Implications for NGOs

The Earth Summit set the stage for NGO involvement in environmental issues. The major documents that came out of the summit, The Rio Declaration and Agenda 21, established a legitimizing framework for activity related to the Summit. Each outlined specific ways that NGOs could work with actors from the public and private sectors to implement both a discourse process and actionable steps related to the environment.

The Rio Summit triggered a more visible presence of NGOs in the activities of the UNEP. In 1995, for example, a Governing Council resolution was passed, calling for the involvement of civil society, and in 1999, the Governing Council called for the establishment of a NGO Civil Society Unit. The years following the framework that emerged from the Rio Summit witnessed an increasing involvement of NGOs in the environmental activities of the UNEP. In 1999, the Civil Society and NGOs Unit of UNEP was formed in the Division of Policy Development and Law. This was a part of the restructuring of UNEP and was also followed by the creation of the Division of Early Warning and Assessment. This unit set upon its task quickly by organizing the Global Civil Society Forum (GCSF) in May 2000, before the start of the 6th Global Ministerial Environment Forum at Malmo, Sweden in the following year [10].

Towards the end of the 1990s, nations incorporated discussions of sustained economic growth in partnership with attention on the earth's economic resources. This notion became coined as "sustainable development" by the World Commission on Environment and Development and represents the combined effort of promoting development and protecting the environment.

The 1990s also witnessed growing concern over the level of GHG in the environment. During the Earth Summit at Rio, the UN Framework Convention on Climatic Change (UNFCCC) was developed and served as an international treaty reached by the participating nations on the issue of reducing their global emissions of the GHG. The issue of GHG was further put into the international agenda with the Kyoto conference and the resulting Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

Nongovernmental actors were, largely as a result of how they had been able to integrate themselves into the agendas of the 1992 Earth Summit and subsequent environmental meetings of the 1990s, actors that would play a vital role in the global environmental discourse. Whether or not they would retain the role they had been able to begin to shape for themselves in later decades of activity and other arenas, would be open to later exploration.

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