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The ICLEI World Congress, 14 – 18 June 2009: African Local Leaders gather in Edmonton, Canada, to discuss urban environmental sustainability

From 14 to 18 June 2009, 600 participants from 57 countries gathered in the City of Edmonton in Western Canada for the triennial World Congress of ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability.

The programme touched upon many areas of urban environmental sustainability, from Climate & Energy to Biodiversity, and from Resilience & Adaptation to Water.

ICLEI Africa hosted the African leg of the parallel Regional meetings that took place on the first day of the conference, Sunday 14 June 2009. This session was chaired by the Honourable Stephen Kabuye – Mayor of Entebbe and former Vice President of ICLEI – and was attended by the African delegates present at the Congress. The African delegations included Local Government representatives from Cameroon, Senegal, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Namibia and South Africa.This African Regional session included an introductory talk by ICLEI Africa Executive Committee members, Mayor Stephen Kabuye from Entebbe and Councilor Marian Nieuwoudt from the City of Cape Town. Both of these representatives expressed the need for African local governments to start taking the lead in localizing and integrating sustainable development solutions within their cities. This was followed by a brief overview of the work being undertaken by ICLEI Africa, presented by the ICLEI Africa Regional Director, Kobie Brand. The session also included an opportunity for members to put forward their needs and suggestions to the African Secretariat regarding sustainable development at the local level in Africa. Out of this session, the members emphasized the need for annual African Regional Meetings and closer engagement between cities to share best practices and lessons learnt.

Throughout the Congress a strong sense of unity and agreement was shared amongst ICLEI Members. Members recognized the need for faster and more radical action to advance local sustainability. Due to this, there was wide consensus in ICLEI council sessions to adopt proposals ranging from supporting young municipal leaders to advancing ICLEI’s work in urban biodiversity. David Cadman, ICLEI President, also challenged the organization to double its membership by the next World Congress, which will take place in 2012, just as it has done in the last three years. Jeb Brugmann, founder of ICLEI and celebrated urbanist, reflected on the past, present and the exciting future of ICLEI as a growing organization.

ICLEI members witnessed a wide range of global scenarios presented by experts such as Mathis Wackernagel, Executive Director of the Global Footprint Network and creator of the Ecological Footprint. In smaller focus groups they had a chance to discuss how to respond to the urgency of change. Gathering inputs from these focus groups and other meetings, in the coming months ICLEI will draft a strategic plan for the next six years and submit it for review to ICLEI members for due process.

Other ICLEI highlights and accomplishments included the presentation of ‘ICLEI Asia’; a unit that will serve Asian local governments. The ICLEI Council also adopted the “Local Action for Biodiversity” (LAB) project as a global programme, which will be coordinated by the ICLEI African Secretariat in partnership with IUCN.

See the LAB resolution

Another significant highlight included the approval of the Global South resolution. The Global South Session (D4) at the ICLEI World Congress highlighted numerous areas where ICLEI has to improve its effectiveness as a global movement, association and agency for the local governments of the Global South. A proposal emerged from this session was put forward to the ICLEI Council for approval.

This proposal will be pursued in the near future and proposes the following:

  • ICLEI regions from the Global South grow their ICLEI membership and activities, 
  • The ICLEI World Secretariat actively pursues opportunities for annual regional meetings of its Global South members,
  • The ICLEI Executive Committee appoints a Task Force to investigate the specific needs of its Global South members and develop a Programme and Plan of Action for the Global South, to be mainstreamed in the ICLEI Strategic Plan,
  • The Programme and Plan of Action for the Global South should be based on the three pillars of sustainable development; namely environmental, social and economic sustainability. 

See the Global South Resolution

ICLEI’s members have again expressed in Edmonton a strong will to include the role of local governments in the next global climate agreement. They will meet again in large numbers in December 2009 to contribute to the UN Climate Change Conference, which will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark. The ICLEI network of local governments emerged from the Congress with a renewed enthusiasm to strengthen the worldwide movement of local governments, in order to achieve tangible improvements in global sustainability.  


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