The decade and-a-half since the 1992 Earth Summit has seen a vast expansion
in the number and scope of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs).
There are now more than 700 environmental conventions, charters, agreements,
accords, protocols and treaties in force, from global to regional to bilaterally applicable
agreements. They cover areas as narrowly-focused as the Biosafety
Protocol in the Convention on Biological Diversity and as widely encompassing
as the recently activated Kyoto Protocol of the Framework Convention on Climate
And there are still dozens of conferences, commissions, and ad hoc expert groups
negotiating additional agreements, often on intensely complex intersectoral issue
These MEAs form the building blocks for an emerging and much needed global
system of environmental and sustainable development governance. Yet MEAs
negotiations themselves represent an organic process. All are still evolving – a
series of parallel works-in-progress. And it is widely understood that a vast amount
must be done in implementation for these instruments to be considered successful.
A second major evolutionary impact that flowed from the Earth Summit has
been the exceptional expansion of the role that non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) play in the international negotiation of MEAs, and then in their national
and local application. This, also, is a fluid structure. The very term ‘non-governmental
organization’ can now include a wide array of institutions and sectors,
from activist NGOs campaigning at the grassroots level to academic organizations,
trade unions, farmers’ cooperatives, religious structures, local authorities,
and business associations. NGOs serve as scientific researchers, as policy advisors
to governments and intergovernmental agencies, as advocates to political officials,
as communicators to media and the public, and as active partners in program
implementation at all levels.
These roles vary widely among different groups and in different regions, depending
upon each NGO’s primary issues of interest, its constituency, its resources and
its political mandate. At times the positions of different organizations on specific
policies may conflict. However, the scope and diversity of stakeholder involvement
as a whole is adding immense value and energy to the worldwide effort to
address the critical challenges facing the environment and sustainable development
– both in the development of theoretical policy, and in its practical implementation
in the field.
This Manual attempts to link these two areas of MEA formulation and civil society
participation. Its goal is to both strengthen multi-stakeholder participation and
increase political momentum for effective MEA development, implementation and
enforcement. The two are interdependent and equally essential: by strengthening the
effectiveness of stakeholders’ involvement, MEAs themselves become more relevant, more
resilient and more resolute.