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NGOs are main actors in tackling environmental issues

With June often dubbed” The Environment Month” and as concerns about the environment grow louder every day, let’s take a look at what is the role of NGOs and other non-profit organisations in tackling environmental issues and how this role differs and complements the work of governments.

When addressing environmental issues, governments tend to apply a “carrot and stick” approach, oscillating between regulatory strategies and economic incentives.

NGOs contribute ideas, raise awareness, shape discussions, influence decisions and implement policies. As they are usually not answerable to specific agendas and can often act independently, they have become key players in environmental politics at all levels from local to global. A study from the University of Stockholm shows that NGOs are important actors in global environmental governance, offering knowledge and expertise, moral arguments and new ideas or taking action on implementing policies. However, their approaches and their influence, depend in some part on their resources, which creates a landscape characterized by plurality, inequality, and contradictions.

Recent years have seen the creation of more and more NGOs working toward environmental issues, but the effectiveness of these organisations is rarely assessed or critically examined. Scientists in Jamaica invite us to exercise prudence when it comes to the level of competence and professionalism of some organisations, which have proven ineffective. In some cases they may even exacerbate the problems they set out to solve. This is why governments and donors should be prudent when attributing projects to NGOs.

Since 2020, the Covid crisis and now the inflation and the war in Ukraine have been in the forefront of the media coverage. Environmental movements such as “Fridays for future” have unfortunately been relegated to less prominent places and it could be easy to forget about the climate crisis urgency.

Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg recently teamed up to remind us that “girls’ education is a climate solution”. Women in developing countries are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis. Educate them and they can become part of the solution, for example by reducing their communities greenhouse gas emissions. Will that lead to future collaboration between NGOs advocating for women’s rights and NGOs specialized in the environment? That would certainly be interesting to watch, because the fight for both is far from over.


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