International Municipalism

Local and regional governments are the levels of government that are closest to people where democracy takes place most effectively and directly. Considering that more than half of the world’s population lives in cities with a constant increasing ratio, it is inevitable that the importance of local and regional governments will increase. On the other hand, the complicated world and the increasing population make the work of local and regional governments more difficult day by day.

At this point, it is seen that the most important factor that increases the power of local and regional governments is international networks. Certainly, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), which has an experience of more than a century, reaching billions of people in seven continents of the world and circulating in the capillaries of the world, is at the forefront of these networks. Centering decentralized cooperation, UCLG is also the pioneer and voice of the international municipal movement.

The basic concepts, on which the International Municipal Movement is based, are internationalism, local governance and social movement. Although the origin of the first of these concepts (internationalism) dates back to Ancient Greece, its current meaning is to perceive all humanity as one, without any discrimination, to value the dignity, equality and freedom of each individual, and to seek and work for the common benefit of humanity in a spirit of solidarity. Local and regional governments, as the second component of the international municipal movement, is the administrative unit that aims to closely evaluate the needs of the local community, directly listen to their wishes and meet their expectations in the most efficient way. The main characteristics of the social movement is its ability to trigger a change that progresses from the bottom up.

The first milestone in the history of the International Municipal Movement was the establishment of the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA)—then the Union Internationale des Villes (UIV)—in 1913. Established even before the League of Nations (1920), the predecessor of the United Nations (1945), the main purpose of this network was to promote intersocietal cooperation. Unfortunately, this attempt was interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War and the Second World War.  Despite all the difficulties, it has been able to survive and work for the common good of humanity through cities.