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Local action

The way that Local Agenda 21 principles have been successfully embraced in both the developing and the industrialized world is a powerful encouragement for decentralization. However, decentralization to the municipal level has not always increased policy effectiveness, particularly in low and middle-income countries. This is because:

  • local democracy is often lacking;
  • responsibilities among different authorities overlap;
  • power and control over resources are often retained by higher levels of government, including the ability to raise revenues; and
  • local technical and institutional capacity is weak and affected by inefficient local governance.

Local measures are especially important to support the fight against poverty. As the scenarios in Chapter 4 have shown, the more desirable outcomes have involved rather than ignored individuals and local communities, which must be enabled to participate fully in decision-making affecting access to and management of common environmental assets and services. For this to happen, strong democratic local institutions are essential.

Ways to strengthen local action
  • Integrate Local Agenda 21s into urban politics and policies while respecting their consultative and participatory nature
  • Create awareness and ownership over the local environment (whether rural or urban) and its links to the global environment among the general public
  • Create opportunities for public involvement in decisionmaking on local environmental issues, and support community rights to own and care for the land their members inhabit and the resources they use