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 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.