Governing Council of the United NationsEnvironment Programme
Distr.GENERALUNEP/GC.22/INF/1321 November 2002ENGLISH ONLY
Twenty-second session of the Governing Council/
Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Nairobi, 3-7 February 2003
Items 4 (c) and (d) of the provisional agenda*
Coordination and cooperation within and outside
the United Nations, including non-governmental organizations
The role of civil society
ENHANCING CIVIL SOCIETY ENGAGEMENT IN THE WORK OF THE UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENT
PROGRAMME: STRATEGY PAPER
Note by the Executive Director
The present document contains a revised strategy paper on enhancing civil
society engagement in the work of the United Nations Environment Programme, which has
been prepared in pursuance of Governing Council decision SS.VII/5 of 15 February 2002.
The strategy paper has been reproduced without formal editing.
Annex I: Criteria for NGO accreditation as observers to the Governing Council
of UNEP and its subsidiary bodies
Introduction and background
In decision SS.VII/5 of the seventh special session of the Governing Council/Global
Ministerial Environment Forum (GC/GMEF) of the United Nations Environment Programme
(UNEP), the Executive Director was requested “to further develop, and review and revise
as necessary the strategy for engaging civil society in the programme of activities of
the United Nations Environment Programme, in consultation with Governments and civil
society. The strategy should provide clear direction to the secretariat to ensure that
all programmes take into account opportunities for multi-stakeholder participation in
design, implementation, monitoring of activities, and dissemination of outputs.”
This decision was a reflection of the keen interest expressed by member states to see the
organization playing a stronger role in catalysing effective action to protect the
environment through enhanced collaboration with the multitude of civil society actors who
share the same purpose around the world. In accordance with this request, the Executive
Director has developed the following strategy to enhance UNEP’s engagement with civil
society, including the private sector, in its programmes and activities.
The strategy proposed in this paper has been derived from consultations and communication
over the past year and a half with many representatives of civil society constituencies,
as well as with UNEP programmes, the Governing Council and the Committee of Permanent
Representatives (CPR). The strategy takes into account the outcomes of the WSSD, as well
as the Report of the United Nations Secretary-General “Strengthening of the United
Nations: an agenda for further change” (Doc. A/57/387 of 9 September 2002), in particular
its recommendations on engaging civil society and the private sector.
a) Background on UNEP’s historical engagement with civil society, private sector
and other major groups
UNEP owes much to civil society for its establishment. The 1972 Stockholm Conference on
the Human Environment and the accompanying NGO Forum marked a breakthrough in the way
major groups related to and sought to influence intergovernmental decision making
processes. The Stockholm Declaration recognised the important role of citizens,
communities, enterprises and institutions at every level, in achieving its environmental
goal. Thus UNEP, at its creation, was encouraged to work together with civil society.
From its inception, UNEP promoted a policy to invite wide NGO input and collaboration. An
NGO Section was set up in 1973. This office was charged with coordinating UNEP’s
programmatic activities with parallel efforts of NGOs. In 1974, an independent coalition
of environmental NGOs was established as the Environment Liaison Centre International to
connect groups around the world with the work of UNEP. IUCN and WWF were among the
pioneer organizations involved and are supporting UNEP since the seventies, especially in
the field of biological diversity. Their work, in partnership with governments and UN
agencies, led to the release of the World Conservation Strategy in 1980.
The 1980s saw UNEP forging new links with a wide variety of major groups. These
included: women’s groups (1985 World Conference on Women in Nairobi); religious groups
(1984 launching of “UNEP Environmental Sabbath” initiative); business and industry
(1984 “World Industry Conference on Environmental Management”); children and youth
(Global Youth Forums and a network of youth advisors for various regions). In 1985, a
strategy to set up UNEP national committees began. The UN Conference on Environment and
Development (UNCED) in 1992 is often recognized as the point at which civil society truly
became a full player in the global decision-making arena. Civil society had, by then,
built up its capacity and legitimacy and had grown to become a prominent voice in policy
discussions. Agenda 21, Chapter 28, calls on UNEP to raise “general awareness and action
in the area of environmental protection through collaboration with the general public,
non-governmental entities and intergovernmental institutions.”
In 1995, the Governing Council called upon UNEP to develop a framework for working more
closely with NGOs. Consequently, UNEP agreed to support NGO and Major Group input into
project design, implementation and evaluation, policy development as well as
environmental governance. These decisions were formalised in UNEP’s Manual on Project
Formulation, Approval, Monitoring and Evaluation.
b) Overview and definitions
Civil society is a natural ally of UNEP – an ally in working with peoples, governments,
and non-state organizations. The role of civil society organizations (CSOs) in the
design, implementation and monitoring of a range of projects and programmes is widely
recognised. Over the past 30 years, UNEP has established a strong linkage with civil
society. Through its support to civil society participation in preparations for UNCED,
and during the negotiations for the “Rio Conventions”, as well as by recognition of the
importance of partnerships with civil society organizations in the Nairobi and Malmö
Declarations, these linkages have been clearly established.
Engaging stakeholders as partners is important for the following reasons:
q External stakeholders have many different perspectives to offer in order to
foster long-term, broad-based support for UNEP’s work.
q Engaging a wide range of stakeholders in addressing environmental issues
expands the reach and impact of strategies far beyond the capability of UNEP’s own
limited financial and human resources.
q Active involvement of stakeholders at the national level, where many
environmental problems need to be addressed, and where many of UNEP’s programme partners
are located, complements UNEP’s presence at the regional and global levels.
For the purpose of this strategy, civil society encompasses major groups, that is
farmers, women, the scientific and technological community, children and youth,
indigenous peoples and their communities, workers and trade unions, business and
industry, non-governmental organizations as well as local authorities. The strategy
focuses on engagement with the organizations established by each of these major groups in
so far as they are involved in public interest activities. The majority of these
organizations are referred to as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for the purpose of
defining the primary operational target group for the strategy.
It should also be noted that the primary target of most of the strategy is organizations
and their networks working at the national, regional and international level. While
groups working at a local level are vital players in the effort for sustainable
development, UNEP’s institutional structure makes it operationally difficult to reach
them directly. Rather, they will be reached through strengthened engagement with civil
society networks and other organizations that have the capacity and the mandate to do so.
Approach to the private sector
Special note must be taken of the approach taken to the private sector in this strategy.
While the Governing Council has requested the Secretariat to include the private sector
in consideration of ways to enhance engagement with civil society, there have been a
number of limitations in fulfilling this prescription. These include:
§ Under current ECOSOC and UNEP procedures, private or commercial entities can
only be accredited to UN bodies through their non-profit associations.
§ The approach to working with the private sector is generally and fundamentally
different to most approaches to working with NGOs. For example, in working with the
private sector the aim is normally to influence change in their own policies and
practices, while working with NGOs most often entails strengthening their effectiveness
in influencing change in others. Moreover, according to the “Agenda for further change”
of the UN Secretary-General a “number of civil society actors – parliamentarians and
private sector groups, to name but two – do not consider themselves to be non-
governmental organizations, and the modalities for their participation are not very
§ UNEP already has in place a specific programme for working with the private
sector through the Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE), whereas
resources committed to working with NGOs have historically been very limited; this
implies that the weight of a strategy for enhancing engagement with civil society
including the private sector must fall on the side of strengthening the role of NGOs
rather than the latter.
§ There are major ideological differences between most NGOs and private sector
organizations which inhibit the formulation and operationalising of strategies requiring
them to work jointly or that are based on an assumption of consensus on specific issues.
In light of these limitations, the strategy addresses enhancing engagement with the
private sector in two ways: through strengthening current approaches to the private
sector (primarily through the activities of DTIE), and through strengthening mediation
between the private sector and other civil society organizations, or NGOs. The latter
strategies are outlined more specifically under Strategy Pillar II.
A final consideration of note is the above-mentioned report of the UN Secretary-General.
This report observes that, “the system that has evolved over several years for
facilitating the interaction between the UN and civil society actors is showing signs of
strain,” [para.139] and announces the establishment of “a panel of eminent persons to
review the relationship … and offer practical recommendations for improved modalities of
interaction.”[action 19] The outcome of these deliberations will no doubt have
implications for the United Nations’ system including UNEP’s policies and modalities for
engagement with civil society. Considering this new development it will be important to
bear in mind that a review of the strategies presented in this paper may be necessary
once the panel’s findings are made public.
c) Overview of current practice
At the operational level, there are many examples of successful engagement with civil
society by UNEP’s divisional programmes. Business and industry engage with UNEP at all
levels and with all divisions. These include:
§ Expanding and enhancing regular communication and consultation with CSOs
through the establishment in 1999 of the Civil Society and NGOs Unit in the Division of
Policy Development and Law (DPDL);
§ Promoting mechanisms for engagement with NGOs in information-sharing and
assessment activities, such as with the Global Environmental Outlook, UNEP.Net and
§ Identifying and collaborating with NGOs in the design and implementation of GEF
medium sized projects, including projects with indigenous peoples and on biological
§ Fostering strong NGO constituencies by convention secretariats and regional and
§ The Environmental Law Branch of UNEP has established good working relationships
with CSOs through the support of the regional offices, and CSOs are playing an important
role in developing national and international legal instruments;
§ Compiling NGOs best practices and monitoring NGO pilot projects by the Division
of Environment Implementation;
§ Implementing special initiatives jointly with civil society actors, such as the
Coral Reef Initiative;
§ The Communication and Public Information Division implements several projects
in partnership with civil society and private sector groups, and has spearheaded UNEP’s
outreach to youth organizations. UNEP also undertakes extensive work with educational
organizations and academic institutions on environmental education.
UNEP has engaged with industry and business associations to promote, for example, cleaner
production, management of industrial pollution, and voluntary environmental initiatives.
A major aspect of this role has been to establish partnerships with the private sector,
to launch corresponding outreach activities, to disseminate information and to implement
activities in the regions. UNEP also collects information regarding the relevant needs
of the countries and private sector groups.
Representatives of business and industry associations from various sectors and regions
participate in the annual consultative meeting of UNEP with industry and trade
associations, where they have the opportunity to advise UNEP/Division of Technology,
Industry and Economics on the execution of its work programme.
Key examples of voluntary initiatives promoted by UNEP, which benefited from significant
input by NGOs and other stakeholders, include:
§ The Financial Institutions Initiative;
§ The Insurance Industry Initiative;
§ The Tour Operators Initiative for Sustainable Tourism Development;
§ A Telecommunications Initiative;
§ The Global Reporting Initiative;
§ The Global Compact Initiative of the UN Secretary-General;
§ The Advertising Initiative.
d) Recent developments in enhancing engagement with civil society
In the spirit of the Nairobi and Malmö Declarations, the Governing Council of UNEP, in
early 2001, called on the Executive Director “to further the consultative process,
including at the regional level, with Governments, the civil society, private sector and
other major groups on ways and means to enhance the active engagement and participation
of civil society in the work of the United Nations Environment Programme”.
Subsequently, the seventh special session of the GC/GMEF, in February 2002, requested the
Executive Director, inter alia, “to further develop, and review and revise as necessary
the strategy for engaging civil society in the programme of activities of the United
Nations Environment Programme,” and “to consider the best way to include the views of
civil society in the proceedings of the Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment
As a result of these decisions, the past years have witnessed an acceleration of
consultations and collaborative thinking on how UNEP should be working with civil society
and the private sector in order to enhance commitment and effectiveness in addressing the
environmental and sustainable development challenges of the 21st century. Global and
regional meetings have been convened with civil society representatives to gather their
views on engagement with UNEP. Electronic consultations have also been conducted. In
this endeavour, it is clear that the way forward is to build stronger bonds and to
promote respect for cultural diversity among the myriad of constituencies and major
groups engaged with UNEP.
2. Strategic framework for enhancing engagement
It is clear from the above that UNEP already engages with civil society in a wide variety
of ways and at numerous levels. So the issue is not so much how to increase engagement,
but how to make it more effective in supporting UNEP’s mandate and objectives. This is
necessary in order to respond to the evolving context of international governance as it
relates to the formulation and implementation of environmental and sustainable
The objectives of this strategy can therefore be stated as follows:
§ For UNEP: To seek greater collaboration with civil society in the fulfilment of
its mandate to respond to global environmental concerns.
§ For civil society: To effectively network with other groups, build internal
capacity through raising awareness of UNEP’s activities at national, regional and
There are two principal focuses for engagement with civil society. One concentration
point is at the level of governance and policy formulation, elaborated in Chapter 4,
Strategy Pillar II. A second pillar is at the level of programme operations, discussed
under Strategy Pillar III in Chapter 5.
As these two focuses are quite distinct, they are treated as two of three pillars in the
new UNEP strategy for engaging civil society. What they have in common is a need for an
institutional environment with good information and communication mechanisms in order to
ensure qualitative exchange between UNEP and its partners at both the policy and the
programmatic levels. This institutional environment forms the third pillar, although it
will be addressed first, in Chapter 3, since it underpins the strategies for addressing
the other two.
The strategy will emphasize an incremental approach, building on current mechanisms and
practices, and envisioning activities and innovations to strengthen civil society
engagement over three to four years, after which the strategy should be reviewed. The
fact that it would be unrealistic to propose new activities that will require
mobilization of substantial financial resources that patently are not available, argues
for such an approach. In addition, any strategy that aims to enhance the quality of
inter-institutional relationships must take into account that attitudes towards and
practices of “working together” cannot be made to change overnight.
This does not mean that UNEP will in any way delay implementation of the strategy. On
the contrary, demands for a stronger role in engaging civil society in addressing the
global environmental agenda, particularly in the follow-up to the World Summit on
Sustainable Development (WSSD), require that the organization move forward expediently in
this area. To this end, the Secretariat will commence implementation of the strategy
before the end of 2002, concentrating on components that will provide the foundation for
other changes. These will include strengthening of information/communication systems,
developing regional strategies for enhanced engagement, and preparing for a Global Civil
Society Forum in conjunction with the 22nd session of the Governing Council in February
3. Strategy Pillar I: Strengthening institutional relations through information
management and a decentralised approach
In decision SS.VII/5, the GC/GMEF further requested “the Executive Director to review
the practices of civil society engagement in other United Nations agencies, as well as
precise modalities of civil society engagement, including involvement of the private
sector in the work of the United Nations Environment Programme to achieve constructive
partnership with the business community. This involvement should be further discussed,
developed, and formulated in consultation with the representatives of civil society and
under the guidance of the Committee of Permanent Representatives.”
Frequent concerns expressed in consultations relate to information management about and
for NGOs. Concerns include: lack of information about who is doing what and with which
NGOs; how to find appropriate NGOs to engage with; questions of the legitimacy of
organizations as representatives at international forums; how NGOs can interact with one
another to have more effective input to UNEP, etc. There are many ways that NGOs
interact with UNEP, and all divisions have some level of engagement with civil society,
but coordination has been weak. Until 1999, there was no programme dedicated solely to
civil society matters – although matters have been somewhat different with respect to
the private sector, where the Division of Technology, Industry and Economics is dedicated
to deal with this sector. Apart from the outreach programme run under the former
Information and Public Affairs Branch, the rest of the major groups have not had a
comparable and consistent access. Another inhibiting factor has been the lack of a
national level presence for UNEP, where much civil society activity takes place.
The first pillar of the strategy to strengthen engagement of civil society must therefore
address such issues of institutional and information-communication support mechanisms.
Special focus will be given in this area to addressing the needs of NGOs from developing
b) Information management: virtual communication
Databases and other information management mechanisms
A revamped civil society database is under development by the CS and NGOs Unit, which
will oversee its long-term maintenance in collaboration with the Division of Early
Warning and Assessment (DEWA). It will be linked to the Environmental Directory. The CS
focal point in each regional office will ensure the accuracy and regular updating of the
database for their respective region. The database will hold qualitative data on UNEP’s
engagement history with civil society, areas of expertise and basic contact information.
It will also provide a mechanism for managing information to be used for accreditation
and programme partnership identification purposes.
Better quality information management systems will support the strengthening of
accreditation procedures. By viewing accreditation and assessment procedures as a
facility in the engagement process beyond mere participation in governance activities, it
takes on a much broader role as a gateway to engagement. Well-formulated assessment
criteria can assist UNEP to identify NGOs with capacity and areas of technical expertise
that can be valuable for programme implementation.
UNEP will improve its support to business and industry in the areas of capacity building
and technology through its databases such as:
– MaESTro information system of UNEP IETC, providing a database on
environmentally sound technology products and contacts.
– Sustainable Alternatives Network (SANet), and web portal system to disseminate
information and advance a network of partnerships to replicate win-win solutions in the
field of technology transfer.
– Green procurement database, providing environmental product criteria for
Internet and other information / communication media
UNEP.Net can be a prototype for modalities to guarantee independent voice and
participation by civil society, as well as an opportunity for capacity-building and
fostering national and regional networking. UNEP.Net is the global environmental
information portal being developed by UNEP in cooperation with a diverse range of partner
institutions world-wide, and NGOs have a key role to play in this implementation process.
UNEP.Net will provide national NGOs with a practical mechanism to promote their
activities and joint cooperation with UNEP, making use of a NGO section of the country
profile, which can evolve into a comprehensive NGO bulletin board. This will facilitate
two-way information exchange between UNEP and NGOs at the national level as recommended
in the UN Secretary-General’s Task Force on Environment and Human Settlements.
Dynamic civil society activities over the past decade have been built on internet-based
communication systems. List-serves, on-line conferences, and other such mechanisms have
supported information sharing and technical advice, consensus-building around specific
issues, early warning of emerging environmental threats, joint advocacy for policy
change, etc. In fact, there is so much activity of this nature that it is often
difficult to find the information channels most relevant to an organization’s needs. It
should be noted, however, that the predominant users of these technologies are in
developed countries. An important role that can be played by UNEP.net is to provide a
service to link NGOs at the local and national level with related internet-based
activity. This will focus especially on increasing the participation in such activity by
NGOs from developing countries and countries with economies in transition.
Mechanisms need to be put in place for strengthening communication with UNEP’s civil
society constituencies. When it is fully operational, UNEP.Net and the civil society
database will provide the primary contact base for such communication. The Civil Society
and NGOs Unit will be responsible for providing regular communication to this contact
base on matters of interest to the constituency. There are numerous communication tools
that can be utilised to strengthen the engagement of civil society, and the Civil Society
and NGOs Unit in consultation with the interdivisional civil society task group (see
below) will identify tools to fulfil its outreach potential. A guided format for CSOs to
respond and make suggestions on specific UNEP initiatives will be developed.
The communication strategy will aim to ensure that UNEP’s outreach to civil society
becomes more than simply an information dissemination process, but rather a mechanism of
engagement through which organizations interact in dialogue with UNEP and with each
other, share information and identify emerging issues. UNEP will come to act as a helpful
and definitive authority on a select number of issues of greatest interest for civil
society, and to actively package relevant information to make it more useful for civil
With respect to developing countries, we recognise that information communication
technology can not reach all CSOs. Therefore strengthening the regional offices in
developing countries on civil society issues and providing hard copies of reports on
UNEP’s activities is one of the highest priorities. Additionally, Regional Offices could
establish and support Radio and TV communication and transmissions through programmes and
projects and foster cooperation among Radio and TV broadcasters in developing countries
through programme exchange and joint Radio an TV productions.
With specific reference to business and industry, UNEP will continue to prepare and
update technical publications and electronic information systems on cleaner and safer
production, environmental technologies and sustainable consumption. This will be done
– sector specific websites related to its voluntary initiatives with industry
sectors and its work on chemicals, ozone, energy and trade;
– improved electronic information systems for information exchange and promoting
dialogues on key issues and policies, including its: Mineral Resources Forum, Offshore
Oil and Gas Environment Forum, and Sustainable Agri-food Production and Consumption Forum.
– Strengthening SC.net, a monthly web newsletter on sustainable consumption and
www.youthxchange.net, an interactive website for youth worldwide to promote sustainable
c) Decentralized approach: physical communication
Role of regional and outposted offices
Regional and outposted offices will be the “front line” in implementation of the civil
society engagement strategy. Regional Offices need to be proactive in strengthening and
working with national and regional NGO networks, and these should have a link with global
forums. These regional processes should focus on specific issues, and UNEP will
concentrate on networks to tap information and catalyse discussion groups. Funding
sources will need to be found to support the Regional Offices in this activity,
particularly for identifying appropriate NGO partners and convening periodic
consultations with them in order to foster regional networking structures. Regional
Offices, as the primary contact point with NGOs, will play a lead role in fostering
programmatic engagement. Regional Offices will help delivering UNEP outreach to business
and industry, and will have primary responsibility for database management.
Every UNEP division – as well as regional and out-posted offices – will designate a
focal point for CSO issues. The Civil Society and NGOs Unit in isolation cannot achieve
the mainstreaming of CSO engagement. Integration will require a focused effort by all
parts of UNEP. The Unit will therefore coordinate action with the different programmes to
identify CSO focal points, and establish a task group that will meet on a regular basis
to address common issues related to CSO engagement, advise the Unit, and support the
implementation and evaluation of the civil society engagement strategy goals.
The task group will examine possibilities for a more coordinated approach to working with
the various major groups. At present, groups such as women/gender, youth, NGOs and the
private sector are all dealt with by separate programme divisions, as are UNEP National
Committees, which cross over several major groups. This diversity of approaches calls
for a more systematic framework, for which the inter-divisional task group will be
naturally placed to address.
d) Accreditation procedures
The responsibility for action to protect and enhance the environment rests primarily with
governments, and international cooperative programmes in the field of the environment
must be undertaken with due respect for the sovereign rights of states and in conformity
with the Charter of the UN and principles of international law. However, it is also
understood that maximum cooperation and coordination is necessary to defend and improve
the environment for present and future generations. This calls for the acceptance of
responsibility by citizens, communities, enterprises and institutions at every level, all
sharing equitably in common efforts for the preservation and improvement of the
environment and to achieve sustainable development.
In response to the recognition that a new level of cooperation among states and key
sectors of society and people is needed in order to establish an equitable global
partnership, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 1996/31, in which the UN system
is called upon to take action, due to the changes in the non-governmental sector,
including the emergence of a large number of national and regional organizations.
Subsequently, decision SS.VII/5 adopted by the GC/GMEF at its seventh special session, on
enhancing civil society engagement in the work of UNEP, states that in order to
meaningfully consider the views of representatives of major groups and NGOs, clear
channels for providing governments with their views should be given, within established
rules and modalities of the UN system.
With the amendment of Rule 69 of the Rules of Procedure of the Governing Council
on “Observers of international non-governmental organizations”, accreditation procedures
will be in line with the evolved views such as incorporated in the above documents.
Enhanced involvement of civil society organizations will thus not only enhance
possibilities for their participation within UNEP, but will also create and improve
prospects for UNEP regarding implementation of its work programme, and will invigorate
and reinforce UNEP’s capacity-building efforts and its work towards engaging society as a
Current criteria for accreditation are attached in Annex I. The revised criteria for
accreditation will be based on UNGA Resolution 1996/31 on the consultative relationship
between the United Nations and non-governmental organizations. It is noted that the aims
and purposes of the civil society organization will have to be in conformity with the
spirit, purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. Further it
entails, inter alia, that documented proof of interest in the field of the environment
and proof of non-profit status and formal registration must be provided by applicant
organizations. Where an organization has already obtained consultative status with
ECOSOC, they will only be required to provide documentation of their interest in the
field of the environment. UNEP Secretariat will have the responsibility for processing
accreditation applications. If the application for accreditation has been assessed
positively by the Secretariat, the Governing Council shall adopt and, when necessary,
revise the list of organizations accredited to UNEP.
Regional Offices, being the primary contact point with NGOs, will be actively involved in
the accreditation process. They will undertake a preliminary assessment of all
accreditation applications from their region, in accordance with the revised Criteria for
Accreditation. CSOs may apply directly to the Civil Society and NGOs Unit at the UNEP
Secretariat, or alternatively, they may apply through a regional office or through their
national government. At the Regional Civil Society Fora, NGOs will decide among
themselves which organizations will represent them at the subsequent Global Civil Society
Forum, with a maximum of, for example, five organizations. Furthermore, Regional Offices
can also encourage NGOs that are operating within the field of UNEP’s mandate, both at
the policy and programme levels, to apply for accreditation.
4. Strategy Pillar II: Modalities of Civil Society input at policy level
In decision SS.VII/5, the GC/GMEF requested “the Executive Director to continue the
current practice of convening a civil society forum that is regionally balanced and
representative in conjunction with the meetings of the Governing Council/Global
Ministerial Environment Forum in close consultation with civil society”. It further
invited “the Executive Director to consider the best way to include the views of civil
society in the proceedings of the Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment
Several mechanisms are being instituted to implement Governing Council decisions on civil
a) Global Civil Society Forum in conjunction with the Governing Council
Decision SS.VII/5 has made the convening of a Global Civil Society Forum to coincide with
GC/GMEF meetings mandatory. The challenge now is to develop mechanisms that will enhance
the quality of input from these forums to the GC/GMEF, both in terms of the competence of
the participating NGOs as well of substance. Regional networking will be the main
strategy to support this endeavour. The Forum will be a multi-stakeholder body and will
meet prior to the GC/GMEF meetings. It will reflect on issues of major concern to UNEP
and the Governing Council, and might formulate recommendations on these matters. The
Forum will not have any decision-making role in UNEP. It is proposed that multi-
stakeholder “dialogue sessions” be organized at future GC/GMEF sessions, where
representatives of major groups participating in the Global Civil Society Forum will
engage with government delegations in discussions on the issues being addressed in the
GC/GMEF session. To ensure that the Global Civil Society Forum is able to address the
Governing Council in a meaningful way, the participants will be informed on the issues to
be discussed at the Governing Council meeting as early as possible.
In consideration of the need to ensure that such stakeholder contributions reflect a
balanced representation from all regions, including at local and national levels,
Regional Offices will play a key role in facilitating participation. To this end, the
strategy envisions increased support for the convening of sub-regional and regional multi-
stakeholder forums, on the model of the preparatory process of the World Summit on
Sustainable Development. These regional processes would nominate representatives to the
Global Civil Society Forum taking into account the topics that will be discussed with
the objective to consider and benefit from all views represented. The Civil Society &
NGOs Unit in collaboration with DRC will then assure that those regional selections
reflect equally the broadest views at the Global Civil Society Forum. Extra resources
will need to be allocated to ensure the participation of NGOs from developing countries
and countries with economies in transition. UNEP intends to support civil society
organizations in acquiring additional funding.
In order to identify relevant participants for the sub-regional and regional forums,
UNEP’s Regional Offices will work in consultation with national level umbrella groups
or networks of major groups, or with National Councils for Sustainable Development, UNEP
National Committees, or other appropriate civil society entities. Where such bodies do
not exist, governments can be requested to convene multi-stakeholder meetings that can
select representatives to regional meetings, as well as deliberate and provide
recommendations on substantive issues. In either case, an important part of the function
of Regional Offices in this process will aim to strengthen capacity of national bodies in
building consensus around environmental issues. The Civil Society and NGOs Unit will
work closely with the Regional Offices to design and implement this component of the
b) Civil Society Advisory Group to the Executive Director
A mechanism will be established, possibly as a standing committee, for providing ongoing
advice to the Executive Director. They will meet as required by the Executive Director,
but will form a nucleus of civil society partners who can provide qualitative input to
policy and programme strategy formulation. Members of this committee will be selected by
UNEP on the basis of their experience and expertise in environmental and sustainable
development issues, and will, as much as possible, be part of existing CSO networks
focused on the multilateral environmental agreements or other international environment
and sustainable development processes.
c) Civil society liaison with the Committee of Permanent Representatives
The Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR), as a subsidiary body to the Governing
Council, formalized and strengthened by decision 19/32, would benefit from the views of
civil society on the matters under its consideration. To this end the Secretariat will
develop mechanisms for improved information exchange between the CPR and CSOs, in
consultation with the Civil Society Advisory Group to the Executive Director.
d) Institutional support to multi-stakeholder consultations
The above three mechanisms for civil society input to policy deliberations will enhance
the capability for UNEP to be responsive to the views of civil society on a wide range of
issues on an on-going basis. There will remain a need, however, to address specific
emerging issues from time to time through multi-stakeholder consultations in a more
concentrated time-bound and results-oriented approach. Issues that call for urgent
action but where decisions are obstructed by strongly divergent positions taken by key
stakeholders often can only be resolved through skilful facilitation of dialogue between
opposing parties. Frequently such divergence arises between the private sector and civil
society actors, around such issues as corporate accountability or “voluntary
initiatives”. UNEP has a long history of working with private sector groups and
developing sector-wise strategies for addressing environmental problems. In the process
of enhancing its engagement with civil society UNEP is well placed to build on its
private sector relations to play a strong mediating role between this sector and NGOs.
One mechanism that can be used more effectively in this regard is the concept of global
public policy networks (GPPNs). This model is emerging as a viable alternative to create
new ways to respond to international issues such as climate change and alternative
trade. GPPNs enable leading representatives of different sectors (governments, IGOs,
NGOs and the private sector) to engage in extended dialogue in a way that is not always
well-fostered through short-term consultations. The World Commission on Dams, the Mining
Initiative, the Global Reporting Initiative and the Crucible Group are examples of GPPNs
where the results have been extremely positive and enduring for all stakeholders.
UNEP, in its capacity as an information-brokering and normative institution, will explore
such mechanisms to convene reflective consultation around key issues, that bring diverse
views to the same table to find areas of agreement and consensual solutions. The
regional networks and information system should assist the identification of participants
in these consultative mechanisms. UNEP will need to build in-house capacity to support
specific dialogues as issues emerge to be addressed in this way. The Civil Society
Advisory Group to the Executive Director will play an instrumental role in assisting the
design of this mechanism.
e) Capacity building
Improving the effectiveness of CSO contributions at the policy level will require
strengthening capacity to participate, especially for NGOs from developing countries and
from Central/Eastern Europe and countries with economies in transition. The Civil Society
and NGOs Unit will develop training initiatives to support this, possibly in
collaboration with the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service, while keeping in mind that
NGOs themselves can provide valuable guidance on how to design and implement capacity
building. If such training were conducted as part of periodic civil society meetings,
the cost implications will be minimal.
UNEP Divisions, Regional Offices and the Civil Society & NGOs Unit should identify active
grassroots groups and engage them at national and regional levels and support them
through capacity building for their international work engagement. The level of awareness
in grassroots and national organizations of international initiatives and policies is
still very limited, and there is much scope for UNEP to raise awareness on how government
commitments on an international level can be useful to environmental advocates at the
5. Strategy Pillar III: Civil Society engagement in programme design and
In decision SS.VII/5, the GC/GMEF directed that “The strategy should provide clear
direction to the secretariat to ensure that all programmes take into account
opportunities for multi-stakeholder participation in design, implementation, monitoring
of activities, and dissemination of outputs.” It also requested the Executive
Director “to report to the twenty-second session of the Governing Council on the progress
made in the enhancement of civil society engagement in the work of the United Nations
a) Institutionalising procedures for engagement
As requested in decision SS.VII/5, a more systematic and proactive implementation of
UNEP’s policy pertaining to civil society needs to be pursued, to ensure that inclusion
and consideration of CSOs in design of activities is a standard requirement in order for
UNEP to gain in constancy and transparency when implementing its programme of work.
Programme/project planning procedures will require documented consideration of how civil
society and private sector will participate in the various stages of the activity. UNEP’
s programme manual will be amended to provide more detailed guidance on modalities for
engagement of NGOs in programme/project design, implementation, and monitoring.
UNEP needs to strengthen the Civil Society and NGOs Unit with human and financial
resources, to act as secretariat for the forums and the inter-divisional task group, CS
information management, and to develop a training programme to address internal and
external capacity building needs.
The Civil Society Advisory Group to the Executive Director will play a key role in
enhancing programme engagement, in addition to its role at the policy level. As a group,
they will advise the secretariat on development of engagement guidelines, capacity
building needs, and monitoring and evaluation of CSO engagement practices. The CPR will
be informed on the Advisory Group’s activities.
b) Capacity building
UNEP will provide increasing and concentrated effort on capacity building of CSOs for
more effective environmental programme planning and implementation, especially for CSOs
in developing countries in order to strengthen engagement at the programme level. UNEP
training projects (e.g. in environmental law) should accommodate CSO participants, and
training programmes will be targeted specifically at CSOs, to cover environmental
advocacy, awareness raising and fund raising skills.
A key tool for programme engagement capacity building will be an operational manual for
CSOs, to increase awareness of the opportunities for working with UNEP, and build
understanding of the policies and procedures for doing so. This will be a particularly
important tool for Regional Offices to expand their outreach to and support for CSOs
within their regions.
c) Enhancing engagement with civil society
UNEP will continue to engage business and industry and related CSOs in multi-stakeholder
voluntary initiatives by industry sector. Cross-sectoral voluntary initiatives will also
be developed to promote sustainable consumption and production, working with fellow UN
organizations, research partners and stakeholder groups, expanding and building on the
experience of existing initiatives such as the Life Cycle Initiative, Global Reporting
Initiative, and the UN Global Compact.
In follow-up to the WSSD, UNEP intends to support industry partners who wish to produce
sector reports for Johannesburg+5, building on the consultative process prior to WSSD.
The reports will indicate progress made with the implementation of the Johannesburg
Programme of Action. Greater contributions from the developing world will be advanced
through regional meetings, organized with UNEP regional offices in order to help industry
associations engaged in regional processes.
d) Monitoring and evaluation of CS engagement
Learning mechanisms are needed to guide future policy development with respect to civil
society engagement. Indicators for monitoring and evaluating quality and impact of multi-
stakeholder approaches will be established. These include the development of indicators
of institutional capacity, the need to measure the environmental impact of institutional
strengthening, and the need for a performance monitoring plan with biophysical and socio-
UNEP will monitor and evaluate progress of the involvement of industry partners and
related stakeholders in its voluntary initiatives through:
– organising annual board and general meetings to examine annual progress
– organising annual roundtable conferences and workshops on topical issues to
strengthen industry awareness and involvement, and
– advancing improved reporting along the Guidelines (general, thematic and
sectoral) of the Global Reporting Initiative.
UNEP will also ensure that clear guidelines exist for engaging business and industry,
disseminating internally and adapting to its mandate the “Guidelines on Co-operation
between the United Nations and the Business Community” issued by the Secretary-General of
the United Nations.
6. Strategic approaches to implementation
Enhancing civil society engagement in the work of UNEP is not an end in itself. The goal
of the strategy is rather to enhance UNEP’s capacity to respond to environmental
problems world-wide. If the strategy is to contribute significantly to this goal, it
must be underpinned with adequate means for effective implementation, in terms of
institutional modalities and financial resources. Such means will be obtained through
two principal strategic approaches, a medium term plan, and burden-sharing mechanisms.
a) Medium term plan
As noted in Chapter 2, the strategy is envisioned to be implemented over a three to four-
year period. Institutional changes as proposed, such as the strengthening of the roles
of Regional Offices and CS focal points in each Division, operationalising the Civil
Society Advisory Group, and strengthening procedures for project design and
implementation, will require time for detailed planning and mobilising. In terms of the
CSO constituency that will be involved at the various levels of implementing the
strategy, they will also need to organise their own response.
In order to keep the strategy in focus over this period, for both the internal and
external actors, these measures will be incorporated in the medium term plan. This plan
will provide the framework to guide implementation, through the identification of roles
and timelines, resource needs, outlining strategies to ensure complementarity with the
overall UNEP programme of work and budget, and development of strategic partnerships with
specific CSOs, governments and agencies.
b) Burden-sharing mechanisms
Given the goal of enhancing UNEP’s capacity to respond to environmental problems world-
wide, through enhanced engagement with civil society including the private sector, the
responsibility for providing the resources to achieve this will need to, and should, be
shared amongst the array of actors who participate in both the implementation and the
Currently, all activities are government funded except those initiated through DTIE which
benefit from support from the private sector. Through the medium term plan, UNEP will
incorporate activities in its biennium budgetary process as appropriate. Costed work
plans will allocate resources dedicated to activities envisioned in the strategy.
The civil society strategy will be adapted to regional specifications and realities.
UNEP will build its own capacity to deal with civil society through improved
interdepartmental co-ordination and through improved collaboration with its Regional
Offices. UNEP will also seek to be fair and equitable in its relations with the private
sector on the one hand, and the other constituencies of the civil society on the other.
Financial allocations separate from the Environment Fund will be required to support
implementation of the institutional, capacity building and programmatic measures that
cannot be accommodated within the costed work plan. Such funds should not be designed as
a small grants facility to respond to a myriad of NGO projects, as it would be difficult
to administer and there are alternative sources for such funding. These funds, instead,
will be designed for targeted use to support implementation of the larger CSO strategy.
They will provide a vehicle for donors – including governments, NGOs, foundations and
other agencies – to target their funds for UNEP Civil Society relations. At the same
time, donor agencies will be invited to share the costs of specific activities, such as
civil society forums or joint projects with NGOs.
The private sector already covers much of the cost of UNEP initiatives aimed at this
sector. With the enhanced engagement of the private sector as envisioned in this
strategy, it is expected that such burden-sharing will be made more equitable in future.
A further measure in burden-sharing will be increased efforts to fundraise jointly with
CSO partners to obtain the resources needed for implementation of many of the initiatives
that emerge during implementation of the medium term plan.
Criteria for NGO accreditation as observers to the Governing Council of UNEP
and its subsidiary bodies
The following criteria apply:
1. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2997 (XXVII) of 15 December 1972
Section IV Paragraph 5 which “invites other intergovernmental and those non-governmental
organizations that have an interest in the field of the environment to lend their full
support and collaboration to the United Nations with a view to achieving the largest
possible degree of co-operation and co-ordination”.
2. Rules of Procedure of the Governing Council (1988) – Rule 69 which states:
“1. International non-governmental organizations having an interest in the
field of the environment, referred to in section IV, paragraph 5, of General Assembly
Resolution 2997 (XXVII), may designate representatives to sit as observers at public
meetings of the Governing Council and its subsidiary organs, if any. The Governing
Council shall from time to time adopt and revise when necessary a list of such
organizations. Upon the invitation of the President or Chairman, as the case may be, and
subject to the approval of the Governing Council or of the subsidiary organ concerned,
international non-governmental organizations may make oral statements on matters within
the scope of their activities.
2. Written statements provided by international non-governmental organizations
referred to in paragraph 1 above, related to items on the agenda of the Governing Council
or of its subsidiary organs, shall be circulated by the Secretariat to members of the
Governing Council or of the subsidiary organ concerned in the quantities and in the
languages in which the statements were made available to the Secretariat for
3. Proof of interest in the field of the environment and proof of non-profit
making status, including documents of incorporation of the entity, as well as the
Conference or seminar reports;
Newsletters or other periodicals;
Bulletins and pamphlets;
Press releases or media statements.
4. In addition, NGOs applying for observer status to the Governing Council of UNEP
are asked whether they have consultative status with the Economic and Social Council
(ECOSOC). The Governing Council of UNEP applies the relevant sections of the guidelines
on arrangements for consultation with non-governmental organizations.