UNEP Guidelines for Participation of Major Groups and Stakeholders Under Review: Deadline 15 October
October 4, 2011  //  By:   //  Blog Post  //  4 Comments

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), through its Major Groups and Stakeholders Branch (MGSB) and the Major Groups Facilitating Committee (MGFC), have initiated a process to revise the Guidelines for Participation of Major Groups and Stakeholders in Policy Design at UNEP.

The UN Charter formally recognizes three categories of participants in the UN: (i) representatives of nations, (ii) representatives of international organisations, and (iii) representatives from accredited non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Agenda 21 expands the meaning of this, stating that participation by NGOs in the UN must apply equally to all ‘major groups’. It defines the nine major groups as being Women, Children and Youth, Indigenous Peoples, Non-governmental Organizations, Local Authorities, Workers and Trade Unions, Business and Industry, Science and Technology, and Farmers.

UNEP has embraced the concept of Nine Major Groups as the model for involving non-state actors in its work, and the Guidelines currently under review is the main document regulating this. The Guidelines aim to create a balanced and actively facilitated framework for managing Major Groups input to the UNEP governance process. The document clarifies how the Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum (GMGSF) and Regional Consultation Meetings (RCM‘s) can engage with the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC/GMEF). The Guidelines also regulate the composition and Terms of Reference for the UNEP Major Groups Facilitating Committee (MGFC).

When the current Guidelines got adopted in 2009, it was decided that they would be subject to a review after two years. The aim of the revision is enhanced engagement of major groups and stakeholders in the work of UNEP. The process seeks to design a more democratic, transparent, effective, participatory and accountable interaction between UNEP and civil society at both policy and implementation levels, in line with relevant rules and regulations.

The Terms of Reference for the review of the Guidelines describes that the review process is open and participatory and allows all interested organizations to contribute. Proposed changes to the Guidelines shall be sent to Jose de Mesa, Programme Officer in the UNEP Major Groups and Stakeholders Branch: jose.demesa@unep.org. Deadline 15 October 2011.



About the Author :

Sara Svensson joined the GEG team in June 2010 working out of Gothenburg in Sweden. She spent the first half of 2011 working full-time in Boston with the GEG Project. Sara is a global youth representative in the UNEP Major Groups Facilitating Committee and the UNEP Civil Society Advisory Group on International Environmental Governance.

4 Comments to “UNEP Guidelines for Participation of Major Groups and Stakeholders Under Review: Deadline 15 October”
  • Jeffrey Barber
    October 4, 2011 -

    I think we need to introduce some new ideas and models for civil society participation, especially for the Rio+20 discussion on “institutional structures.” It would be nice to bring such ideas into this Guidelines revision but there is really not much room or time for this important discussion.

    One problem with this 9MG model is that in practice (e,g., at CSD and increasingly at UNEP) these groups tend to operate in separate silos instead of regularly engaging with each other to identify common priorities and develop inter-group strategies. In contrast to the gathering of different groups and interests in common strategic discussions and plans, the current “9 Major Groups” model as practiced at the UN tends to result in a lack of creative exchange or synthesis of ideas, instead operating as a series of isolated discussions and statements, in the end missing the kind of overall inspiration and sense of community that comes from engaging creatively with each other.

    Another problem is what is called the “NGO Major Group.” At one time considered the original Major Group distinct from governments, international UN agencies, and the private sector, it has shrunk to the place to go for those cannot frame their contributions, ideas and concerns as women, youth, indigenous peoples, or scientists, etc. As a result it is the group which is most frequently criticized as being the least organized or prepared. It is indeed the “non-” group. So, what to do?

    While it is important to have mechanisms encouraging and enabling the participation of these 9 “major” groups in this process, we need a broader model that cuts across and includes these groups as well as the many other “minor” groups which also have important ideas, insights, and concerns to contribute on the critical issues. We need a more inclusive and more integrated “civil society” participation model which goes beyond this current “major group silo” model.

  • Emmanuel Prinet
    October 5, 2011 -

    Hi Sara,

    Thanks for this. I wanted to let you know that the “Terms of Reference” link is broken, and was wondering if you could fix it and e-mail me the ToR’s.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time to comment, yet there is so much to say about the 2009 Guidelines for Participation, and how they’ve substantially changed from 2008.

    I’d like to express serious concern about the fact that the concept of “civil society” has been left behind and replaced by UN jargon (“Major Groups and Stakeholders”), which only alienates many of the groups we need to be reaching out to, and downplays the role of elected regional representatives. Who are the “Stakeholders” that are associated with the “Major Groups”?

    I believe that the concept of the 9 Major Groups as being the only mode of input into the process is divisive and focuses more on the groups than the issues and fosters more fragmentation than a sense of community and common cause. It goes against UNEP’s tradition of separating business from civil society, and involving civil society in all of its diversity.

    Also, it is not acceptable to have the status of all 12 elected regional representatives reduced to “observer” status, where they no longer have the ability to vote on committee. They have been elected, and they need to be able to vote on the committee.

    The term of office of the regional representatives was reduced to one year (loosing continuity and experience), in contrast to two years for Major Group representatives. This too is not acceptable.

    There are many more comments of this nature to be made. I’d be happy to discuss this by phone with you at your earliest convenience, if this is of interest.

    Best wishes,

    Emmanuel Prinet,
    Policy Director,
    One Earth Initiative Society,

  • Rodger Mpande
    October 5, 2011 -

    I will be participating in International Environmental Governance Program at the United Nations University IAS. Currently on my way to Japan and will make an input before the 15th of October 2011.

    Rodger Mpande
    email: rodger@ndas-africa.org

  • Maria Ivanova
    October 7, 2011 -

    Thank you all for your inputs! We also have a Linked In discussion group on Global Environmental Governance. The discussion is much easier there as no approval from an administrator is required to post comments. I would encourage you to join the group and contribute to the conversation – http://www.linkedin.com/groups?about=&gid=3072650&trk=anet_ug_grppro

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