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THE POWER OF LOCAL ACTION: Learning from Communities on the Frontline of Sustainable Development

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Community-based action, initiated and carried out by local organizations, has an impressive record of successfully delivering development at the local level. This local success is one of the little-told stories of the search for sustain- able development over the last two decades.

In the years since the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, UNDP has engaged with many thousands of communities worldwide to support local development in a variety of ways, from development of pro-poor infrastructure, to expanding local government capacity, to helping communities prepare for and recover from natural disasters. A substantial portion of UNDP’s local work has involved supporting rural communities in their efforts to sustainably manage local ecosystems in a way that increases local incomes, empowers local residents, and maintains and enhances the environmental services these ecosystems render. In other words, this work has directly dealt with the three strands of sustainable development as they interact at the community level.

This booklet looks broadly across this 20-year history of experience with local ecosystem-based initiatives to present key lessons and insights on how rural communities have successfully met the challenge of sustainable local development. What are the key elements of their success? How can we continue to encourage and scale up successful local action in the future? And can this local-level experience help us address the global development challenges of the next 20 years?

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