The Rise of International Networks

By the mid-1980s there were thousands of NGOs. Their success across the globe was encouraging to environmentalists and it was encouraging to a pub-lic—both national and international—that had begun to see the importance of NGOs in environmental issues. Danish NGOs won a complete ban on throwaway beverage packaging while Australian NGOs won concessions on mining in their national parks. The use of phosphates in detergents was banned in Switzerland with the help of NGOs. But as pollution became a major factor in the global debate of acid rain, global warming, and ozone depletion, NGOs saw a great need to collaborate internationally.

The discovery of a hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica provoked furious action among American NGOs. Apparent disinterest shown toward the issue by European NGOs prompted several U.S. NGOs to send representatives to Europe to discuss the consequences of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) on the atmosphere. As a result of their meeting, the U.K. branch of Friends of the Earth drew up a campaign to publish its own guide to pollutants. In 1986 Aerosol Connection was a resounding success in communicating to the public how to support non-CFC products. Thousands of people were eager to get their hands on a copy. Raising public awareness weakened the position of the chemical companies in the United Kingdom, because they had controlled most public information about CFCs. The scientific information that NGOs supplied for the debate over CFCs helped speed negotiations on the Montréal Protocol, which called for a ban on CFC use. The experience clearly illustrated the power of NGOs to successfully lobby internationally.

NGOs experienced greater inclusion in the political arena throughout the 1990s. NGO pressure on World Bank policy set a precedent for collaboration by the World Bank with NGOs in the international realm. By challenging the World Bank to support environmentally viable water projects, NGOs exposed an array of existing problems to the media, to the U.S. government, and to congressional staff. Just a week after collaboration with the World Bank, NGOs from across the world gathered in Rio de Janeiro for the 1992 Earth Summit. Twenty years earlier, the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm was a major turning point for NGOs. Because only government officials were invited to the conference, NGOs gathered around the conference site to debate their own positions. To help clarify confusion surrounding conference issues, NGOs published a newspaper which they delivered to the media, embassy, and hotels where attendees were staying.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment