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ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability

ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability is the world's leading association of cities and local governments dedicated to sustainable development.

ICLEI is a diverse, robust, global organization with a long history, myriad  accomplishments and profound ambitions.
But at its core, ICLEI’s primary focus throughout its history – in every initiative  across five continents – has been the same: sustainable cities.

Based on this mission, ICLEI’s initial campaigns and programs have evolved to cover a broad range of themes:

  • Management of global environmental goods, including: climate; water; biodiversity and ecosystems; air; land/soil; food; marine life and coastal health.
  • Policy innovation, including: Local Agenda 21/urban governance with stakeholder involvement; integrated, cyclical sustainability management; the green economy; security; social development.
  •  Municipal planning and management, including: sustainability management; land use and development; climate change mitigation and adaptation; resilience management; the management of natural, social, economic and financial resources; procurement.
  • Transformation of infrastructure, including: mobility; building; energy; water and sanitation; waste; information and communication  (technologies).



Why we act

Human expansion is happening at a rapid pace: Every minute, the world population grows by 145 people, which is 6.35 million per month. The population is expected to grow from the current 7.4 billion to 9.6 billion in 2050.

Urbanization is occurring just as rapidly. By 2050, the urban population is expected to surpass 6 billion people, meaning that two-thirds of humanity will then be living in towns and cities. Providing adequate urban infrastructure, which enables service delivery, will therefore also become a challenge.

The geo-economic and geo-political influence and development dynamics between the Global North and South results in different approaches to global and local governance. The developing economies of the globe need to adopt policies that guide development in a manner that is adaptive and suitable for addressing the challenge of global environmental change.

Global environmental change is widespread. The global rate of species loss is between 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate, and this trend is expected to be exacerbated by habitat loss linked to climate change. Over 90% of excess atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by the world’s oceans causing acidification, threatening aquatic biodiversity.

Climate change poses unpredictable stress factors on cities and urban areas. According to the 5th Assessment Report on Climate Change from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this change in climate is undeniably anthropogenic, and can only be stopped by humans.

The loss of biodiversity and green spaces has a further implication for climate change mitigation. Biodiversity and green spaces provide essential ecosystem services that contribute towards climate change adaptation, such as: moderating temperature and reducing the impacts of extreme events.

The ecological footprint of human civilization has become unsustainable. In 2014, humanity used over 50% more resources than nature could regenerate for that year.


Founded in 1990

ICLEI was founded in 1990 as the 'International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives'. The Council was established when more than 200 local governments from 43 countries convened at our inaugural conference, the World Congress of Local Governments for a Sustainable Future, at the United Nations in New York.

ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability

The organization's name is 'ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability'. In 2003, ICLEI's Members voted to revise the organization's mission, charter and name to better reflect the current challenges local governments are facing. The 'International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives' became 'ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability' with a broader mandate to address sustainability issues.

For more on ICLEI’s history, governance and activities at the global level, see the ICLEI Global Website.


Select a language and download the latest global information brochure about ICLEI:

• English


Download an information sheet about ICLEI in French:


See the latest ICLEI Global iNews. Intelligent-innovative-informative News

The ICLEI Africa Secretariat, the regional office for ICLEI in Africa, is based in Cape Town, South Africa and collaborates closely with the global ICLEI network and other regional offices around the world, in sharing tools, materials and strategies and good practices specifically designed and implemented at the local level.


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