Reviewing the Role of Civil Societies on Climate Change and Human Security Issues
Posted by civilsocietyindex on September 22, 2010
– Written by Ikechukwu Nwokedi, CSI Research Intern –
Civil society organizations (CSOs) globally, continue to achieve successes amidst the difficult environments in which they have been operating particularly at this period of economic uncertainties. Their strengths lie in their ability to influence state decisions, advocate for positive change and effectively represent concerned citizens on relevant issues. As such, their scope has widened from tackling regional problems to more global issues like climate change and globalization. This widening scope came as a result of the growing debate on climate change and the associated human security impacts like drought, flooding, etc. This is evident from recent climate change conferences and workshops (Climate Change Conference in Bolivia-2010, Copenhagen Climate Change Conference-2009, Civicus World Assembly-2010) where CSOs effectively engaged world leaders and stakeholders on human security issues. Similarly, a statement by Eduardo Giesen (Friends of the Earth) before the climate change conference held in Bolivia (April 2010) reads: “We are going with the expectation of the creation of a genuine social and popular movement that takes up the environmental questions – in this case the climate crisis – as a social and socio-political problem, and that it is constituted beyond the non-governmental environmental organizations”. [In article by Daniela Estrada]
This article reviews some of the successes of CSOs in influencing decisions affecting the society as a whole within the context of climate change. Climate change as a global phenomenon, affects human existence through a number of ways. Examples are the flooding experienced in Mozambique (2007) and drought spells in Kenya (2009). These events took their toll on the respective societies as livestock were lost, downstream dwellers had their villages destroyed and people lost their lives to drought. These issues briefly highlight the vulnerability of societies (particularly the poor) to climate change impacts.
[A family takes refuge on top of a mosque while awaiting rescue from flood waters in Sanawa, a town located in the Muzaffar Ghar district of Pakistan’s Punjab province – August 5, 2010. Reuters/Stringer]
The interest of CSOs on climate change issues came with a paradigm shift from the assessment of vulnerabilities and adaptation systems of societies to the evaluation of mitigation measures through a strong stakeholder engagement. Hence, various CSOs have contributed in the mainstreaming of environmental issues within developmental policies. Among the successes is the agreement by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO) in Rome 2008 to engage CSOs/Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) on issues relating to biofuel/energy production from plants and the impacts on agriculture in an elevated climate change environment. Likewise, in the Capsian region (between the Caucasus and Central Asia, Russia and Iran), NGOs, through their concerted efforts, have continued to improve the level of public awareness on environmental issues and engaged authorities and corporations on the environmental impacts of an already full-scale pollution on the citizens. Other CSO’s successes can be recalled at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where the public participation in environmental decision making was adopted. In Africa, the recent (May 2010) World Economic Forum in Tanzania, saw communities calling for emission reductions and investments in clean energy. This came as a result of the activities of companies on their society, as prolonged droughts and floods continue to impact agricultural produce. The Nigerian CSI Country Report (2007) suggests that 90% of the NGOs within the Niger delta focus on environmental issues, and although there is recognition that CSOs activity had some positive impact on the society, their actions however are still drops of water in the ocean.
Having highlighted some of the achievements of CSOs in relation to climate change on a global context, there is still a huge gap between the actual engagement of stakeholders and the positive outcomes of those engagements. In essence, CSOs should focus not just on engaging stakeholders, but also on monitoring their progress through regular reviews towards finding ways to ensure that commitments made are followed up on. For instance, through the effective engagement with country partners, the CIVICUS CSI measures such stakeholder engagements and respective CSOs in those countries (particularly those involved in environmental issues) can utilize the available data for research and decision making. Using this index as a tool, the role of CSOs in advocating for environmental rights and sustainable practices can be effectively achieved.