ONE WORLD – Our Responsibility Sustainability at the Municipal Level


With the ‘Charter for the Future: ONE WORLD – Our Responsibility’ the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has launched a dialogue process.

By Karl-Heinz Schäfer, Mayor of Pohlheim, President of the German Section of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions

With the ‘Charter for the Future: ONE WORLD – Our Responsibility’ the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has launched a dialogue process. The envisaged outcome of this process is a partnership between the state, civil society, the scientific community, the business community, regions and municipalities. Together, these actors will develop a joint contribution to the European Year for Development 2015 that will be fed into the international agenda for the post-2015 process. 2015 marks the end of the existing Millennium Development Goals agenda and the beginning of a new agenda, to which we as municipalities would like to make a contribution. Numerous member municipalities of the German Section of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), also member of United Cities of Local Governments (UCLG), are actively involved in One World affairs. They are supporting decentralisation processes, participating in the establishment of autonomous local governments, and sharing with their colleagues from the South the lessons they have learned with municipal services. Development cooperation aims not only to bring about changes in the South; to achieve a more just world, changes in the North are also absolutely essential.

The BMZ has defined five thematic areas of sustainability: the environmental dimension, the economic dimension, the social dimension, the cultural dimension and ‘global partnerships’. There is now a consensus that sustainability will not work unless we involve citizens and municipalities. This is why we have interpreted the thematic areas from a municipal perspective, and added a key element of sustainability, namely ‘sustainable urban development’. This Municipal Charter for the Future is part of a joint BMZ Charter for the Future. All actors from civil society, the business community, the scientific community and municipalities will be working together on the ‘Charter for the Future: ONE WORLD – Our Responsibility’ and implementing it in partnership from 2015 onward. 

This ‘Municipal Charter for the Future’ outlines the importance of these themes for the municipal level, as well as municipal tasks that are being performed in the various areas of sustainability. Although the examples mentioned involve German municipalities, the tasks in question concern municipalities around the world. It goes without saying that the responsibilities of municipalities, as well as their structures and financial resources, vary around the world. What municipalities worldwide have in common are the efforts they make to gain the leeway and resources that will enable them to act in the interests of their citizens and the citizens of our One World. 

The ‘think global, act local’ principle formulated at the Earth Summit in Rio in1992 has lost none of its significance over the last 20 years. Numerous global problems, ranging from refugee movements to social injustice to environmental destruction, have yet to be solved, and new problems have since arisen. Municipalities are not only part of the problem, but also – to the extent that they act sustainably – a key part of the solution. They are the places where decisions affecting future global sustainability will be taken and implemented, and where citizens will feel the impacts of these decisions directly.

We would like to contribute these experiences to the ‘Charter for the Future: ONE WORLD – Our Responsibility’  initiative, and we look forward to working with our partners to build a common and just future.