Building Sustainable Communities Worldwide: ICMA International Is Part of This Remarkable Effort

Article excerpt

In the broadest sense, sustainable communities are those that maintain a reliable economic base, practice sound financial management, provide a stable environment for their residents, and act as stewards of their land and other environmental resources. Here is how these actions are defined:

Economic sustainability: To maintain a sound economic base, a local government must provide reliable public services, create an environment conducive to businesses, and take other steps to become and remain competitive in the global marketplace.

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Financial sustainability: To remain financially viable, it must establish and maintain professionally recognized, transparent budgeting and financial management practices and systems.

Social sustainability: To provide a stable environment for citizens, it must ensure public safety, offer an environment that encourages job creation, engage the community in local decision making, and provide amenities that enhance the quality of life.

Environmental sustainability: And in achieving these objectives, a local government must safeguard its water supply, open space, and other physical assets by preparing for and mitigating natural disasters and by employing environmentally responsible methods for energy generation, waste reduction and disposal, and other services.

ICMA International fosters sustainable communities worldwide by introducing sound management practices that enable local governments to work toward these objectives. Together with diverse stakeholders--localities, nongovernmental organizations, civil society, national ministries--ICMA spearheads the design and implementation of locally viable approaches that improve the quality of government services and the quality of life for citizens. They are approaches that can be sustained long after JCMA's involvement ends.

Unless otherwise noted, the projects described here have been funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and many use ICMA's City Links model, in which professionals from a U.S. local government are partnered with their counterparts in another country.

Economic Sustainability

To be economically sustainable, a community needs to ensure that people have a means to support themselves and their families and that the economic base is diverse enough to weather ups and downs in the larger economy. A significant key to economic sustainability is competitiveness, and providing an environment in which private sector jobs can be created or maintained at the local and regional levels is critical.

Virtually all of ICMA's international projects help cities strengthen professional management, improve service delivery, and take other steps that can provide an attractive environment for private-sector investment.

Here are specific examples of programs in which ICMA has fostered economic sustainability.

Economic Development in Bulgaria. ICMA supported the creation of more than 4,000 jobs in Bulgaria through a comprehensive local economic development (LED) program that helped municipalities establish new economic development offices, train new LED professional staff, create business visitation and expansion programs and effective marketing strategies, establish business incubators and industrial parks, and develop an LED certification process.

This CityLinks program was carried out with participation from the Foundation for Local Government Reform in Bulgaria and nine U. S. partners: the village of Johnstown, Ohio; the San Bernardino County (California) Economic Development Agency; and seven U. S. cities: Charlottesville, Virginia; Auburn, Alabama; Winchester, Virginia; Kettering, Ohio; West Carrollton, Ohio; Golden, Colorado; and West Bend, Wisconsin.

With their assistance, Bulgarian partner cities established a consortium to lead joint marketing efforts, including a website (www. …