Environmental ngos meet the sovereign state

environmental ngos meet the sovereign state

Province of Environmental NGOs (April ) . adequacy of the nation state in meeting the economic and security challenges of the new. NGOs.1 Bilateral aid agencies such as the United States Agency for International strengthen NGOs (Korten ) or to create an enabling policy environment . poverty and to meet human needs, especially when action to. Sovereign states will be highly reluctant to engage in the kind of cooperative .. eral claim that the activities of environmental NGOs and social movements .. treaty, they are part of an intergovernmental system that expects them to meet com-.

As a result, the Stockholm Declaration espouses mostly broad environmental policy goals and objectives rather than detailed normative positions. However, following Stockholm, global awareness of environmental issues increased dramatically, as did international environmental law-making proper. At the same time, the focus of international environmental activism progressively expanded beyond transboundary and global commons issues to media-specific and cross-sectoral regulation and the synthesizing of economic and development considerations in environmental decision-making.

By the time of the Rio Conference, therefore, the task for the international community became one of systematizing and restating existing normative expectations regarding the environment, as well as of boldly positing the legal and political underpinnings of sustainable development. Although the compromise text that emerged at Rio was not the lofty document originally envisaged, the Rio Declaration, which reaffirms and builds upon the Stockholm Declaration, has nevertheless proved to be a major environmental legal landmark.

The Issue of Sovereignty | Globalization

However, by Januarythe working group managed to produce a draft Declaration, albeit one the group deemed in need of further work. At Stockholm, at the request of China, a special working group reviewed the text anew.

It reduced the text to 21 principles and drew up four new ones. On 16 Junethe Conference adopted this document by acclamation and referred the text to the General Assembly.

This was true also of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and its allies which had boycotted the Conference in Stockholm. In resolution XXVIIfinally, the General Assembly clarified that none of its resolutions adopted at this session could affect Principles 21 and 22 of the Declaration bearing on the international responsibility of States in regard to the environment. The Working Group did settle instead on a format of a short declaration that would not connote a legally binding document.

The Role of NGOs in Global Governance

Still, negotiations on the text proved to be exceedingly difficult. Several weeks of the meeting were taken up by procedural maneuvering. In the end, a final text emerged only as a result of the forceful intervention of the chairman of the Preparatory Committee, Tommy Koh. General Observations The Stockholm Declaration consists of a preamble featuring seven introductory proclamations and 26 principles; the Rio Declaration features a preamble and 27 principles.

As diplomatic conference declarations, both instruments are formally not binding. However, both declarations include provisions which at the time of their adoption were either understood to already reflect customary international law or expected to shape future normative expectations. Moreover, the Rio Declaration, by expressly reaffirming and building upon the Stockholm Declaration, reinforces the normative significance of those concepts common to both instruments.

Both declarations evince a strongly human-centric approach. However, at the conference, various proposals for a direct and thus unambiguous reference to an environmental human right were rejected.

Since then, the idea of a generic human right to an adequate or healthy environment, while taking root in some regional human rights systems, has failed to garner general international support, let alone become enshrined in any global human rights treaty. However, sustainable development is also a strong undercurrent in the Stockholm Declaration, even though the WCED was not to coin the concept until several years after Stockholm.

For example, Principles acknowledge the need for restraint on natural resource use, consistent with the carrying capacity of the earth, for the benefit of present and future generations. The Rio Declaration expands on the sustainable development theme and significantly advances the concept by, as discussed below, laying down a host of relevant substantive and procedural environmental legal markers. Nevertheless, to this day the actual operationalization of the concept has remained a challenge.

The Prevention of Environmental Harm Probably the most significant provision common to the two declarations relates to the prevention of environmental harm. While at Stockholm some countries still questioned the customary legal nature of the obligation concerned, today there is no doubt that this obligation is part of general international law. Thus in its Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons first, and again more recently in the Case concerning Pulp Mills on the River Uruguay, the International Court of Justice expressly endorsed the obligation as a rule of international customary law.

The Right to Development in an Environmental Context Both at Stockholm and at Rio, characterization of the relationship between environment and development was one of the most sensitive challenges facing the respective conference. Initial ecology-oriented drafts circulated by western industrialized countries failed to get traction as developing countries successfully reinserted a developmental perspective in the final versions of the two declarations.

environmental ngos meet the sovereign state

Some governments may have joined the consensus merely to avoid the embarrassment of isolation. In these situations, NGOs switch from being lobbyists on policymaking to being monitors.

Environmental NGO wants government to implement forest act

Here their political position is unassailable, because NGOs are simply demanding that governments implement the policies that they have already officially endorsed. NGOs with high status and high expertise can assist the secretariats in the production of these reports, produce parallel reports or generate media attention and coverage of the reports.

These often require governments to prepare their own reports on progress made, and they can at times generate media interest, with journalists seeking NGO assistance in writing their stories.

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The third and strongest mechanism occurs when the U. These meet annually with the sole purpose of reviewing the implementation record of each government over a regular reporting cycle. Again, NGOs are built into the review process and can hold governments to account, both in the committee work and in the media. There is a wide spectrum in the extent to which NGOs exercise influence.

On environmental issues and women's issues, NGOs and governments collaborate comfortably, with NGOs enjoying full legitimacy as part of the political system.

However, in some issue areas, such as disarmament, NGOs are sometimes kept at the margins. That said, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Cluster Munition Coalition were the prime movers in achieving the drafting and ratification of the treaties on those two issues.

In contrast, on human rights issues, NGOs have had to fight every step of the way. InNGOs successfully lobbied to have the U. Charter, include the promotion of human rights. However, untilthe principles of sovereignty and noninterference in domestic affairs were rigorously maintained at the U.

The first breakthrough came in Maywhen the " procedure" was established to determine whether complaints revealed "a consistent pattern of gross and reliably attested violations. Inthe "sovereignty barrier" was shattered when Amnesty International's decade-long campaign against torture resulted in the agreement for a Convention against Torture.

Those who ratified the convention gained the right to put on trial and imprison torturers, regardless of which country they were from and where the torture had occurred, so long as their own citizens were the victims. Inthe statute for the International Criminal Court was agreed upon, and inthe necessary 60 ratifications were achieved for the court to be established.

At the ICC, again, sovereignty is subordinated to the international community's overriding interest in prosecuting those who commit war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity when their own government proves unwilling or unable to do so. The efforts to guarantee that the court was established, led by the NGO Coalition for the ICC, overcame opposition first from the Clinton administration, which attempted to prevent the creation of a strong, independent court; and subsequently from the Bush administration, which mounted a determined and sustained campaign to prevent ratifications.

environmental ngos meet the sovereign state

Simply put, were it not for NGOs, there would be no international law of human rights and no U. A more sophisticated institutional expression of this aspiration takes the form of calls for a "People's Assembly" to be created alongside the U. However, in the foreseeable future, it will be impossible to hold elections for a global parliamentary assembly, and the alternative of an assembly of NGOs would not extend democracy to global governance.

Many NGOs are very small and represent very few people, while many highly respected NGOs do not have any mechanisms for internal democracy. For example, neither Greenpeace nor Oxfam has any formal membership, and their supporters have no direct voice in the organizations' policies. Faith-based NGOs base their claims of legitimacy on their moral authority and make no claim to democratic authority.

Scientific, technical and professional NGOs are restricted to people with the relevant qualifications. They represent an elite voice offering expertise, rather than a democratic voice.

The Role of Human Rights NGO's: Human Rights Defenders or State Sovereignty Destroyers?

Other NGOs, such as Amnesty International and the trade unions, have millions of members and democratic assemblies, but they too are unrepresentative of the population as a whole.

Whatever their size, each NGO still represents a self-selecting minority. No collection of NGOs would provide a representative policymaking or advisory body. To give a small number of NGOs a decision-making role would be elitist and hence anti-democratic.

To give a large number of NGOs a role would require organizing them into wider constituencies, with a spokesperson for the group. This does occur, especially in global environment politics, where NGOs are organized into nine "Major Groups" for stakeholder dialogues.

But even there, the outcome underscores the difficulty of achieving a representative balance. The groupings include women, children and youth, indigenous people, local authorities, business and industry, the scientific and technological community, trade unions and farmers. It is a strange and illogical list -- including the young but not the elderly, for example, and unions but not professional associations -- and the arrangement as a whole is a variant on the profoundly anti-democratic doctrine of corporatism.

It only avoids being highly authoritarian because the groups are self-organizing and because, bizarrely, the ninth Major Group of NGOs is called "nongovernmental organizations" themselves, a residual category that allows for the inclusion of any NGO that is not in one of the other eight groups. Just as misguided as the naive idealism regarding NGOs is the hostility toward them found among a minority of delegates to the U.

Some delegates from democracies say NGOs have little legitimacy when compared to governments acting as the voice of their voters. Other delegates from authoritarian regimes say diplomacy is the prerogative of sovereign states and that NGOs have no legitimate role to play in global policymaking. Some ultra-nationalist regimes label NGOs as the agents of a Northern neo-imperialism or assert that free association and free expression are not in accord with so-called "Asian values. A few represent no more than themselves, but the majority of them speak for a significant constituency.

Democratic governments may have been elected, but they should still be accountable on a daily basis in global affairs, as they are in domestic affairs. And in an interdependent world, where global diplomacy deals with all aspects of economics, health, education, social policy and human rights, the doctrine of absolute sovereignty does not accord with the reality of political practice. The accusation that NGOs are Northern is particularly peculiar. It is mainly based on the fact that most global NGOs have their headquarters in Europe.

But many organizations based in London, Brussels, Paris or Geneva could just as easily be called Southern, because the majority of their members are from developing countries.

environmental ngos meet the sovereign state

The only difference is that Southern NGOs are less likely to have the resources to act independently at the global level. As a result, they are more likely to act through their membership of an international NGO or a transnational network.

To their surprise, they were confronted with a vigorous forum of local Asian NGOs, who argued strongly for universal values. They do not possess democratic legitimacy in decision-making, as it is not their role to be representatives for anybody except themselves.

But accepting these limitations can still leave them with a major role to play in enhancing democracy in global governance.

  • more on this story
  • By Peter Willets
  • The Role of Human Rights NGO's: Human Rights Defenders or State Sovereignty Destroyers?

When we talk of democracy, we often over-emphasize the criteria of free elections and policy that is in accord with the wishes of the majority.

However, there are two other essential features to democracy. Between elections, the system must be transparent, with the free flow of information about the policymaking process.

In addition, there must be a free political debate.