Local communities vary in size, composition, structure, and organization. A local community includes the local government authority, as well as the local businesses, schools, and cultural activities.
The Earth Charter principles can be used as a guide for sustainability planning and assessment in local communities.
The Charter can be used by local communities as a:
1. Awareness raising strategy
2. Framework for action planning and community development
3. Guide for policy making and Programme initiatives
4 An assessment tool to evaluate progress toward sustainability
Local communities/governments and the Earth Charter
Over 400 towns and cities have endorsed the Earth Charter, which in turn led to thousands of local citizens becoming aware of it and to furthering its spread through civil society. These municipalities are located across the globe. Cities and towns such as Sao Paulo, North Vancouver, Canada; San Jose, Costa Rica; Urbino, Italy; Oslo, Norway; and Berkeley, California have all stated their support for the Earth Charter. In Spain alone, over 220 municipalities have endorsed the Earth Charter. Earth Charter endorsement has also come from all 99 city governments in Jordan.
In addition to individual municipalities, leagues and organizations of local community authorities have also endorsed the Earth Charter. ICLEI – The Local Governments for Sustainability endorsed the Earth Charter in the year 2000. The Florida League of Cities, which is a voluntary municipal league comprised of 404 of Florida’s 408 municipalities and six charter counties, endorsed the Earth Charter in 2001. In the same year, the Earth Charter was also endorsed by the US Conference of Mayors, the official nonpartisan organization of the nation’s 1,183 cities with populations over 30,000. In addition, the Catalonia Network of over 100 municipalities and the Association of 150 Towns of Soria, Spain have endorsed the Earth Charter.
Communities have used the Earth Charter as a guide for policy making and an assessment tool in several different ways. Local governments and communities have chosen to compare existing policies with the principles of the Earth Charter, to use the Earth Charter as the inspiration for new policies and activities, and to engage in debates and discussions stimulated by the Earth Charter. Local authorities such as the government of the City of Joondalup and the Toronto Regional Conservation Authority have found that using the Earth Charter as a reference check list for their policies has been effective in helping them to become more sustainable.
Watch an inspirational video from the Open University of Sao Paulo, Brazil on their local development initiatives using the Earth Charter.
EarthCAT – a resource for local community planning
The Earth Charter Community Action Tool (EarthCAT) was designed to provide communities with a framework and guide to identify a shared vision for the future, goals, targets, strategies, indicators, and specific action plans as they work towards a sustainable future. EarthCAT can be a useful resource for local communities that are looking for a clear methodology for becoming sustainable. This tool was developed as part of a collaborative project that started in late 2003, involving the World Resources Institute (WRI), the Earth Charter Initiative and Global Community Initiatives (GCI).
EarthCAT provides two complementary resources for communities to use when developing sustainability programs: online management support software available at www.earthcat.org and a workbook entitled, Taking Action for Sustainability: The EarthCAT Guide to Community Development. The software takes users through the major Earth Charter principles, one by one; helping them set specific goals, targets, strategies, and indicators guided by each principle. There is a built-in database, allowing users to see what goals other communities have set. For more on this see http://www.earthcat.org.