Research on the Role of Civil Society in Environmental Governance

Civil Society Participation in Environmental Governance

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2015

26 Pages

Free online reading


List of Acronyms and Abbreviations


I. Introduction
I.1. What ¡ร Civil Society?
I.2. Civil Society in Environmental Governance
I.3. Channels for NGOs participation in policy processes
I.4. Existing Challenges
I.5. Opportunities

II. Case of Albertine Rift Region
II.1. Description of Albertine Rift
II.2. Examples of Environmental NGOs operating in AR:

III. Objectives and methodology

IV. Presentation of the Results

V. Interpretation and Analysis of the Results



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This research is a full version, containing The Status on Civil Society participation in environmental governance (Littérature review and the findings from the research) and the Recommendations.

I grateful for the efforts of countless contributors, whose time made a study of this magnitude possible. I especially indebted to the following individuals for sharing their insights:

Dr Sam Kanyamibwa (Secretary Executive, ARCOS)

Gilbert Muvunankiko (Communication Officer, ARCOS)

All individuals who agreed to be interviewed and who provided time and substantive input to this research.

Special thanks to Philbert Nsengiyumva (Policy, Environment and Development Program Manager, ARCOS), who served an instrumental role throughout the entire process in this research.

Cover photo courtesy of ARCOS.


Generally, environmental governance is defined as a concept in political ecology and environmental policy that advocates sustainability as the supreme consideration for managing all human activities political, social and economic. It should be participatory, involving a wide range of stakeholders including government, business and civil society, and emphasizes whole system management

The participation of civil society organization in environmental governance is largely important for its presumably helps on governments to reach more effective, democratic and sustainable agreements and decisions regarding environmental issues. In the Albertine Rift region the role of civil society organizations (CSOs) in the environmental sector has always been appreciated, because of their support to governments in implementation of available environmental policies for environmental conservation and community livelihoods. However due to increasing global economic integration, economic needs for developing countries, and to some extent, the existing structures which don’t favor the public participation, the involvement of civil society in decision making has been weakened leading to corrupted, uninformed and unilateral decision making in environmental governance. According to the civil society index Rwanda report (2011), only charitable giving and collective community action appear to be strong, but weaknesses prevails on public participation in decision making, Currently, the big issue is that infonnation about the state and shape of civil society is limited and opportunities for civil society stakeholders to actively participate in environmental governance also remain limited.

Therefore, this assessment explores the status of for civil society involvement, and especially non­governmental organizations, in environmental governance at local, national and regional level in the Albertine rift region of Africa. Our argument is that civil society should be involved in the five key Areas (among others) which are: infonnation collection and dissemination; Policy development consultation; Policy implementation; Assessment and monitoring; Advocacy for environmental justice.

I.1. What is Civil Society?

In the broadest sense, civil society has been characterized as a sphere of social life that is public but excludes government activities (Meidinger, 2001). Michael Bratton describes civil society as social interaction between the household and the state characterized by community cooperation, structures of voluntary association, and networks of public communication (Bratton, 1994). The tenn “Civil Society” is generally used to classify persons, institutions, and organizations that have the goal of advancing or expressing a common purpose through ideas, actions, and demands on governments (Cohen and Arato, 1992); The membership of civil society is quite diverse, ranging from individuals to religious and academic institutions to issue-focused groups such as not-for-profit or non-governmental organizations, However, the structure differs according to countries in Rwanda for example the civil society involves mainly local and international NGOs and different charities affiliated to different religious organizations and many associations and cooperatives and other social groups do not regard themselves as part of civil society (CCOAIB,2011). In the realm of environmental governance, NGOs are the most prominent actors and therefore comprise the main focus of this assessment.

I.2. Civil Society in Environmental Governance

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Governing our planet’s rich and diverse natural resources is an increasingly complex challenge. It requires new global, regional, national and local responses involving a wide range of stakeholders including civil society organizations.Good environmental governance takes into account the role of all actors that impact the environment. From governments to Civil Society cooperation is critical to achieving effective governance that can help US move towards a more sustainable triture. As it was stated above, civil society can be involved in environmental governance in different ways as it is detailed in the table below followe by tengible example where the civil society have been actively participated

I.3. Channels for NGOs participation in policy processes (J. Werksman 2002)

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I.4. Existing Challenges

The researches made by different authors find that the Environmental NGOs face different challenges in operating their activities, those challenges include:

- Lack of funds

Most of the NGOs are suffering from paucity of funds (ร. A. Palekar 2012). Governments does not give cent percent grants in aid or make delay in sanctions of grants for numerous programmes. Now a day’s charity is not so strong in the minds and hearts of the people as it was in the ancient society.

- Lack of Dedicated Leadership

Qualities of the leaders in NGOs detennine the quality and condition of the services rendered by any organization. Especially dedicated leadership, ‘Leadership for the sake of Leadership’ is a most important governing factor in this regard. The style of functioning of these elderly people exhibits authoritarianism and frustrates younger people who are embodiments of new ideas, initiatives and innovation which are not allowed to be expressed and practiced (Mehta et al, 2010).

- Inadequate Trained Personnel

It is believed that the personnel working in NGOs may be of personnel working in such organizations is a sense of dedication and commitment and interest in the social services. NGOs earlier were assumed to be served by unpaid social workers imbued with the spirit of service and did not require any special education or training. But the present trend who are having professional education are not interested to work with NGOs. Their vision has been changed and are interested to work in urban areas only. Therefore, it is very difficult to get trained persons who are either willing or trained to work in the rural society where most of NGOs work. Moreover, these professionally trainedpersons have high expectations in tenns of salaries, status, opportunities for their growth in the career of their choice. (A. Matsimbi, 2014)

- Misuse of Funds

The reasach made in some countries like İnde, find that it is the matter of fact that some unscrupulous elements have made fortunes by floating NGOs for their personnel gains and managing grants from the government. It is a common experience that there have been serious charges of misuse and misappropriation of funds received as grant- in-aid fonn the government, foreign donors and raised through their own resources by the most of the NGOs. These NGOs may reflect its image to other NGOs who are working with dedication and commitment. (K.Lathaa and K. Prabhakarb 2011)

- Monopolization of leadership

It has been observed that there is a growing tendency towards monopolization and interlocking of leadership at the top level of voluntary action groups and organizations as is reflected in the same person being the president in one organization, secretary in the other, treasurer in the third and a member of the executive in the fourth. This interlocking of leadership can be advantageous in formulating, coordinated policies, programmes and activities, facilitating exchange of technical know-how and experience and mobilizing people for a common goal. But the greatest disadvantage of such leadership is that fresh blood is not allowed to flow into the organization and leadership. (Mehta et ah, 2010).

- Lack of Public Participation

NGOs are meant to provide opportunities to the citizens for democratic participation but they have not been able to fulfill this obligation due to the method and manner in which they function, and failed to attract people, interested in construction work and develop channels for peoples enthusiastic participation. Some of the factors responsible for such a state of affairs are general backwardness of the people, absence of adequate number of dedicated persons, over emphasis on targets and time bound programmes, political interference and vested interests, easy availability of funds without proper planning and assessment of felt needs and safeguards for the community, distrust of agencies and workers who do not have a base in the community and are unable to win its support and lack of decentralization which could give a feeling of being partners in development rather than development being thrust from above. (Mehta et ah, 2010).

- Centralization in Urban Areas

NGOs are more developed in urban areas as compared to rural areas. The backwardness and ignorance of the rural people and lack of enthusiasm among social workers to among them in the absence of availability of minimum comforts are the two important reasons for the backwardness of the NGOs in rural areas. (Mehta et ah, 2010).

- Lack of coordination

The absence of coordination between NGOs existing at local, state and national level has laid to the common problems such as overlapping, duplication, non- coordination etc, The absence of such a common forum also incapacitates NGOs to offer united stand against the government when it humiliates them by extraneous considerations at the behest of politicians and egoistic government officers. (Mehta et ah, 2010).

- Lack of Volunteerism/Social work among Youth

The basic characteristic of NGO is volunteerism. In early days, youth are making their career in volunteerism but that enthusiasm seems to have faded these days. The extent of volunteerism is declining day by day and turning it into professionalisation. Even the young graduates from social work are interested in making their career in professionalism. This leads to lack of efficient volunteers in NGOs. (Mehta et al, 2010).

- Political Interference

In some regions, in particular South Rift and North Eastern, NGO leaders identified the interference of local politicians and civic leaders as a major hindrance to their work, wir ere NGOs are involved in sensitive issues, such as land disputes, local leaders can threaten NGOs with de-registration. NGOs are not aware that the Board - and potentially the Council - are there to protect them from such intimidation (Mehta et ah, 2010).

I.5. Opportunities

Even though differents authors and researchers exhousted a list of challenges faced by Environmental NGOs in general and specifically in the Albertine Rift Region, but other researchs find that Envimmental NGs got opportunities which help them to reduce those challenges. The main opportunity is that Africa NGOs are more given priority than other NGOs. In other words, as they are eligible for almost all call for proposal in differents fields. (J.Randel and T.Gennan 2012)


II.1. Description of Albertine Rift

The Albertine Rift is the western branch of the East African Rift, covering parts of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Burundi andTanzania. It extends from the northern end of Lake Albert to the southern end of Lake Tanganyika. The geographical tenn includes the valley and the surrounding mountains. It is dominated by a series of mountain chains, originating on the Lendu Plateau in northern Uganda. The severe geological history has resulted in a diversity of climatic regimes. While the Rift is located in the center of tropical Africa the high mountain regions extensively modify the climate, with a more temperate climate occurring in the highlands. Average rainfall throughout the mountain range varies between 1,200 to 2,200 mm per annum, although it is locally more in some mountain areas.

II.2. Examples of Environmental NGOs operating in AR:

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The purpose of this research is to Generate and compile information about the status of public participation in environmental decision making in Albertine Rift region.

The specific objectives are;

- To assess the extent to which NGOs participate in environmental governance in Albertine Rift
- To identify factors influencing levels of participation in environmental Governance in Albertine Rift (AR)


The study is primarily based on a desk research of available documentation on civil society participation in environmental governance in Albertine Rift countries and beyond. It will focus on a case study of the Albertine rift region and consider only non governmental Organisations(NGOs). It will include also the infonnation from the interviwed secretai staff of NGOs, direct contacts,Observations,etc in the Albertine Rift on the role of Civil Society in environmntal governance. On this regards, those infonnation have been filled on the questionnaires fonnulated for this purpose.


Figl. The extend to which environmental NGOs participate in environmental governance

According to the response from interviews,most NGOs participate in the environmental governance at medium level (between 50 and 79 per cent)

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Fig2: Factors influencing levels of participation in environmental governance.

Results from the sitrvey shows that mainly the pitblic participation in environmental governance is mostly limited by financial means as well as technical capacity

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Fig3: Percentage of the Features ofNGOs participation in environmental governance.

Results from the survey shows that 80% ofNGOs are consulted while 0% ofNGOs participate in approving on the decisions.

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Fig4: Treatment of Environmental NGOs

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Availability of the information

- According to the avererage position on the avaialability of the information from interviwed people, there is a low collaboration between NGOs and government institutions on the infonnation sharing (documents and data). NGOs are not requesting for data and reports from government institutions, and also government institutions are not exposing all the information to the public. Information sharing is still at the beginning, there is no fonnál channel of communication between government and NGOs. Not only lack of infonnation sharing between NGOs and government institutions, but also between stakeholders. It is not easy to find data (online, offline) because of low level of communication. Even other infonnation come after their date, deadline.

Problem/deficits of NGs in participation in environmental governance

- A deficit which is there is that NGOs are not involved in decision making in sustainable way. Culture of let NGOs participate in environmental policies like EIA forexample is at low level
- NGOs work alone without sustainable support from national ministries, no joint collaboration at all project steps. Sometimes government agencies do not consult NGOs before operationalization of many strategies in which they should have participated
- Some NGOs contribute a lot, other not real.
- NGOs are not infonned when laws are being formulated.


The rate of the status of civil society participation in environmental governance in the Albertine Rift is estimated at 46% (Ligi). According to the information from the interviwed NGOs represesntatives from AR, this is due to the problem of Technical capacity and Financial means which are at high level (Fig2). However, those are not the only factors influencing this level of participation, an other serious problem which influence more is low level of collaboration on especially on information sharing between government institutions and NGOs as well as between stakeholders. Environmental NGOs themselves do not have a fonnál channel of communication and infonnation sharing.There cannot be Collecting, disseminating, and analyzing infonnation without fonnál channel of infonnation sharing, which might be the first role of NGOs in environmental governance.

Consultation is at 80% among the features of NGOs participation in environmental governance (Fig3); however, its value is estimated at 46% while approval is at 0%. Of course they are not decision makers, but why not they not invited to vote for approving? According to the research, even when they are invited, 33% said that there given equal right, 33% said that there unequal right, and 20% said that there is no right while 14% are silence about that. (Fig4)



A rate of fourty six percent of NGOs participation in environmental governance in Albertin Rift region is very law, while environmental NGOs are willing to work with Government institutions and they have good strategic plan on environmental threats. Reason why they must be supported by being given infonnation, data in order to get sustainable results, and increase capacity building of staff and beneficiaries. Working together and Networking will produce a significant contribution in environmental governance. Public and NGOs participation is crucial and fruitfull, in the fixture, it must be focused . Working together we will reach the objectives and green growth economy in Albertine Rift region.


Recommendations to the Governments:

- Governments are recommended to promote the implementation of Principle 10 of the Rio-92 Declaration ensuring the access to infonnation and fonnation to environmental information, popular participation in environmental management and environmental justice; Civil society can participate via assessing infonnation from different sources either on the groung or other information system sites, then advocacy in appropriate manner by a sustainable collaboration as well as private talk and awareness on environmental engaged sector. Networking should be a good way to undergo. Participation of civil society should be a condition so that Government institutions before formulation and implemetation, there must be at least consultation of NGOs working in the same erea to give their point of view on a given project, policy, etc,, and the institutional discussions should not prevail on the discussion about content and substance.
- Environmental NGOs should be given the equal right in participation, consultation, formulation and implementation of environmental projects and policies.
- There should be regular debates on identified environmental threats, policies,etc,, using media, conferences, competions, social media, etc,,, so that the identified issues will be understood by all concerned persons or institutions.
- To facilitate the participation of civil society in environmental governance;
- To make public the strategies of civil society that has proven to be efficient for the strengthening of environmental governance.

Recommendations to the International Organizations

- Consider the role of civil society; and organizational issues in Evaluation, monitoring and social control; Fonnation and mobilization
- To educate society, and especially to support initiatives of civil society and public universities regarding local, national and global challenges of environmental governance,

NGOs are recommended:

- To involve and educate media communicators about civil society participation in environmental governance and to disseminate infonnation about through the media;
- To promote transfonnative education this encourages people to question the infonnation published by the media and advertising campaigns about actions of all sectors of society.
- To strengthen technological, scientific, technical and human capacities of the people


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The Rural Environment Development Organization, available at: us.html





Albertine Rift Conservation Society initiated a research on tire Status of Civil Society’s participation in environmental governance under CEPF project aiming at strengthening civil society in order to participate in decision making including Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

The purpose of conducting this questions is to generate and compile information about the status of NGOs participation in environmental decision making in Albertine Rift region and specificali to assess the extent to which NGOs participate in environmental governance in Albertine Rift as well as to identify factors influencing levels of participation in environmental governance in the Albertine Rift (AR).

Interviewers should be free to disclose that the research is conducted on behalf of the Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS) in order to generate the open ‘climate’ necessary to conduct open and fruitful interviews. It may be offered to the interviewee to ensure his/her anonymity.

A. IDENTIFICATION (Please Provide the following information:

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Environmental Governance is the means by M’hich society determines and acts on goals and priorities related to the management of natural resources. This includes the mies, both formal and informal, that govern human behavior in decision-making processes as well as the decisions themselves.

At high level means (80-100%), Medium (50-79%), Lower (1-49%), No one (0%)

1. To what extend your organization participates in environmental governance in your country?

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2. The factors influencing levels of participation in environmental governance in the Albertine Rift (AR) are: (here you can pick more factors if any)

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3. To what extent environmental NGOs get infonnation, documents, reports and data about environmental relevant activities from government institutions?

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According to your position (what you have choose), do you think why?

4. NGOs are given right to vote and implement on environmental decisions? Equal right Unequal right No right

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According to your position (what you have choose), do you think why?

5. A. What are particularly important/innovative features of NGO participation in the decision-making in the institution concerned? (Pick more or more if any)

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B. Funding is at what extent

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c. Formulation is at what extent At high level Medium Lower

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D. Consultation At high level Medium Lower

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E. Comment

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E. None

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6. To "what extent are these features grounded in legal provisions, i.e. which legal provisions (treaties, rules of procedure, and decisions of governing bodies) exist on which the feature is based?

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7. How do these features operate/contribute to an enhanced participation of NGOs in practice?

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8. Are there any deficits or problems with respect to NGO participation in and contributions to decision-making processes in the institution concerned? Is there a need for improvement? If yes, what kind of deficits/problems/need for improvement?

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9. Where do these deficits, problems, need for improvement materialise, i.e. are these related to:

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If there are others, what are they?

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10. In which way civil society participation in environmental governance may be done/ achieved effectively?

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Thanks for Responding!

26 of 26 pages


Research on the Role of Civil Society in Environmental Governance
Civil Society Participation in Environmental Governance
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civil society involvement, non-governmental organizations, environmental governance, policy development, environmental justice
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Jean de la paix Murinda (Author), 2015, Research on the Role of Civil Society in Environmental Governance, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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