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The value/importance of Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in global governance cannot be underestimated. So long as the world has issues to deal with, the civil society will continue to group itself in various ways in order to find solutions to the problems affecting the world today. Climate change happens to be a critical issue of the twenty first century and the role of NGOs in addressing global climate change cannot be overemphasized. Since the late 1970s, there has been a widespread awakening on the effect of man’s activity on the environment and climate as a whole.
According to the world bank, the term civil society denotes, not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations that express the interests of their members. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), therefore, refer non-governmental organizations (NGOs), foundation and community groups. By description, NGOs are non-profit bodies that depends on the collective goodwill of their members to respond to their needs (Fries and Walkenhorst, 2010). Hence, NGOs are a part of larger civil society. They depend on the support of well-wishers who appreciate the need to continue the advocacy work. Without such support, the work of NGOs can be hampered a great deal. Financial support to these organizations is, therefore, critical in ensuring the free flow of their work processes.
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The main perspective of global governance is coordination and not regulation; hence the function of the civic society is further enhanced. In today’s era of globalization and structural redress, the civil society and NGOs become significant participants in transnational and international relations. This role includes active participation in climate change issues together with other international players like the UN, regional organizations’ finance and trade institutions.
NGO’s role in international climate change awareness is critical. The Stockholm Environment Convention brought to attention many worrying findings such as the rise in sea level, wearing out of the ozone layer, sudden changes in seasons and melting of the Arctic and Himalayan Glaciers. These concerns have led to the emergence of a great number of NGOS dealing with environmental issues worldwide. The drawback is that for a while now, these NGOs together with other stakeholders seem to concentrate more on the cause and effect of the global warming phenomena. This brings to question their efforts in other factors that affect climate today. Therefore, NGOs can take up the role of educating the world about the reality facing the continuing climate change discussion.
NGOs vigorously take part in educating people on human activities that have caused the climate change being witnessed today. They can also function as advocacy agencies for high risk people that are most affected by these radical climate changes like the poor people whose source of income is purely dependent on farming activities. Such advocacy is important as it gives way to discussions on how to help the most disadvantaged by these changes through financial aid, relief aid and effect-combating innovations. For example, the coalition of environmental NGOs in Bangladesh where members zealously took part in deliberating the suffering brought about by floods in 1987 and 1988, under the guidance of World Bank Coordinated Food Plan Action Plan (FAP). As a result of the NGOs close working with the locals and other stakeholders, the coalition of NGOs in Bangladesh was able to underscore the rights and susceptibility of the poor in the face of climate change.
The fact that climate change has become largely polarized across partisan boundaries is an indication enough that many people do not understand that the world is at risk. Research findings show that 64% of the American population presume that global warming is not associated with human activity, and just 14% Republicans comprehend that humans cause global warming.
NGOs as human rights activists are never short of creative mechanisms of expressing their interests. This was seen when the World Summit took place in 2005, where NGOs’ participation was checked, but the civil society members met outside the UN buildings to send forth reports, declare partnerships and give statements. This was a brave move to spread awareness and enhance discourse among key participants. This stand-up proved effective as it gave birth to several multi-stakeholder advances such as the Clinton Global Initiative, the Global Call to Action Against Poverty and the Green Room.
Today, many NGOs are taking the lead in devising tools for alleviating the negative effects caused by global climate change. A good example of such an organization is COTAP- Carbon Offsets To Alleviate Poverty, which offers a climate change solution in order to generate life-changing revenue for some of the most impoverished communities in the world. In its mission, the organization directly relates poverty to climate change and, therefore, seeks to provide solutions for climate change that will also eliminate poverty. It does this by managing the carbon content in the land.
COTAP is impacting positive changes in people’s lives, with projects in Malawi, Uganda, Nicaraguas and Mozambique. One of its exemplary projects is the Envirotrade’s Sofala Community Carbon Project; where more than 1,800 farmers taking part in 2011 were able to earn $247,780. This had never been witnessed before in a rural area where the average income is less than $50, annually. This specific project is also recognized as the world’s first “Triple Gold” CCBA project.
NGOs can be authoritative in enhancing or discouraging public and political support for policies or ideas developed by other quarters. NGOs enjoy immense goodwill from people and are seen to possess the moral authority to sway people’s support from one ideology to another. Therefore, they play the role of conferring legitimacy to various institutions and governments by influencing people who recognize their influence in the society.
The most powerful legitimization NGO’S can give is through linking businesses and states in consultations, campaigns, or agreements. The civil society continues to join hands with other groups in order to help improve the existing climate situation. For instance, the World Wildlife Fund started a water conservation action with Coca Cola company. The same fund also spearheads the Global Forest and Trade Network that Walmart and other contributors are part of (Bieri, 2010).
NGO’s influence over global decision making is very evident. It is also important that NGOs continue to develop new ways of contributing to international issues effectively, in order to remain relevant.
Even with increased professionalism within NGOs and transnational civil movements, the spirit of solidarity based on shared values, beliefs and visions is still exhibited. Nevertheless, it is evident that NGOs and other transnational civil societies, continue to lobby for inclusion even in the international organs like the UN, which is a move in the right direction.
NGOs have proved very effective in pinpointing norm transgressors and reproaching them in public in a move to trigger the global community into action. The civil society organizations are able to monitor the character of states and industry players through their vigilant fact-finding pursuits, and the broadcast and distribution of analytical reports through famous media channels. Currently, there is immense pressure with regard to the Kyoto Protocol, which is now seen as a horse-trading treaty that gave various ambitious nations’ rights to pollute the environment, while suppressing upcoming economies like China and India (Vijeta, 2013). As a result, many environmental NGOs are pushing for countries to look for alternative development paths, which the Kyoto Protocol did not offer ( Elisa, 2011).