Major Groups And Stakeholders In International Environmental Policy-Making

Open political decision-making processes enhance transparency, foster coordination among organizations taking part in environmental governance, and foster accountability of the actors in their decisions. Hence, UNEP commits to facilitate input resulting from Major Groups and other Stakeholders expertise and views, at the intergovernmental level, in line with applicable rules and regulations. 

Accredited Major Groups and other Stakeholders are invited to participate in all relevant global and regional fora, in particular the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) of UNEP sessions as well as its Special Sessions including its preceding and associated Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum (GMGSF). Major Groups and other Stakeholders are invited to provide their input into the preparatory process, including agenda setting and into the UNEA sessions. They can comment and provide expertise also during the preparatory process towards the UNEA sessions. Decisions then taken by member states at the UNEA serve as the basis to UNEP’s Programme of Work.

Major Groups and other Stakeholders participation in Global Fora

Since 2000, UNEP has been organizing a yearly Global Civil Society Forum (GCSF) - now renamed the Global Major Group and Stakeholders Forum (GMGSF), in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) of UNEP. Find out more about past sessions of the Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum here. This forum is the main entry point for major Major Groups’ participation at governance level. In order to improve the quality of engagement with Major Groups, the Global Steering Committee was created in 2006. This resulted in an increased ownership of civil society organizations and an improved Major Groups’ balance, and takes into account their specific priorities.  

Ministerial round-tables

Additionally, an improvement in the type of dialogue sessions at the UNEA has been made with the introduction of ministerial round-tables. Major Groups can fully participate in these round-tables as well as in the plenary discussions and the Committee. 

As a result, Major Groups’ voices are increasingly incorporated into the policy discussions at UNEP, entailing more partnerships with civil society in environmental policy development.  

At the regional level, Major Groups and other Stakeholders can influence policy-making and decision-making processes through the Regional Consultative Meetings held annually in the six UNEP regions. 



Adopting guidelines for civil society participation


Rio+20 - a push for UNEP's work with Major Groups

In 2008, UNEP adopted new Guidelines on Improving the Global Civil Society Cycle and expanded the Civil Society Steering Committee which now includes two members of each major group.

The Global Steering Committee was also renamed the Major Groups Facilitating Committee (MGFC) in order to underline the higher emphasis on the criteria of the Major Groups. The Major Groups Facilitating Committee provides guidance and coordinates the engagement of Major Groups in the Global Civil Society Cycle. 

Revision of Guidelines

In 2009, the guidelines were revised in order to improve the Major Groups and Stakeholders’ input to the UNEP governance processes and to better involve Major Groups in the implementation of UNEP’s programme of work. 

The guidelines were revised and their title was changed toGuidelines for Participation of Major Groups and Stakeholders in Policy Design at UNEP now clearly referring to Major Groups and Stakeholders rather than civil society. 

This was meant to underline that UNEP aims at engaging with all groups that are not government based. Related to this, the Global Civil Society Forum (GCSF) was also renamed to Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum (GMGSF).


At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), better known as Rio+20, which was held from 20-22 June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, UNEP’s mandate to closely work with Major Groups has been further strengthened. 

Article 88h invites UNEP to “ensure the active participation of all relevant stakeholders drawing on best practices and models from relevant multilateral institutions and exploring new mechanisms to promote transparency and the effective engagement of civil society”.

Events with Major Groups

The outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference have motivated UNEP’s Major Groups and Stakeholders Branch to further increase public participation and transparency in UNEP’s work. Apart from engaging Major Groups and Stakeholders in policy-making, UNEP also hosted events in collaboration with Major Groups in order to increase the exchange between the intergovernmental milieu and civil society. 

A recent example of such an event is “Choosing our future: Open and Participatory Sustainable Development Governance”, a dialogue on participatory environmental governance held in the run-up to the Rio+20 conference on 19 June 2012. This event was organized in partnership with Major Groups, such as the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Stakeholder Forum