Kaj Embren

National governments have proven that they do not have what is required to meet the global challenges of climate change and the unsustainable use of our planet’s resources. The shortcomings of the COP meeting since Copenhagen acts as testament to this. With the burden of recession and austerity, short-sighted national governments have thus far shown themselves unable to handle sustainable development issues.

Within the arena of sustainable development, the boundaries of responsibility are undergoing a monumental shift. This allows new actors to take pole position in the creation of new opportunities. Old infrastructures are being replaced by new ones that are better designed to cope with the challenges facing cities and regions.

We should stop directing our attentions and frustrations towards impotent governments. Instead we must focus on more localized models that simmer from below but come to influence and inspire national actors to greater action.

Better levels of engagement and the development of local and international networks have prompted a wider range of actors to become involved in sustainability, from both within and outside the market.

Over the past five years we have seen several strong international networks emerge from municipalities and regions. To get a wider understanding of this phenomenon I undertook some research that shows just how many locally-focussed organizations use their involvement in these networks to bring about sustainable solutions that can have a real impact.

Mayors ! Get involved and give your local voice in front of and at the COP19 meeting in Warsaw! When will we see Mayors and regions act at the COP meetings?

The 33 networks that can act are:

1. United Cities and Local Governments – http://www.cities-localgovernments.org/

2. United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLGA) – http://www.uclga.org/pages/homepage/?#1

3. Federación Latinoamericana de Ciudades, Municipios y Asociaciones (FLACMA) / Latin American Federation of Cities, Municipalities and Associations of Local Governments – http://www.portalambientallatinoamericano.com/

4. UCGL Euro-Asian Regional Section – http://www.euroasia-uclg.ru/index.php?lang=en

5. UCGL- Asia-Pacific – http://www.uclg-aspac.org/

6. Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) – http://www.ccre.org/en/

7. UCLG-Middle East and West Asia (MEWA) – http://www.uclg-mewa.org/

8. METROPOLIS Network (World Association of Major Metropolises) – http://www.metropolis.org/

9. Union of the Baltic Cities – http://www.ubcwheel.eu/

10. International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives – ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) – http://www.iclei.org/index.php?id=801

11. C40 (Large Cities Climate Leadership Group) – http://live.c40cities.org/

12. Clinton Foundation’s Climate Initiative – http://www.clintonfoundation.org/main/our-work/by-initiative/clinton-climate-initiative/programs/c40-cci-cities.html

13. World Mayor Council on Climate Change – http://citiesclimateregistry.org/

14. Sustainable Cities Network – http://www.sustainablecities.net/

15. United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) – http://www.unhabitat.org/content.asp?typeid=19&catid=540&cid=5025

16. United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) – http://www.unisdr.org/campaign/resilientcities/

17. World Bank – http://blogs.worldbank.org/sustainablecities/about-us

18. Cities Alliance – http://www.citiesalliance.org/

19. World e-Governments Organisation of Cities and Local Governments (WeGO) – http://www.we-gov.org/history

20. Mercociudades – http://www.mercociudades.org/

21. Unión Iberoamericana de Municipalistas (Iberoamerican Union of Municipality Authorities – UIM) – http://www.uimunicipalistas.org/#/sobrelauim.txt

22. Federación de Municipios del Istmo Centroamericano (FEMICA) – Federation of Central American Municipalities – http://www.femica.org/

23. Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA) – http://www.cdia.asia/

24. CAI-Asia – The Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities and CITYNET (The Regional Network of Local Authorities for the Management of Human Settlements) – http://www.cleanairnet.org/caiasia

25. Committee of the Regions (CoR) and Covenant of Mayors http://cor.europa.eu/en/activities/Pages/priorities.aspx






26. MEDCITIES – http://www.medcities.org/

27. Association of Cities and Regions for Recycling and Sustainable Resource management (ACR+) – http://www.acrplus.org/

28.Brazil – Frente Nacional de Prefeitos (National Front of Mayors – FNP) – http://www.fnp.org.br/home.jsf

29.India – City Managers Association of India (CMA) – http://www.umcasia.org/site/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=45&Itemid=68

30. ChinaChina Association of Mayors (CAM) – http://www.citieschina.org/en/

31. South Korea – Governors Association of Korea – http://www.gaok.or.kr/eng/e01_intro/intro010.jsp

32. Canada – Federation of Canadian Municipalities – http://www.fcm.ca/

33. Sweden – Klimat Kommunerna – http://www.klimatkommunerna.se/

Ask the question – mobilise network, organisations and give your voice below or at LinkedIn Rio+

Kaj Embrén


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  1. Well focused Kaj! I am convinced that this is the only way to go. National Governments are not interested to move ahead; that’s also one of the reasons why the international Organizations are paralyzed. So who can do it? Cities and private companies are certainly driving forces.

    In a recent study on Bilbao (to be published: Alfarè, L. 2014) we have identified the key factors for a successful change management of a city transformation. Bilbao´s urban revolution is the result of a wide range of initiatives developed with an intelligent long-term vision. The recovery has been facilitated by a combination of determined public sector leadership and an existing entrepreneurial culture. This enabled the design of interventions and establishes special agencies to confront the symptoms of the crisis. The success factors show clearly the power of a broad and concise vision of a future development; it is not enough to have only flagship projects like the Guggenheim Museum building.

    The main key success factors identified:
    – Strong and targeted leadership
    – Political stability and public private partnerships;
    – Development and implementation of long-term strategies;
    – Prospective and detailed planning;
    – Integrated city development approach with full stakeholder involvement;
    – Creation of an environment for innovation;
    – Good marketing and transparent communication;
    – Strong focus on life quality improvement of local people;
    – Improvement of infrastructures targeted on resource efficiency

    New strategies have to be combined with a clear vision towards Sustainable Development and Global Change such as climate change, social transformation, and economic globalization. Such a paradigm change towards a strong futuristic brand considering all the uncertainties of global change will be absolutely profitable. A series of Cities have already shown there ability for transformation; such initiatives have to be fostered and their visibility enhanced. What are we waiting?

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