Summit on Sustainable Development
Department of Public Information - News and Media Services Division - New York
26 August-4 September 2002
26 August 2002
PRESS CONFERENCE BY INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF LOCAL ENVIRONMENTAL INITIATIVES
Some 700 mayors and representatives of local authority associations -- one third of them women -- would meet for four days during the first week of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, correspondents were told at a Summit press briefing this afternoon.
Addressing the journalists were future participants of the Local Government Session (August 27-30) -- the largest parallel event to the World Summit: Konrad Otto-Zimmerman, Secretary-General of International Council for Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI); Vice-Chairman of ICLEI, Harvey Ruvin, Clerk of Miami-Dade County, United States; Alan Lloyd, President of the World Association of Cities and Local Authorities Coordination; Parks Tau, Executive Councillor, City of Johannesburg; Axel Wennerholm, Lord Mayor of Stockholm; and Nathaniel von Einsiedel, Regional Coordinator of the Urban Management Programme in Asia and the Pacific Region, United Nations Center for Human Settlements.
Whereas the Summit delegates would be negotiating new agreements in implementation of the 1992 Rio commitments, representatives of cities and municipalities would showcase successful action at the local level, correspondents were told. Participants would address such key issues as education, decentralization of power, integrated government plans, participatory process of developing local policies and the role of democratic local governments in resolving the problems of water, energy, health and agriculture. The event would provide an opportunity for pioneering local authorities from all continents to present examples of concrete steps they had taken to achieve sustainable development.
The panelists stressed that decision-makers of major cities and municipalities had to be part of the international political process. Political will was very important, based on wise scientific expertise, common sense and driving democratic forces, including local initiatives, responsible media and public participation. At the conclusion of the session, key local government messages would be presented to the Summit.
Being close to the people, local governments had an important role to play in the implementation of Agenda 21, panelists emphasized. Together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), "Local Action 21" was to be launched at the end of the Local Government Session. Over 6,000 local authorities had already begun moving from agenda to action, establishing local agendas in order to preserve the planet for future generations. Numerous cities were involved in projects such as land reclamation after many years of strip-mining, and 530 cities all over the world were now introducing measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It was local action that moved the world, one of the panelists said. Millions of small steps in the right direction could make a difference.
A correspondent expressed concern that if sustainable development became a local issue, some regions would find themselves at a disadvantage, due to the lack of resources.
A panelist replied that so far, sustainable development had found limited success at the national and inter-governmental levels. At the local level, however, it had a chance. For example, while some governments refused to go along with international action on greenhouse emissions, local authorities in their countries were already taking measures to save the planet for future generations.