One of the fundamental prerequisites for the achievement of sustainable development is broad public participation in decision-making. Especially in the context of environment and development, the need for new forms of participation has emerged.
At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), better known as the ‘Earth Summit’ in 1992, Governments adopted Agenda 21, an action plan to achieve sustainable development. Agenda 21 defines the nine ‘Major Groups’ and in chapter 23 recognizes the important role of civil society and the need to strengthen the role of Major Groups.
UNEP believes that the commitment and genuine involvement of all social groups is critical to the effective implementation of the objectives, policies and mechanisms in the field of environment and development. Hence, any policies, definitions or rules that affect the participation of non-governmental organizations in the work of the United Nations and that are associated with Agenda 21 must apply equally to all Major Groups.
Major groups - experts, watchdogs and multipliers
For many years, UNEP has recognized the importance of engaging Majors Groups and Stakeholders of civil society as partners. UNEP appreciates the perspectives that they bring to the table, the valuable research and advocacy functions they perform and their role in helping foster long-term, broad-based support for UNEP’s mission.
Majors groups and stakeholders can help implement UNEP’s programme of work far beyond UNEP’s capabilities. They can adapt UNEP’s global work to national or local realities, and liaise between UNEP and local communities. They provide scientific, policy and law expertise necessary for the implementation of the Programme of work. Major groups and stakeholders can also act as watchdogs or through advocacy, to foster accountability.
Finally, they are also well-placed to raise public awareness and engage the general public in an informative and educative manner, creating a multiplier effect. Many civil society organizations are closely tied to channels of media and can disseminate relevant information effectively. They can educate the public, through schools, universities, scientific institutions, or through targeted campaigns, raising awareness of new generations of their roles and duties so that they become responsible citizens.