, at UNCED, to help developing countries to build their capacity to integrate the principles of Agenda 21 into national planning and development, and to involve all stakeholders in the process. The programme is working in 42 countries. While the mandate of the programme is to work at the national level, more recently national governments have been asking for assistance in using a more decentralized approach, and in linking national and local level strategies to implement Agenda 21.


      Mr. Jonas Rabinovitch, Manager
      Urban Development Team,
      Management Development and Governance Division
      Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP
      One United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017, U.S.A.
      Fax: +212-906-6973

      C. International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI)

      ICLEI established its Local Agenda 21 Initiative in January 1991 for the distinct purpose of establishing a local-level implementation process for the forthcoming UN Agenda 21. During UNCED preparatory process, ICLEI organized a series of three international meetings of local authority representatives to design and obtain national government support for the Local Agenda 21 effort.

      Since the endorsement of Local Agenda 21 at UNCED, ICLEI has provided research, technical and/or financial support to Local Agenda 21 planning activities in 20 countries.

      In 1994, ICLEI became a founding partner of the European Campaign for Sustainable Cities & Towns. In 1996, ICLEI established the Local Agenda 21 Africa Network and the Local Agenda 21 Latin America Network. These regional programmes are providing training, information exchange, grants, and support to local authorities and to national municipal associations wishing to establish national Local Agenda 21 campaigns.

      ICLEI's Local Agenda 21 Model Communities Project, which was established in 1993, is an applied research project that works with 14 cities to test a framework for sustainable development planning. This project, and a parallel project in Central and Eastern Europe, have produced Local Agenda 21 planning guides that are presently being used for training and guidance purposes in 31 countries.


      ICLEI--Local Agenda 21
      City Hall,16th Floor, West Tower
      Toronto, Canada M5H 2N2
      Tel: +1-416-392-1462
      Fax: +1-416-392-1478
      Website: http://www.iclei.org/

      D. Other Local Agenda 21 Support Programmes

      The Urban Environmental Guidelines Project of the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) has developed planning guidelines, support tools, and training materials to support Local Agenda 21 activities. The project provided financial and technical support to municipalities in Thailand and Nepal to prepare urban environmental action plans.

      The Rapid Urban Environmental Assessment Project of the Urban Management Programme (World Bank/UNDP/UNCHS), has also developed planning guidelines, support tools, and training materials to support Local Agenda 21 activities. The programme provided financial and technical support to seven cities to test and implement an urban environmental assessment and consultation process. In most instances, these activities served as the foundation for further Local Agenda 21 planning activities.

      The United Towns Development Agency (UTDA) has taken a Local Agenda 21 approach to sustainable development action planning in the MedCities Project, launched in 1991. The project works with a network of 27 municipalities in the 18 countries bordering the Mediterranean to analyze and address environmental problems in the Mediterranean Basin, through the identification of common issues and sharing of experiences.

      The Institute for Sustainable Communities (USA) has provided technical support and training to nine local authorities in five countries--Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovak Republic--to establish a participatory urban environmental planning process.

      In 1994, the World Association of Major Metropolises, the International Union of Local Authorities, the United Towns Organization and the Summit Meeting of the World's Major Cities ("Group of Four") published a guidance document on Agenda 21 for Local Authorities. In 1995, ICLEI, the United Towns Organization and the UN Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development jointly organized the "Local Authorities' Day" at the 3rd Session of the UNCSD.


      German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) GmbH
      Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit
      Dag-Hammarskjuold-Weg 1-5
      65760 Eschborn, Germany
      Tel: +49-6196-79-0
      Fax: +49-06196 79-1115

      United Towns Development Agency (UTDA)
      22, rue d'Alsace
      92300 Levallois-Perret, France
      Tel: +33-1-47-39-36-86
      Fax: +33-1-47-39-36-85

      Paul Markovitz, Program Director
      Institute for Sustainable Communities
      56 College St., Montrelier, Vermont, U.S.A. 05602
      Tel: +1-802-229-6307
      Fax: +1-802-229-2919



      1. ICLEI (1992) Call for a Local Agenda 21 (Toronto, Local Environmental Initiatives (Toronto)).

      2. ICLEI/DPCSD/UNCHS (1995) The Role of Local Authorities in Sustainable Development (New York, UN Dept. for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development).

      3. Tuxworth, B. et al (1997) Local Agenda 21 Survey 1996, Part 2: Reporting to the CSD (Luton, UK, Local Government Management Board), page 4.

      4. The cited cases are published separately in the following publications. ICLEI (1996) The Local Agenda 21 Planning Guide (Toronto, ICLEI/IDRC/UNEP). ICLEI/DPCSD/UNCHS (1995) The Role of Local Authorities in Sustainable Development (New York, UN Dept. for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development). ICLEI (1992-96) Case Studies Series, No. 6,10,14,21,28,29,30,31 (Toronto, Local Environmental Initiatives (Toronto)).

      5. Tuxworth, B. et al (1997) Local Agenda 21 Survey 1996, Part 2: Reporting to the CSD (Luton, UK, Local Government Management Board), page 7.


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