The guidelines outline the main principles underlying the democratic, constitutional/legal and administrative aspects of local governance and decentralization. At the same time they must be applied to specific conditions of State form (federal, regionalized or unitary), with different State traditions (for example, Napoleonic, Germanic or Anglo-Saxon, as well as traditions found in Asia, or in the Arab world).

For that reason they do not provide a uniform and rigid blueprint applicable to all Member States of the United Nations. They may be subject to national adaptations. Their main objective, however, is to support and guide legislative reform where necessary and appropriate.