Involving civil society in environmental issues

Civil society plays a critically important role in addressing environmental issues. The role, capabilities and involvement of civil society organizations has seen a substantial increase over recent years, which highlights the need for national governments and for UNEP and international organizations to enhance the engagement of these organizations in their work on environmental matters.

Commitment and genuine involvement of civil society is a key to the effective environmental governance needed to meet major environmental challenges of the twenty-first century.

Civil society has found new and effective modes of expression of popular sentiments and concerns. It provides a powerful agent for promoting shared environmental purpose and values. Civil society plays an important role in bringing emerging environmental issues to the attention of policy makers, raising public awareness, promoting innovative ideas and approaches, and promoting transparency as well as non-corrupt activities in environmental decision-making.

Civil society plays a major role in raising environmental awareness around the globe. In many cases women have taken the lead. Thirty years ago, these groups put the environment on the political agenda, both nationally and internationally. They continue to do as evidenced by the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle. The fact that civil society is increasingly networked through the Internet facilitates the coordination of their views and expectations towards national, regional, and global environmental policies. They have become a serious partner in negotiations of multilateral environmental agreements.

Civil society nurtures values, norms and codes of conduct for behaviour of individuals, groups and organizations in conformity with its cultural, religious and other heritages. In contrast to the regulatory frameworks developed by the government, civil society is the source of voluntary actions. Civil society holds an important role and responsibility to complement the actions of the government to address political, social and economic issues, including those related to the environment.

Civil society groups and organizations have contributed significantly to the global environmental agenda and the development of global environmental conventions. The reflection of their wide range of interests in economic and social issues onto the relevant intergovernmental fora has provided important momentum of practical approaches to sustainable development.

1. The role of civil society at all levels should be strengthened through freedom of access to environmental information to all, broad participation in environmental decision-making, as well as access to justice on environmental issues. Governments should promote conditions to facilitate the ability of all parts of society to have a voice and to play an active role in creating a sustainable future.
Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies