Successful Local Involvement in Local Agenda 21
by Louise Allen
“Local authorities, as the level of government closest to people, have a vital role in educating and mobilising the public to get behind the goals of Agenda 21.”
Much of the emphasis within Agenda 21 is placed on action by the world’s population at a local level, in fact two thirds of the action in Agenda 21 requires action within a more local area. A whole chapter concentrates on the role of local authorities and is concerned specifically with the need to find out the views of local people and to involve as many different kinds of people in the processes of preparing the strategies — women, young people, indigenous people and those with their own cultures — the aim being that this should have been achieved by the end 1996. Now that we gone beyond this deadline, the process of encouraging successful local involvement in Agenda 21 should be guaranteed, but is this the case? This is one of the key areas that I am addressing in my research.
It is exactly this idea of actively involving the local community in working together with the local authority towards sustainable development that makes Local Agenda 21 more than just a collection of environmental initiatives at a local level. By getting people involved in Agenda 21 projects, the end result will be that you are actually educating them about Agenda 21 and sustainable development at the same time as “getting the job done”. But how well have local authorities recognised the implications of this link between process and product? Initial observation suggests that in many cases there is an emphasis on local initiatives that lack any convincing evidence of attempts at deeper attitude change.
My research project, now in its fourth year, addresses how the participation process is being managed and is trying to discover the actual methods and techniques being used by local authorities to insure that Agenda 21 succeeds. The success of these methods is being measured in terms of the fundamental issues of awareness building.
Agenda 21 has come along at a bad time for many local authorities and this cannot be ignored. The re-organisation of authorities, the cuts in funding and the change in attitude towards local government have come at the same time that they are being asked to take on a very new initiative. Yet Local Agenda 21 needs to work and there is evidence of many innovative local initiatives currently being undertaken in Britain which demonstrate that we are moving in the right direction. The task is to continue to do so.
Finally, I am identifying ways of incorporating Agenda 21 into the lives of a greater number of people within the community. To think globally is important but it will be local action that results in Agenda 21 succeeding.