The Role of Non-Governmental
Organizations (NGOs) and Other
Major Groups in Promoting
The role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other major groups in promoting the participation of developing countries in international environmental agreements is increasingly being recognized by the international community as an important one. As mentioned in Chapter 4, they can assist with the operation of the incentives within the treaties. In addition, they can also function on the outside or independent of the treaties, promoting participation of developing countries through, for instance, debt-for-nature swaps not related to any treaty, as discussed above.
"Major groups," as a concept, entered the international arena with the Rio Conference. Governments recognized the role of major groups, contributing to the UNCED process both in unprecedented numbers and diversity of cultural and economic actors, and the important role they would play at the follow-up stage, 1 including the implementation of Agenda 21 and other international instruments negotiated at Rio. In the implementation and monitoring of sustainable development activities, the "major groups" concept pertains to the participation of economic and social actors from outside the realm of governmental and intergovernmental entities. Agenda 21 identifies nine major groups as follows: 1) women, 2) children and youth, 3) indigenous people, 4) NGOs, 5) local authorities, 6) workers and trade unions, 7) business and industry, 8) scientific and technological communities, and 9) farmers. 2
Unfortunately, Agenda 21 does not define the concept, which has lead to some confusion because several of the major groups overlap, such as