Memorandum from the Local Government International
Considerations for the Committee:
(a) How the UK is formulating its own contribution
to the World Summit, the nature of this contribution, and the
range of stakeholders involved;
(b) How the UK is helping to raise awareness
of the Summit in other nations and facilitate their contribution
to the proceedings; and
(c) The extent to which the UK Government
has adequately monitored UK progress on sustainable development
and the issues mapped out in Agenda 21 since 1992 as part of its
preparation for the Summit.
Mike Ashley was appointed Director of the Local
Government International Bureau (LGIB), the European and international
arm of the UK Local Government Association (LGA), in January 2002.
Previously he was Head of Environment, Fire and Community Safety
at the LGA in London.
In 1986 he became a senior officer with the
Association of District Councils, dealing with environmental health,
tourism and leisure (1986-89), and later housing, planning, transport,
environmental protection and Local Agenda 21 (LA21) (1989-97).
During that time he actively participated in
the preparations for the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro.
He was the lead authority association officer in England and Wales
involved in the preparations for the UN Habitat II "cities"
Summit held in Istanbul in 1996, which he attended. This Summit
focussed on urban environmental issues and housing and was of
particular relevance to local authorities worldwide.
Whilst working for the LGA (1997 to 2001), he
covered a broad environment portfolioincluding preparations
for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) at Johannesburg
2002plus community safety, the fire service and emergency
Recently, Mike Ashley has returned from attendance
at the NewYork Preparatory Committee (Prep Com) for WSSD, held
from 28 January to 8 February 2002 which, he attended as part
of the UK Government delegation.
1. HOW THE
UK IS FORMULATING
1.1 The UK local government position is
formally incorporated in a summary paper, prepared by the International
Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI).
This so-called dialogue paper is entitled, Accelerating Sustainable
Development: Local Action Moves the World and has been formally
submitted to the secretariat of WSSD. It was formally presented
at the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom2), held in New York (28
January to 8 February 2002).
1.2 The contents of this paper are informed
by various activities, including an international survey of Local
Agenda 21 (LA21) and various workshop and "think tank"
events. Overall, visions and goals have been established but now
there is a need to proceed from "agenda to action".
Much groundbreaking work has been achieved through LA21. The dialogue
paper is highly reflective of the UK local government position,
particularly the references to governance.
1.3 The take-up of LA21 in the UK is summarised
in the survey commissioned by the Government's Sustainable Development
Unit (then located in DETR). This was carried out through the
Government Regional Offices in March 2001. The analysis was, therefore,
undertaken after the December 2000 deadline for the production
of LA21 strategies by all UK local authorities which was set by
the Prime Minister in his address to the UN General Assembly Special
Session in 1997. The Surveywhich was quantitative rather
than evaluativeshowed a remarkable 93 per cent achievement
1.4 In the UK, governance-related issues,
such as the pioneering and development of public participation
and techniques and other innovative working alliances, have been
successful. This is complemented by many small-scale, discrete
projects developed at the local scale, many of which have been
environmentally focussed. Evidence for this is substantiated by
the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) commissioned research
undertaken by WWF, completed by Jane Morris, in March 2001.
1.5 Undoubtedly, the UK has a wide repertoire
of experienceinitiatives, projects and approachesto
show-case and is, arguably, a leading light on the world stage.
Some summary case study documentation has been published by the
LGA, IdeA and other NGOs. This can now be usefully supplemented
and developed further in partnership with NGOs, other agencies
and the business sector.
1.6 In the UK the "well-being"
and community leadership agenda (Local Government Act 2000), together
with the Best Value Agenda (Local Government Act 1999), presents
key challenges and opportunities for mainstreaming sustainable
development in the UK. These are the key frameworks within which,
and through which, sustainable development is to be delivered.
2. HOW THE
UK IS HELPING
2.1 The UK local government contribution
to awareness raising of the Summit internationally, via LGIB,
has been by representation on various committees and networks,
International Council for Local Environmental
International Union of Local Authorities;
The Committee of the Regions of the
The Council of European Municipalities
and the Regions;
The Congress of Local and Regional
Authorities of Europe;
The UN Commission for Sustainable
Representation on the UK Government
Delegation at the Preparatory Committees(PrepComs) leading
up to WSSD at Johannesburg.
2.2 Activity in the UK has been through
representation by the LGIB working closely with the LGA and other
agencies, NGO's and Government. LGIB welcomes, and wishes to extend,
this effective partnership working and wishes to congratulate
the intensive and demanding work undertaken by UNED-UK Forum (now
self-styled as Stakeholder Forum for Our Common Future), with
very scarce resources.
2.3 Notably, LGIB has been involved in high
profile national conference events to raise awareness of WSSD
with Government departments, including DEFRA, DFID and the UNED-UK
Forum. The conferences hosted by the British NGOs Overseas (BOND)
on 14 January, the UNED-UK Conference held on 22 January, and
the jointly run LGIB/LGA conference for local government on 24
January 2002, generated considerable interest and momentum. This
is a good platform on which to build. Many useful suggestions
from participants will be now actively considered and progressed.
2.4 LGIB welcomes the lead from DEFRA on
WSSD and the Government's establishment of a cross-cabinet committee
involving in particular the contribution of DFID, DTI and the
2.5 However, given the important role of
DTLR in the work of local government through the modernising agendaBest
Value, Community Strategies, Local Strategic Partnerships, and
the impact of the Local Government White Papergreater collaborative
working with DTLR would be greatly welcomed. This will be critical
to ensure that the practical implementation outcomes from WSSD
are not sidelined and that they are integrated into the mainstream
working of local government. The links between poverty and environmental
degradation and equity must be fully appreciated and appropriately
applied in the UK local domestic context, as well as internationally.
2.6 Additionally, given the importance of
education for sustainable developmentin both formal and
community educationenhanced involvement of DFES would be
2.7 LGIB welcomes the forthcoming Communications
Strategy for WSSD being prepared by DEFRA and will seek to play
an active part in this. There are legitimate opportunities for
profiling much of the LGIB's international technical co-operation
and partnership projects to the UK audience and beyond.
3. THE EXTENT
THE UK GOVERNMENT
MONITORED UK PROGRESS
21 SINCE 1992 AS
3.1 Post the Rio 1992 Summit, a UK National
Agenda 21 Steering Committee was set up, to advise and oversee
progress at the local level. A Sustainable Development Unit (SDU)
was set up in the Local Government Management Board, headed by
Tony Hams with Jane Morris as the UK Local Agenda 21 Officer.
3.2 The positive impact of the SDU unit
was considerable in developing and disseminating much-needed practical
guidance to local authorities in developing their understanding
and practical operationalisation of LA21. It helped to translate
Agenda 21 policies, principles and processes, into practical steps
for local authorities to adopt and progress. It completed considerable
collating, sharing and publication of information. It most significantly
supported the development of good practice by networking expertise
and experience in sound sustainability and environmental management
performance within the UK and further afield.
3.3 The LA21 Committee was renamed the UK
Local Sustainability Group (UKLSG) following the reorganisation
of the Local Government Management Board into the Improvement
and Development Agency (IdeA). This resulted in the demise of
the Local Agenda 21/Sustainable Development Unit.
3.4 Since the loss of this unit there has
been a growing vacuum in the networking and provision of sustainable
development advice to local authorities and NGOs and in the general
orchestration of sustainable development partnership related activities.
This has resulted in the "reinvention of many unnecessary
3.5 The LGIB therefore welcomes the UK cross-sectoral
and national support for the IDeA to set up a Local Sustainable
Development Unit. The proposal for this Unit which has top slice
funding agreed allocated for the first year, beginning 1 April
2002, is attracting broader support and potential funding partners.
Its work will be highly welcomed by local government and other
NGOs, to help take stock of experience, share and disseminate
learning, and to help orchestrate activity. The support of DTLR
would be highly welcomed in supplementing specific project funding
for research and programmatic work.
3.6 Based on the results of LA21 surveys
both national and internationaland other independent academic
research assessmentsimplementation of LA21 has been patchy.
In the majority of instances, there has been a failure to adopt
a truly integrative approach in tackling the economic, social
and environmental dimensions. A decade of learning has resulted
in greater understanding of sustainable development but this has
not been matched by sufficient coordinated action.
3.7 Monitoring progess on activity at the
local level, on Local Agenda 21, has been ad hoc, with many local
authorities experiencing data collation and monitoring overload
within the Best Value regime. There are however some excellent
case studies from which local authorities, and Local Strategic
Partnerships could learn and benefit.
3.8 The LGIB welcomes the Government's lead
on the development and reporting of sustainabilityquality
of life indicatorsand the establishment of central and
local government working alliances such as the Central Local Government
Information Partnership. An extension of national-regional-local
alliances as a means of improving dialogue, sharing and developing
experience with DTLR would be most welcome.
3.9 The Local Government White Paper states
that LA21 should be subsumed into community strategies. There
is a concern in both in local government and the NGO sectors that
this LA21 expertise and experience is not being fully harnessed
and incorporated into the, often, separate domain of community
planning. Sound guidance and case study work on how the transition
from LA21 to community strategies is evolving, is widely called
for in local government. This will have value nationally and be
of interest internationally.
4.0 In looking forward, there is a key opportunity
in the UK to build on the Local Government White Paper so that
local government's contribution does support sustainable development.
It will be necessary to ensure that the new performance assessment
framework and other components in the White Paper support sustainable
development and that the performance agenda does not eclipse the
4.1 Much of the ICLEI dialogue paper strikes
a chord with the [UK] Local Government White Paper, specifically
Chapter 2: "The value of democratic accountability",
paragraph 2.3 and, also, "Leading and Empowering communities""Delivering
sustainable development", paragraphs 2.8 and 2.9. The key,
and often bypassed, sustainable development notions of futurity
and globality are clearly articulated in relation to strong community
4.2 Again, in relation to the ICLEI local
government paper, the UK could take a lead on developing and delivering
capacity building programmes for good leadership on governance
for sustainability, especially for locally elected members, senior
officials and managers both within local government and within
Local Strategic Partnerships. This is vital to create the necessary
political will to further sustainable development. Government's
endorsement and support in this work would be highly welcomed.
4.3 The critical role of the Audit Commissionand
the role of Best Value inspectorsin assessing sustainable
development and, exactly how this will be operationalised within
the new corporate performance framework, cannot be underestimated.
3 Accelerating Sustainable Development: Local Action
Moves the World, ICLEI, December 2001. Back
Interim report to the UK Local Sustainability Steering Group-Making
the transition from LA21 to Community Strategies, Jane Morris,
WWF-UK, March 2001. Back