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ICLEI 2006 World Congress Dispatch:
"What’s the action on local action?”

A daily post on ICLEI’s World Congress for those who were unfortunately unable to attend by Tanya Imola, ICLEI's International Media Coordinator.



Monday, March 06, 2006

The World Congress ended on Friday; my apologies that this has been my first chance to write about the final day. Once the Congress ended, the focus was immediately on packing up, and determining what would need to be shipped back to ICLEI’s European Secretariat in Freiburg, and what would need to be shipped back to ICLEI’s World Secretariat in Toronto. The evening ended with a debrief meeting/dinner with the City of Cape Town and ICLEI, though many took this opportunity to celebrate the success of the event.


On Saturday the City of Cape Town took ICLEI staff on a bus tour that was absolutely wonderful. We were taken down the coast to Simon’s Town, to the penguin sanctuary, through Table Mountain Park to the Cape of Good Hope, further along the coast to Calk Bay, then finally to Devon Valley where we hosted a thank you dinner for the City of Cape Town, and planned to stay for staff meetings. On the tour, animals spotted were baboons, penguins, ostrich, zebra, springbok, and other types of gazelles. Staff also had the opportunity to either visit or revisit many of the sites that were on the Cape Town tours, so it gave staff the chance to view some of the sustainable development projects in the area.


The final day of the Summit – Friday, March 3 – was important for the governance of ICLEI, as it was the afternoon session when ICLEI Members would vote on ICLEI’s strategic plan for the coming three years. Participation levels were high – it was so encouraging to see so many participants remain throughout the whole event.


The morning began a little late, a result of the generosity of Executive Mayor Amos Masondo of Johannesburg, host of the previous evenings African Feast. Dancing, music, general revelry, and a barbeque that included game accompanied South African wine – is anyone surprised??


The first session of the day, the Mayor’s Panel gave the political representatives attending the Congress a forum to provide their political views on sustainable development, and to declare their continuing commitment. Here is a shot of the Mayors up on the panel.

Following that session, the Local Initiatives Awards were presented to the ICLEI Member participants. The recipient of the Judy Walker Memorial Prize was Charles Sturt, Australia, for its Cities for Climate Protection Business Energy Partnership Program. The recipients of the Cities Enjoy Bicycles Awards of Excellence were Cape Town, for the Bicycles Recycles Project, and Geneva, Switzerland for its Transportation Package and Promotion of Mobility Plans for Business. All of these three exemplary examples of local government initiatives will be written up as ICLEI case studies in the coming months.


The Cities Enjoy Bicycles Awards also presented Certificates of Honour to the following recipients:


  • Copenhagen, Denmark, for its Cycling Policy and Bicycle Account
  • Freiburg, Germany, for its Integrated Cycling Policies
  • Koprivnica, Croatia, for its project Town on the Move
  • Lund, Sweden, for its program The Bicycles Friendly Municipality
  • Tilburg, Netherlands for its Tilburg Feist and Cycling Plan Tilburg


The city of Tilburg also generously donated two bicycles to a local school in Cape Town, impressing the audience by making a grand entrance into the auditorium by riding the bicycles down the steps! This picture is of ICLEI Secretary General Konrad Otto-Zimmermann, along with Mr. Hans Van Vliet of Shimano Inc., with the two boys that have been awarded these bicycles; I am in the process of tracking down their names. Shimano Inc. is the global bicycle parts company that has generously sponsored the Cities Enjoy Bicycles Awards.

Following all this excitement and a final networking opportunity for participants over lunch in the Ubuntu Market, delegates returned to the auditorium to carefully consider the strategic plan. It was important for those participants who were engaged throughout the Congress theme sessions to ensure that their thoughts and ideas had been adequately captured by ICLEI staff, and conveyed in a succinct way to ICLEI’s overall membership. With Secretary General Konrad Otto-Zimmermann and ICLEI Executive Committee President David Cadman reviewing the Strategic Plan item by item, delegates voted on the strategic direction and targets for the organization over the next three years. The final approved document will be up shortly on ICLEI’s website.


The Congress ended with empowering words by ICLEI President David Cadman, and a shared commitment to further the principles of sustainable development through ICLEI’s programs, and its growing global membership.


And now, to the work ahead until we meet again internationally in three years time, in the year 2009.


(For those ICLEI Members interested in hosting an ICLEI World Congress, please get in touch with ICLEI’s International Training Centre in the coming weeks. Decisions need to be made at least a year and a half prior to the event, to ensure that the Congress is well organized and successful. I’d like to add that from my perspective, the event has been a great success for the City of Cape Town in regards to local media coverage. That coverage will no doubt serve to support the city of Cape Town in its sustainable development agenda.)


Here is a beautiful aerial shot of Cape Town; a view maybe some ICLEI delegates had upon traveling back home.

Until 2009 then!



Thursday, March 2, 2006

Today was a substantive day at the Congress. Substantive in the sheer amount of information shared amongst the participants in the small group sessions, but also substantive in terms of providing invaluable feedback to ICLEI staff on Members’ focus in the coming years.


To give you an example, I popped my head into the session on non-motorized urban mobility: why and how cities promote the use of bicycles. Ms. Elly Katrin Guomundsdottir of Reykjavik, Iceland raised the issue of mandatory bicycle helmets. This led to a short exchange amongst Reykjavik and the cities of Cape Town, Copenhagen and Tilburg on their approaches to this safety issue. I feel confident in stating that other sessions today were likely as engaged and thought-provoking as this one, and it clearly exemplifies what ICLEI is all about – a movement of local governments working together to achieve sustainable development. To listen to these Congress participants engage with each other in the sessions and during the extended breaks these past few days, intent on sharing both their successes and failures, is incredibly uplifting. Local action moves the world!


All of these sessions that were held today – again falling under the overarching themes of Protecting Global Common Goods, Building Sustainable Communities & Cities, and Implementation Instruments – have produced ideas and insights to ICLEI’s 2006-2009 Strategic Plan.  At the end of the day, the three themes each then brought those results into a consolidated sub-plenary, drawing strategic conclusions to bring forward to the Strategic Plan.


As I write to you, the Congress participants and organizers are all at an ‘African Feast’ on the Speir Wine Estate in Stellenbosch. (So, given the location, I think we can all safely assume, that yes, once again, South African wine will flow freely!) This event is being generously hosted by the City of Johannesburg, specifically Mayor Amos Masondo, the outgoing President of the 2003-2006 ICLEI Executive Committee. No doubt my colleagues will have photos to share with you tomorrow on what sounds like a spectacular event.


The music of Africa will no doubt be a part of tonight’s event, as it has been throughout this whole conference. Here are some images of the groups that have entertained us here in the Convention Centre.

The entertainment at Monday night’s dinner hosted by the City of Cape Town.
The musical troupe that started the presentation at Wednesday night’s reception.
Local performers that roam the Ubuntu Market, herding participants to the next sessions through music and dance. So much more motivating than flicking the lights or a loud announcement!


And Gino Van Begin, Regional Director for ICLEI’s European Secretariat, is also missing the festivities. He has a task of the utmost importance to complete this evening, so he is hidden away in a top-secret location. In preparation for the ICLEI Council Business Section – the general assembly of ICLEI Members to finalize the 2006-2009 Strategic Plan for ICLEI – that takes place tomorrow after lunch, Gino must now take the remarks and recommendations from these consolidated subplenaries and incorporate all this valuable input into the draft strategic plan. It is through this mechanism, and through this format, that ICLEI is able to identify and then respond to the needs and concerns of its membership.


Tomorrow then is a critically important day for ICLEI and its future. I’ll let you know tomorrow how it all turns out, and when you’ll be able to access the final version of the strategic plan on ICLEI’s website.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Wednesday was Cape Town Day. The City of Cape Town and ICLEI arranged for site visits to places of interest that reflect practical examples of key World Congress issues and challenges. Participants got to choose from eleven tours, which were:


Energy for Development;

Saving Water is a Way of Life;

A Trail of Two Cities: Responsible Tourism;

Cities Enjoy Bicycles and Sustainable Transport;

Biodiversity Treasures along Table Bay;

False Bay Biodiversity Hotspots;

Health for all through Partnership & Capacity Building;

Contrasting Coasts;

Wise up on Waste;

The City in Transition - Integrated Human Settlements; and

Resilient Cities and Communities.



Rolling out of the City at 8:45 am on large buses, the itineraries for all the tours included visiting sites, lunch, and a workshop where delegates discussed key questions relating to their sustainability issue. It was a great opportunity for the participants to better comprehend the challenges facing Cape Town, many of which are similar challenges in their own jurisdictions back home.


The Energy for Development site visit that I attended stopped at three locations. The first stop was the new BP Energy Efficient Building on the Waterfront. I learned that BP now stands for ‘Beyond Power’, and they are sponsoring the green electricity at this World Congress. The building follows the principles of sustainability in that it is not only incredibly energy, water and waste efficient, but has incorporated design elements that foster good health and morale among its employees.


The second stop was the Kuyasa Low Income Urban Housing Energy Update Project. This retrofit project is an internationally recognized Clean Development Mechanism Project. In the pilot phase, 10 housing units were retrofitted with solar water heaters, new showers, hot taps and drains, ceilings and ceiling insulation, and energy efficient lighting. During the project’s next phase, 2,309 homes in Kuyasa will be retrofitted with the same technologies. Once completed the project will cut reliance on fossil-based energy consumption by reducing household energy use by 75 per cent.


ICLEI, as you are no doubt aware, established the Climate Legacy Project to financially compensate for the carbon dioxide emissions caused as a result of participants traveling to ICLEI events around the globe. A carbon offset fund from the European Members Congress in Tilburg, the 2nd (UK) National Councils' Climate Conference in Nottingham,  the recent Fourth Municipal Leaders Summit on Climate Change in Montreal, and this the ICLEI World Congress 2006 in Cape Town, have all four financially contributed to Kuyasa. To recognize this, the cities of Tilburg, Nottingham, Montreal and Cape Town were presented with certificates of appreciation, and got to meet the family of one of the retrofitted homes. It was very moving for all ICLEI participants to visibly see how they are affecting change in South Africa. The City’s official photographer along with numerous members of the press covered this event, and hopefully the cities supporting Kuyasa will cover this media event as well.

Standing with the family that lives in this house are: Osman Asmal, Cape Town; Chantal Gagnon, Montreal; Mark Hidson, Nottingham; and Pieter Biemans, Tilburg. Also in the photo are: Monika Zimmermann, ICLEI International Training Centre, and Dieter Salomon, Mayor of Freiburg and ICLEI 2006-2009 Executive Committee member, as well as City of Cape Town officials.


The last stop was the Sustainability Institute in the Winelands for a tour of their educational facility and Ecovillage Housing Project, lunch, and a workshop focusing on the challenges facing developing cities in providing sustainable energy solutions.


The feedback from the other tours has been incredibly positive as well; I hope to recruit someone to write about it so that it can be posted here.


The evening ended with a reception in the Ubuntu Market, again with much fanfare, music, and South African wine! It was at this event that ICLEI presented its gift to the City of Cape Town. Let me bring you back to yesterday’s photo with the footballs. ICLEI Members were asked to bring a football from their home city/country, to be presented to the Nelson Mandela Peace Park. This Park is being built in a low income area of Cape Town, providing youth with a place to play. Along with the balls, ICLEI provided two goalposts – gifts from the ICLEI World Secretariat and the International Training Centre.

In the photo (from left to right) are: Susan Blanckenberg from the Nelson Mandela Peace Park, ICLEI Secretary General Konrad Otto-Zimmermann, Cape Town Councillor Carol Beerwinkel, and Scharlet Abrahams of the Nelson Mandela Peace Park.
Here is a fun photo of Susan Blanckenberg with all the donated footballs.


On Thursday, the focus of the World Congress will be a continuation of the three themes on Tuesday: Protecting Global Common Goods, Building Sustainable Communities & Cities, and Implementation Instruments.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I must fill everyone in on the Monday evening hosted by the City of Cape Town, which was absolutely spectacular. The food was first rate, the place elegantly decorated, attentive waiters freely pouring local South African wines, and really fabulous local entertainment. Our gracious hosts asked that all guests relax and immerse themselves in the local music, and everyone most definitely did. The rhythms were so infectious that the dance floor was shoulder to shoulder. What a great way to end a successful first day, by connecting through a meal and dancing. Just wonderful.


The second day of the Congress consisted of breakout sessions revolving around three key themes: Protecting Global Common Goods, Building Sustainable Communities & Cities, and Implementation Instruments. Participants were also invited to come to the ICLEI booth in the Ubuntu Market to receive a certification in appreciation of years of dedicated membership, presented by the new President of the ICLEI 2006-2009 Executive Committee, Councillor David Cadman from Vancouver, and ICLEI Secretary General Konrad Otto-Zimmermann. For those Members that were unable to attend the World Congress, your Regional Office or Secretariat will take responsibility for getting your certificate to you.


In this photo, ICLEI Executive Committee President David Cadman is presenting the Municipal Government of Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, with their certificate. (The footballs behind President Cadman I will explain later.)


The Ubuntu Market is, by the way, a very dynamic spot. Lots of interesting booths and interactive displays, and what is very pleasing to many of us who have attended other exhibitions located (most often) in the lower floors of convention centers, the Market is in a large room with floor to ceiling windows. The World Congress arranged for coffee breaks and lunch meals to take place in the Ubuntu Market, again increasing the traffic flow into this area. It has worked really well.


Following the last session, participants boarded buses for another exotic evening arranged by our generous hosts, this time at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Situated on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch is internationally acclaimed as one of the great botanical gardens of the world. Participants were given time to wander the Garden prior to the start of the evening program, though unfortunately Cape Town rush hour traffic delayed our arrival and many of us were not able to wander around.


In the Garden, participants were entertained by not only by a musical group, but also a theatre group that wandered through the crowd moving as animals.

Here is a photo of the theatre group; I hope you can tell what animal they are interpreting. I'll let you know at the end of this day's entry.


As dusk fell, participants sat on blankets, tucked into picnic boxes, and watched the stars appear in the sky. (Oh, and South African wines flowing freely once again!)


When completely enveloped in darkness, everyone boarded buses back to the hotels, again thanking our incredibly generous hosts for their hospitality, and for taking us to infamous Kirstenbosch.


The animal - a giraffe.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Participants are now in the final session on the first day of ICLEI’s 2006 World Congress.  I must confess that I have not been able to attend any of the sessions, but all of the participants seem very engaged in conversation at the breaks.


This first day has been a resounding success – sessions began promptly on time, the registration, payment and media accreditation processes ran smoothly and efficiently, and participation levels in all the sessions and breakout meetings were high.


The Congress officially opened with some impressive speakers:  the Executive Mayor of Cape Town Ms. Nomaindia Mfeketo, Executive Mayor of Johannesburg Mr. Amos Masondo, and senior representatives from UNDP, UNEP, and the World Conservation Union.   The Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, South Africa, Mr. Marthinus van Schalkwyk, made the following remarks in his speech:  “Local action for sustainable development is about much more than environmental issues.  In a developing country like South Africa, it is an expansive terrain inviting innovation, investment, and entrepreneurship.  The responsibility to ensure that sustainable and responsible alternatives are developed lies as much with local government as it does with states and nations.”


The day was an opportunity to start to look towards the future, but also to review the past.  ICLEI’s Secretary General Konrad Otto-Zimmermann reported on the 15 years since ICLEI was launched in 1990, with all of the regional offices and Secretariats reporting on their accomplishments and membership base.


Here are some amazing ICLEI statistics to share with you:


ICLEI’s 22 members in Japan represent 25% of that country’s population.

The 42 Members from Africa come from 11 different countries.

The 16 Members based out of the South Asia Secretariat represent 20 million people.

In the Latin America and Caribbean Secretariat, there are 88 Members from 8 Latin American countries.

Since ICLEI’s World Congress in 2003, the Oceania Secretariat has expanded its Membership base from 59 to 99, and their staff contingent has grown from 21 to 47.

The European Secretariat manages 170 Members and 41 staff.

In 15 years, ICLEI has grown to currently serve 492 Members in 67 countries, managed by 150 staff based in 12 offices.

ICLEI staff raise $10.00 for every $ dollar put in by Members through Membership fees.



Local action can’t help but move the world!


Tomorrow the program includes breakout sessions revolving around the themes of Protecting Global Common Goods, Building Sustainable Communities & Cities, and Implementation Instruments.  ICLEI Members will receive certificates of appreciation for years of dedicated membership at a special ceremony, and the evening will end with a picnic in the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, aptly titled ‘Kistenbosch Picnic under the Stars’.   It should be another great day.


I had mentioned to you yesterday the amazing opportunity ICLEI’s new Executive Committee had to hold their inaugural meeting at Robben Island.  Let me share with you the Director General of the ICLEI World Secretariat, John Paterson’s observations on his visit to the Island.


“We went to visit Robben Island. It’s been a prison island for many years, but is famous as the place where the political opponents to Apartheid were held, including Nelson Mandela.


The guide had been a prisoner there himself, so was very able to tell what life had been like for the men held there. On one part of the visit, we saw a limestone quarry where prisoners – including Mandela – had to excavate stones, using only hand tools.  The limestone pit, a circle with a radius of about 100 metres and about 10 metres deep, was patrolled in the days of Apartheid by armed guards on the rim, who would shoot to kill anyone who tried to escape.


The Apartheid regime wanted to break the will of the prisoners, so that they would decide that resistance was futile.  Set into the limestone wall of the quarry, there was a small cave, about three metres deep and the same width, but not tall enough so that a man could stand up inside it.  Here the prisoners were required to go to defecate and urinate during the work shift.  They had to dig holes for their excrement with their hands, and of course often had to use a pit which had been used before.  Then they would have to remove the excrement that was already there, to make room for more.  At mealtimes they were not given water to wash their hands.  All this was done with the deliberate purpose of breaking the men’s spirit.


But it was unsuccessful.  Instead, in the privacy of the cave, the men could talk to each other, even if ever so briefly, and they did.  They discussed politics, liberation, and the way they envisioned South Africa would be, once freedom came.  They made the cave into a place of free speech. In a way, said our tour guide, it became the country’s first free Parliament.


There were many other stories that our guide told us.  At the end came one of the most moving.  When Apartheid fell, the new, democratically elected rulers of the country decided to close the prison and turn it into a museum.  But they did not want it to be a museum of incarceration and despair: it was to be a place of hope, a place where the human spirit triumphed even against apparently insurmountable odds. It was a monument to the struggle for freedom.


“But it wasn’t just our struggle,” said the guide. “Many people helped us, all over the world. Many people stood by us, and in the end, we won our freedom. You helped us by supporting anti-Apartheid rallies, by marching for freedom, for boycotting products of the regime. So it was your struggle too. It was part of the great human struggle that goes on always, the struggle to be free.”


“Welcome home.”


And with those amazing words, we head to a lovely reception hosted by the Mayor of the City of Cape Town, and wish you all good night from Cape Town.

Sunday, 26 February 2006

Greetings from sunny and beautiful Cape Town. Having arrived with my other ICLEI World Secretariat colleagues on Saturday morning, we are now sufficiently rested and acclimatized to become fully engaged in what is no doubt the largest gathering of local governments in the world. That is simply inspiring! How fitting then to have it take place in Cape Town, the southern most tip of the African continent, and where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet.


Not only the largest gathering of local government members of ICLEI, but the largest gathering of ICLEI staff as well. A skeleton staff, for instance, remains back in the World Secretariat, as we have staff here responsible for IT needs, organizational governance, the Water and Sustainability Management Campaigns, ICLEI Canada, and membership and communications. And of course, ICLEI’s Secretary General, Konrad Otto-Zimmermann.


The planners of this event from ICLEI’s International Training Centre (ITC) in Freiburg are here in force, having established themselves here a few days ago. Arriving since then – and some still enroute – are Regional Directors, Managers and staff from all 11 ICLEI Offices located in: Australia/New Zealand, Africa, Canada, Europe, Japan, Korea, Latin America, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the US. Why such a large staff contingent? Firstly, to ensure that this Congress of local governments runs smoothly and professionally, and secondly – and more importantly – to achieve the purpose of the Summit, which is to formulate ICLEI’s workplan for the coming three years. Having this many staff here also benefits ICLEI as a whole, as it is an opportunity for international staff to meet and network amongst themselves, many of whom have never had the opportunity to meet before.


The new ICLEI Executive Committee, which will serve until 2009, held their inaugural meeting today at Robben Island, to be introduced to each other and to their new responsibilities. How inspiring it must be for them to meet on such an historic site, a global symbol of how working collectively for the common good results in positive action. Many of us were considering being stowaways on their boat to the island!


And tomorrow, the Conference begins. While contemplating how to smoothly register over 700 participants will no doubt have a few staff sleeping uneasily tonight, we all feel very privileged to be here at ICLEI’s 2006 World Congress, to work with our Membership to recognize our achievements to date, and to plan the organization’s growth.


Wish you were here to join us!

Page last updated: 10.May.2012

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