United Cities and Local Governments
Carrer Avinyó, 15
08002 Barcelona
Tel: +34 93 34 28 750
Fax: +34 93 34 28 760


Elisabeth Gateau, Secretary General

About us

Global City 2005
World Urban Forum 2004
UCLG Congress 2004
Glocal conference 2004
Slow Cities

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This is an archived article, published in May 2004
New international organisation
to champion the interest of cities
By Guy Kervella, European Editor

The founding congress of the new local government organisation Unities Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) closed on 5 May 2004 in Paris with the publication of a common declaration and the election of the Mayors of Paris (Bertrand Delanoë). Pretoria (Smangaliso Mkhatshwa) and Sao Paulo (Marta Suplicy) as joint presidents. The Mayor of South Bay, Florida, Clarence Anthony was elected treasurer. The conference organisers told City Mayors that the election for a three-year period of three presidents from Europe, Africa and South America was intended to strengthen the new organisation’s worldwide representation.

UCLG is the result of a merger between the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA), the World Federation of Unities Cities (FMCU-UTO) and Metropolis. A spokesman for the new organisation told City Mayors that UCLG aimed to represent local government at the United Nations and other international bodies and speak with a unified voice. “The merger has created the largest international organisation representing local government and we intend to make the case for cities as forcefully as possible,” the spokesman added.

Cooperation between cities is one of the key tasks of the new organisation but as more than 60 per cent of the world population will be living in urban areas by 2030, it is important for cities to speak with one voice. “Cities need a champion to speak on their behalf, and UCLG aims to fulfil this role,” City Mayors was told.

The new association is the result of ten years of detailed negotiations between the three organisations. City Mayors was given to understand that one of the reasons complicating the merger was that national municipal associations in Anglo-Saxon countries had a more practical approach to local government while associations in Latin countries were more politically minded.

UCLG represents individual cities and national local government associations in 127 countries. In Europe alone member national associations represent over 80 per cent of the European population.

The main aims of UCLG are:
• Defence and promotion of democracy for a fairer world
• Local self-government for more responsive and efficient services
• Decentralisation of government in the interest of the citizen

The establishment of a ‘Local Democracy Watch’, to analyse the situation and evolution of local government worldwide, is also one of its priorities.

The UCLG founding congress in Paris was opened by French President Jacques Chirac who urged the more than 2,300 delegates from 114 countries to make their communities a driving force for democracy, fairness and prosperity in all parts of the world.

The majority of the participants came from Latin countries and Africa while Anglo-Saxon countries sent relatively few delegates. The USA, where local government tends to be less internationally oriented or finds it difficult to justify the benefits of international cooperation to their citizens, was under-represented.

Two days of the founding congress were devoted to debates and workshops where mayors exchanged experiences and views on topics such as human rights, sustainable development, decentralisation and local democracy. Although speakers represented cities from all parts of the world, the discussed topics were often very similar. Problems, which all cities had to deal with, included poverty, health, the environment, women’s rights, housing and the integration of new arrivals. The Mayor of Stuttgart, Germany, told congress delegates that globalisation must incorporate worldwide cooperation as well as competition. “Open borders for goods must be accompanied by open borders for people,” he said.

Speaker after speaker stressed the need to alleviate urban poverty. Mayors from Europe were particularly concerned about of problems of integrating migrants into their communities. The Mayor of Venice, Paolo Costa illustrated the initiative of some Italian cities to give the right to vote to immigrants as an example of creating common ground between newcomers and existing residents.

Gabor Demszky, Mayor of Budapest, pointed out that most of EU subsidies are directed to rural areas and not cities. “With European cities gaining in importance they should receive more subsidies and support and should be given a stronger voice in the shaping of EU rules and regulations,” he said.

The UNESCO representative reminded delegates of the creation of an alliance of cities against racism. He told City Mayors that he hoped its December 2004 conference in Nuremberg, Germany, would be well attended.

The congress also saw the signing of an agreement between the World Bank and UCLG, with the aim of boosting city cooperation and the financing of future projects. The Mayors of Paris, Tunis and Rome signed up to an initiative by Abdoulaye Wade, President of Senegal, to help the poorest countries access new technologies.

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