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ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability
International organization
IndustrySustainable Development at the local level
Founded1990, New York City, U.S.
HeadquartersKaiser-Friedrich-Str. 7, 53113 Bonn, Germany
Number of employees
approximately 200 (worldwide)

ICLEILocal Governments for Sustainability, founded in 1990 as the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, is a global network of cities, towns and regions committed to building a sustainable future.

The international network was established when more than 200 local governments from 43 countries convened at its inaugural conference, the World Congress of Local Governments for a Sustainable Future, at the United Nations in New York in September 1990.[1] Today, the ICLEI network includes more than 1,750 local and regional governments in 100+ countries.[2]

History and structure[edit]

ICLEI was conceived when 35 local government leaders from Canada and the USA met with a leading atmospheric scientist to discuss the depletion of the ozone layer.

They pledged to establish local laws to phase out chemicals that deplete the Earth's ozone layer. Larry Agran, Mayor of Irvine, California, USA and Jeb Brugmann imagined an agency that could coordinate local government responses to global environmental problems.

More than 200 local governments from 43 countries participated in the World Congress on 5-9 September, 1990, at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The four-day proceedings concluded with the adoption of the Charter and the appointment of an interim Executive Committee. Sir John Chatfield was elected to serve as the first ICLEI Chair and Jeb Brugmann, as ICLEI's first Secretary General.

In 2003, ICLEI's Members voted to revise the organization's mission, charter and name to better reflect the current challenges local governments face, and the broader topic of sustainability. The International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives decided to drop the full phrase and became ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability to reflect a broader focus on sustainability, not only environmental issues. Already well known, ICLEI kept the acronym.

In 2009, the World Secretariat was moved to Bonn, Germany. The city of Bonn is home to several international organizations focused on climate change such as the UNFCCC -Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNCCD - Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, UNWTO - Consulting Unit on Sustainable Tourism Development, WHO ECEH Bonn - World Health Organisation European Centre for Environment and Health and EUROSOLAR e.V. - the European Association for Renewable Energy.

The 5 ICLEI pathways[edit]

At the subnational level, ICLEI drives change along five interconnected pathways that cut across sectors and jurisdictional boundaries.[3] This design enables local and regional governments to think and design solutions in a holistic and integrated way, creating change across entire urban systems.

  • Low emission development pathway
  • Nature-based development pathway
  • Circular development pathway
  • Resilient development pathway
  • Equitable and people-centered development


ICLEI Members are committed local and regional governments, representing diverse communities the world over. They guide our efforts to make sustainability fundamental to all development and to scale up sustainable urban development worldwide. ICLEI Members steer the direction of our work, shape our strategy and support the mission, mandate and principles set in our statutes. They are eligible to vote and take part in our network-wide governing bodies.

Membership is open to all local and regional governments, as well as to their global, regional, national and subnational associations. The only requirements for ICLEI membership are a self-defined commitment to climate protection and the payment of annual membership dues based on population size.[4]


ICLEI leadership is organized in three main governance bodies elected every three years: The Global Executive Committee, or GexCom, the Regional Executive Committees, or RexComs and the ICLEI Council.

The GexCom represents ICLEI towards international institutions and has the authority make strategic decisions concerning the organization. Each of the nine ICLEI regions also has its own RexCom, which approves new initiatives and programs in that region.

All RexComs come together to form the ICLEI Council, the overarching decision making and guiding body. The Council shapes and approves the ICLEI strategy, has the sole power to amend our statues and elects the GexCoM portfolio seats.

The Council convenes every three years at the ICLEI World Congress and establishes ICLEI's priorities and direction through the adoption of a six-year Strategic Plan. The most recent ICLEI World Congress was held in Montréal from 19 to 22 June 2018.

All eligible ICLEI Members can vote and stand for election to RexCom positions. The elected RexComs subsequently elect the GexCom, which includes one person from each RexCom and thematic portfolio representatives. These portfolio representatives are each responsible for a specific working area. The regional and portfolio representatives work together as the full GexCom.

The ICLEI President, First Vice President and two Vice Presidents are elected by the GexCom. They are the executive officers that represent the global organization and lead the global governing bodies of the Council and GexCom. [5]

  • Ashok Sridharan – Mayor of Bonn, Germany and President of the Global Executive Committee.
  • Cathy Oke – Concillor of Melbourne, Australia and First Vice President of the Global Executive Committee.
  • Stephany Uy-Tan – Mayor of Catbalogan, Philippines and Vice President of the Global Executive Committee.
  • Frank Cownie – Mayor of the City of Des Moines, US and Vice President of the Global Executive Committee.

Management and staff[edit]

ICLEI has more than 260 staff in 22 offices around the world, offering expertise that positions local and regional governments to advance sustainable urban development along our five pathways. ICLEI is managed by:

  • Gino Van Begin – Secretary General
  • Kumar Emani – Deputy Secretary General and Regional Director, ICLEI South Asia Secretariat


Tea Party movement activists targeted ICLEI for its support for Agenda 21, a nonbinding United Nations initiative that seeks to promote resource and land conservation. The activists claimed that local government efforts to expand public transportation and preserve open space were part of a UN conspiracy plot "to deny property rights and herd citizens toward cities".[6]

Sustainable policies implemented at the municipal level, such as bike lanes, bike-riding incentives, bicycle sharing programs, and public transportation options, have been targets of such criticism. Notably, Dan Maes, the 2010 Colorado Republican Gubernatorial candidate, leveled a similar argument at Denver during his campaign.[7]


  1. ^ "LOWCAP > ICLEI". www.lowcap.eu.
  2. ^ "About us > ICLEI". www.iclei.org.
  3. ^ "Our approach > ICLEI". www.iclei.org/our_approach.
  4. ^ How to Become a Member — ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability USA Archived 2014-02-26 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ "ICLEI Leadership > ICLEI". www.iclei.org/leadership.
  6. ^ >Kaufman, Leslie; Kate Zernike (February 4, 2012). "Activists Fight Green Projects, Seeing U.N. Plot". The New York Times.
  7. ^ Osher, Christopher N. (2010-08-05). "Bike agenda spins cities toward U.N. control, Maes warns". The Denver Post. Retrieved 2013-06-11.

External links[edit]