The programme started in 1995 as a response to Chapter 28 of Agenda 21, which calls on local authorities to undertake participatory processes to develop and implement "Local Agendas 21" for and with their communities. UN-HABITAT's Localizing Agenda 21 (LA21) Programme offers multi-year support to local authorities and their partners to undertake Local Agenda 21 processes in order to locally contribute to the implementation of Agenda 21 and the Habitat Agenda. Programme support specifically targets secondary cities that very often lack capacities and are usually forgotten by international support programmes. The programme aims to promote good urban governance by supporting the development and implementation of broad-based environmental action plans, focusing on context-specific aspects of municipal planning and management. The programme also enhances the capability of local authorities to integrate these action plans into strategic urban development plans, stimulating inter-sectoral synergy. Through the implementation of the action plans, tangible impact is achieved in low-income communities, especially the urban poor, leading to more sustainable urban development as a response to the challenge of the Millennium Development Goals.
For each town, the programme strategy emphasizes the need for a shared vision for the future development of the city. In parallel, urgent problems are addressed through action planning and environmental conflict resolution. A continuous broad-based participatory process underpins this process. Capacity-building efforts focus on setting priorities for action, targeted human resources development, institutional strengthening, development and adaptation of tools and instruments, encouraging partnerships, mobilization of resources, and promoting exchange between cities facing similar problems. The Localizing Agenda 21 Programme contributes to the implementation of the Global Campaign on Urban Governance.
The programme is supporting 30 cities in the following countries:
- Africa: Kenya and Senegal
- Arab States: Morocco
- Asia: Viet Nam
- Latin America and the Caribbean: Brazil, Cuba and Peru
Programme activities are as follows:
- Improving urban environmental planning and management processes through: (a) local city demonstration projects supporting the development of Local Agenda 21; (b) replicating demonstration projects in other cities of the country; (c) implementing national programmes and supporting national policies improvement, especially through the creation of National Committees 21; and (d) promoting decentralized cooperation, especially city-to-city cooperation.
- Developing institutional frameworks for environmental planning and management support through: (a) networks of national and regional technical support institutions; (b) technical support through environmental planning and management anchoring institutions; (c) national adaptation of tools; and (d) regional and national training mechanisms.
- Institutionalizing Local Agenda 21 normative functions through: (a) tools developments and documentation of experience; (b) global web site and data base; (c) global meetings of partners; (d) documentation support; (e) integration of approach and experience in UNEP and UN-HABITAT urban environmental policies; and (f) promoting local-global linkages.
Since the beginning of the programme's new phase, the number of cities supported has grown from four to close to 30.
- Initial demonstration cities served as a basis to launch national replication
programmes. For example, the Essaouira LA21 project led to LA21 activities in
almost a dozen of cities in Morocco and the Bayamo LA21 project is being replicating
in three additional Cuban cities. The Nakuru and Vinh LA21 projects will be replicated
in Kenya and Viet Nam respectively.
- New national LA21 programmes have been launched in countries such as Brazil,
Peru and Senegal. These programmes benefit from a strong commitment from national
government to support local authorities in developing their Local Agendas 21.
- Technical support anchoring institutions have been identified and involved
in the various countries. They progressively take the lead in supporting the development
of Local Agendas 21. The academic sector is also being involved to ensure that
new generations of urban practitioners are being trained to take into consideration
LA21 approach and lessons of experience.
- Tools are being translated and adapted to the various national contexts
and serve as a basis to create training curricula.
- National mechanisms to sustain support to Local Agendas 21 are being designed
and negotiated between key actors.