Major Groups and other Stakeholders - Natural Allies

Since its inception, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) had a special relationship with civil society in tackling environmental issues. The Stockholm Conference on Human Environment, which led to the creation of UNEP in 1972, owed much to the enthusiasm, dedication and commitment of civil society. Many multilateral environmental agreements - Basel Convention, Montreal Protocol, Biodiversity and Climate Change Conventions, among others, were developed thanks to the lobbying efforts of civil society.

Engaging Major Groups and Stakeholders as partners   A key role in achieving sustainable development

UNEP recognises the importance of engaging Majors Groups and other Stakeholders as partners and appreciates the perspectives they bring to the table, valuable research and advocacy functions they perform and their role in helping foster long-term, broad-based support for UNEP’s mission.

Intergovernmental decisions will have stronger and broader recognition and support by the public if governments take Major Groups and other Stakeholders views into account as early as possible in policy-making and decision-making processes. Major Groups and other Stakeholders also play a direct role in the formation of policy as researchers, think-tanks, and watchdogs, or through advocacy.


After the Earth Summit in 1992, UNEP adopted the Major Groups approach as defined in Agenda 21, the action plan of the United Nations related to sustainable development. In the spirit of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration from 1992, Rio+20 recognized that sustainable development requires the meaningful involvement and active participation of all nine Major Groups.

The Rio+20 outcomes reaffirm the key role of Major Groups and Stakeholders to achieve sustainable development and underscore in Paragraph 43 of the outcome document that “broad public participation and access to information and judicial and administrative proceedings are essential to the promotion of sustainable development”. 

Major Groups and Stakeholders Branch

UNEP will continue to encourage their active participation and enhanced ownership in processes that contribute to decision-making, planning and implementation of policies and programmes for sustainable development at regional, sub-regional and national levels. 

In 1999, UNEP created a Major Group & NGOs Unit in its Policy Branch to provide Major Groups with a chance of broad participation in environmental decision-making. By creating the Major Groups and Stakeholders Branch in 2004, UNEP continued to enhance participation of Major Groups and other Stakeholders in its work. According to its mandate, the Major Groups and Stakeholders Branch engages with organized constituents such as not-for-profit organizations, networks and associations in contrast to single businesses or individuals. 

In order to support strategic partnerships in the most effective way, UNEP distinguishes between three different forms of partnerships:


Participating and engaging in international environmental policy

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 can comment and provide expertise also during the preparatory process. Decisions then taken by member states at the UNEA serve as the basis to UNEP’s Programme of Work.


Providing scientific and technical expertise

A principle mandate of UNEP is to monitor and assess the global environmental situation to ensure that emerging environmental problems of wide international significance receive appropriate and adequate consideration by governments. UNEP’s role in undertaking and organizing assessments consists of catalysing the efforts of the scientific community around environmental topics and collaborate with those networks to undertake the assessment or reporting activities. UNEP undertakes those collaborative global and regional environmental assessments such as the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) report.

  Implementing and executing projects and programmes

When implementing its Programme of Work, UNEP relies on implementing and executing partners from Major Groups and Stakeholders, relying on their expertise, capacity building and outreach abilities and regional, national and local presence.