ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability
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FAQs about ICLEI and its international role
Frequently asked questions about ICLEI and its relationship with the UN, about Agenda 21 and our international role

  • ICLEI is a nonprofit organization that helps local governments meet their self-defined sustainability, climate, and energy goals.

  • ICLEI’s tools, resources, and services help local governments save money, energy, and natural resources; create more livable communities; and address issues such as climate change.

  • All ICLEI programs are voluntary, and often designed in collaboration with local goverments.

  • ICLEI does not seek to impose or mandate upon local governments any policies or initiatives, such as United Nations Agenda 21 - nor does ICLEI have any authority to do so.

  • ICLEI is an independent nonprofit, and not part of the United Nations.

 What is ICLEI?
ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability is the leading nonprofit organization devoted to local governments engaged in sustainability, climate protection, and clean energy initiatives. The organization was formerly known as the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. Learn more at www.iclei.org

What does ICLEI do?
ICLEI works to help local governments achieve a more sustainable future for their communities, through reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, water or waste management, sustainable produrement, securing biodiversity and many other tangible improvements in local sustainability. To help local governments to meet their self-defined goals, we provide software tools, trainings, technical assistance, guidebooks, as well as vibrant peer networks where local government staff can share challenges and best practices.

Who belongs to ICLEI?
ICLEI is a powerful movement of 12 mega-cities, 100 super-cities, 450 large cities and urban regions as well as 650 small and medium-sized cities and towns in 80 countries.

Why do so many local governments join ICLEI?
ICLEI is the recognized leader in its field because we help cities and local governments achieve results: saving energy, securing water supply, providing transport solutions, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating green jobs, accessing national and global funding, and much more.

ICLEI promotes local action for global sustainability and supports cities to become sustainable, resilient, resource-efficient, biodiverse, low-carbon; to build a smart infrastructure; and to develop an inclusive, green urban economy. The ultimate aim is to achieve healthy and happy communities. We have developed stable, long-term programs to support local-level sustainability and continue to develop innovative new programs to respond to issues of international concern.

Is ICLEI part of the United Nations?
ICLEI is not a United Nations agency or controlled by the U.N. in any way. ICLEI is an independent non-profit organization.
Local government members govern ICLEI. Members are cities, towns, metropolitan governments and counties that are committed to sustainable development and join ICLEI in a formal process, normally decided by the local councils. Members of the Council have power to elect the ICLEI Executive Committee, revise the ICLEI Charter and establish policy direction for the organisation.

The ICLEI Council is the general assembly made up of all ICLEI Members with full membership. The Council meets every three years to discuss and decide on ICLEI's strategic plans.

What is ICLEI’s international role?
ICLEI is a champion of local governments. Working with elected officials, we help voice local government needs and priorities during international negotiations and agreements, such as the U.N. climate negotiations, where ICLEI serves as the official representative of local governments, or the U.N. talks on biodiversity. We also connect local government leaders to international processes and programs, if they wish to be a part of them.

The ICLEI World Secretariat brings together the 14 regional and country offices, to enable cities and local governments from all around the world to share their experience and connect with other local governments in different regions of the world. The global dimension in our work allows us to effectively make the voice of local governments heard on a regional, national and global level, and to champion local needs to enable every city, town, county and community to do what is best for their citizens on a local level.

What is Agenda 21, and how is ICLEI involved?
Agenda 21 is a sustainability action plan of the United Nations—not ICLEI—that came out of the U.N. “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. At the Summit, governmental leaders around the world agreed on the need to become more sustainable—to meet today’s needs without sacrificing our future. Agenda 21 presents a vision for how all levels of government can take voluntary action to improve sustainability and quality of life for people, addressing issues such as pollution, resource conservation, and poverty.

In many parts of the world, local governments have enthusiastically supported the principles of Agenda 21 and worked to define their own sustainability; ICLEI has helped connect these local governments to related programs and activities, if they wish to do so.

Does ICLEI work behind the scenes in cities and counties to implement or impose a secret agenda?
No. ICLEI has no authority over its local government members whatsoever, and we do not work in secret or in any way circumvent public input in decision-making processes. We do not mandate, impose, or enforce any national or international policies or initiatives. Local governments decide for themselves which programs they wish to participate in, and they define their own goals depending on local circumstances, interests, and abilities.

At ICLEI, we believe in the power of local, bottom-up solutions to solve global problems. We also believe that deep collaboration with and among our local government members is the best way to develop programs and tools to meet their needs.

What are the requirements of ICLEI membership?
The only requirements of ICLEI membership are a self-defined commitment to sustainability and climate protection, and the payment of annual membership dues based on population size and country GNI per capita.