Nongovernmental Organizations As Lobbying Forces

The NGO movement has also emerged as a powerful lobbying force that can claim many achievements. For example, the NGO-led International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), first initiated in 1992, laid the groundwork for the UN 1997 International Mine Ban Treaty. In the United States alone, over 500 NGOs participated in the campaign, designed to ensure a global ban on antipersonnel landmines. This campaign illustrates how NGOs can affect international law, and utilize their access to policymakers and ability to leverage resources to good effect. Over 140 countries throughout the world have since ratified the treaty.

Bayne argues that the presence of NGOs were "particularly effective in hardening the EU's position on genetically modified food" and that NGOs had a major influence on the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle, by affecting the negotiating positions of governments. The formation of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change (1997) is often credited to the pressure brought to bear on governments by environmental NGOs. Many argue that NGOs have been very successful in ensuring that policy debate is now framed in environmental terms, and are particularly credited for changing the status of environmental issues, from being the domain of a politicized few, to that of the general interest of civil society.

NGOs often work collaboratively to achieve their goals. In Australia, a maj or conservation campaign effort from a coalition of environmental NGOs, including the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), Cairns and Far North Environment Centre (CAFNEC), and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), was a major force in the re-zoning of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. NGO lobbying helped ensure that the Australian Government rezoned the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area to protect 33 percent of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) in a network of no-take sea sanctuaries, or green zones. This was a major achievement, as previously, only 4.5 percent of the GBRMP was fully protected from fishing.

In the Americas, an extensive NGO campaign, the environmental right-to-know (RTK) movement has been mounted to ensure that Mexico's Pollution Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) is consistent with those in the United States and Canada. The only consistent lobbying for the PRTR in Mexico has been from the NGO sector, which, supported by funding from the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and elsewhere, has undertaken a wide range of activities to further their goals. These included the development of a website, operation of a listserv, the conduct of conferences and workshops, meeting with United States and Canadian counterparts, providing training to corporate executives on inventories, and expanding public outreach through community organizing, as well as through media events. In response to these campaigns, the Mexican government, in 2001, reformed the environmental law to call for the mandatory public register. In this instance, Mexican NGOs operated on the basis of collaboration rather than confrontation, and, today, are seeking alliances with promoters of Mexico's new freedom-of-information act, as part of a broader campaign, in conjunction with Latin America, to further their aspirations.

Some NGOs are developing partnerships with industry, as with the Marine Stewardship Council initiative, which brings together the international NGO, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and the multi national company, Unilever, which is one of the world's biggest buyers of frozen fish. Together, these groups have worked to address global issues of over-fishing, and have developed an eco-certification scheme for major fisheries. Over 40 fisheries are part of the MSC program, which constitutes about 3 million tons of seafood. A total of 14 of these fisheries, such as the Pacific Cod fishery, are now certified by the MSC as having attained a sustainable eco-standard.

NGOs, then, have emerged as significant actors in domestic and international societies. They have done so in both institutionalized and independent ways. In the human rights and environmental field, NGOs have served as agents of change and forces for the public good for the protection of human and environmental welfare. Amnesty International and WWF serve as good examples of human rights and environmental protection NGOs, respectively. While they are international NGOs, they operate by working locally to achieve specific goals in specific regions.

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