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Chapter Three: Policy Responses - Asia and the Pacific

Public participation

NGOs have emerged as major partners in development and conservation activities, performing a multitude of roles including environmental education and awareness-raising among the public. NGOs have helped design and implement environment policies, programmes and action plans, and set out specifications for EIAs. They also play crucial advocacy roles through their environmental campaigns.

For example, in Sri Lanka NGOs have been active in preventing logging of the Singharaja Forest, setting up a Tiger-top lodge in Udawala National Park, stopping the construction of a thermal plant at Trincomalee, and questioning the blind implementation of the National Forestry Master Plan (Government of Sri Lanka 1994). In India, thousands of NGOs have helped raise awareness of environment-development issues and mobilized people to take action. Although not an NGO, the Narmada Bachao Andolan movement has brought together scattered voices of protest against the damming of the river Narmada and has raised awareness in India and among the international community (Government of India 1992). Another effective means of advocacy that NGOs in India have adopted is people's tribunals. For instance, the Permanent People's Tribunal (PPT) hears cases filed by individuals or communities affected by environmental degradation. Its judgements are widely publicized (South-South Solidarity 1992). In the Pacific, local community and NGO inputs come mainly through programmes to build community awareness and expand environmental education. Some NGOs find trade opportunities which provide a return for local people wishing to manage resources such as timber on a sustainable basis. Others have linked with international NGOs to build ecotourism opportunities in partnership with landowners.

NGOs, while retaining their individual identity, have also collaborated effectively with national and local governments on a wide range of issues. In the Philippines, a consortium of 17 environmental NGOs (NGOs for Protected Areas, Inc.) received a US$27 million grant to implement a seven-year Comprehensive Priority Protected Areas Programme. The programme is a major component of the World Bank-GEF Sectoral Adjustment Loan initiative being managed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The Mongolian Government cooperates closely with NGOs, for example with the Mongolian Association for the Conservation of Nature and Environment, which coordinates the voluntary activities of local communities and individuals to protect nature and wildlife, and with the Green Movement which promotes public environmental education in support of traditional protection methods (MNE, UNDP and WWF 1996).

NGO networks are springing up throughout the region. Among the most prominent are the Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development and the Asia Pacific People's Environment Network (Government of Republic of Korea 1994). Networks also exist at national level. For example, the Korean Federation Environmental Movement in the Republic of Korea provides an umbrella organization for nearly 200 NGOs engaged in environment-related issues (Government of Republic of Korea 1994).

Many countries have encouraged public participation in environmental management, through local government and community-based groups. For example, in Thailand, Article 7 of the Environment Act of 1992 delegates the work on environmental management to provincial and local authorities, and encourages people's participation through environmental NGOs (Government of Thailand 1992). Article 56 of the Thailand Constitution (1997) recognizes the rights of people to participate in the protection of natural resources and environment (Government of Thailand 1997). In the Philippines, small fishing communities are given the right to manage their fishery resources (Panayotou 1994, Philippine Council for Sustainable Development 1996) and community-based forest resource management has helped protect and conserve forest resources. Similarly, many coastal community groups in Thailand protect mangroves and seagrass (OEPP 1997). Amongst SPREP members, a variant of the NEAP process - known as the NEMS (National Environmental Management Strategy) - was developed prior to the 1992 Earth Summit. The strength of this process was to involve all national stakeholders in a debate about environmental priorities and key actions, and then to present a national consensus to external counterparts, especially in the donor community (SPREP 1994).

Community participation is required by law under New Zealand's Resource Management Act. When developing their ten-year policies and plans, regional and district councils are required to consult widely with community stakeholders and interest groups, including the indigenous Maori people (New Zealand Ministry for the Environment 1997). The main constraints on citizen participation are the time and costs involved but motivation levels are reportedly high (Colmar Brunton 1990 and 1993, Gendall and others 1994).

 Women's participation in environmental protection in China

The 'Law on the Protection of Women's Interest and Rights of the People's Republic of China', the Committee in charge of the Work of Women and Children established under the State Council in 1993, and the 'Development Program of Chinese Women' issued by the State Council in 1995 all aim to protect Chinese women's rights and ensure their participation in national management and environmental decision-making. Women are now playing more and more important roles. For instance, in most provincial and municipal environmental protection bureaus, at least one of the directors is a woman.

In rural areas, more than 60 000 'green bases' such as orchards, which have developed the economy and protected the environment, have been built by women farmers. Other environmentally-beneficial activities organized by women are publicizing fuel-efficient stoves, accumulating farm manure and reducing the use of chemical fertilizers. In poverty-stricken areas many women have played an important role in afforestation and ecological protection, including setting up and staffing demonstration sites and professional afforestation teams.

Source: SEPA 1997b


The Chinese government has long been aware that public participation is an essential prerequisite for successful environmental protection and management (see box).

Community-based approaches are also widely used in Australia. For example, the Landcare programme aims to address natural resource management problems, protect agricultural resources, and assist natural resource managers to improve their technical, management, communication and planning skills (Commonwealth of Australia 1999e). About one-third of Australian farmers are members of a Landcare group. The Coastcare programme provides opportunities for communities to work with local land managers to identify problems along their stretch of the coast and develop and implement solutions. Coastcare has formed 250 community groups since its inception in early 1996. The Endangered Species Programme administers public networks, such as the Threatened Species Network and Threatened Bird Network, to promote community involvement in recovery programmes for threatened species (Commonwealth of Australia 1999e).

Many of these initiatives depend on voluntary action. Such actions have played a particularly important role in Japan where local communities, citizens' groups and government together take the initiative to negotiate with major polluters. Several Japanese companies have now taken voluntary actions on pollution control which include stricter standards than the national ones. In addition, the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren) adopted a Global Environmental Charter in 1991 which includes a provision that companies should carry out environmental impact assessments of their activities, use and develop low pollution technologies, and participate in local conservation programmes (OECD 1994).

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