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Representation from NGOs or the private sector
Some countries in the region have national environmental action plans that call for greater involvement of the private sector and NGOs. However, the level of direct involvement in environmental policy making has been minimal. In general, the involvement of NGOs in national decision-making tends to be informal. Some NGOs play an important role in environmental issues by facilitating communication between communities and the government.
Examples of countries where there is some representation from the private sector and NGOs include the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.
The National Forestry Policy Framework (NFP) places the private sector, communities and families at the centre of the country's plans for reforestation. The NFP encourages the private sector to invest in commercial forest plantations at its own risk. The NFP also recommends using the private sector to execute government-funded reforestation projects. The motivation is to make use of the experience and commercial expertise of the private sector to help achieve the NFP targets more quickly.
Papua New Guinea:
Groups such as Friends of the Earth, Wau Ecology Institute, the Melanesian Environment Foundation and the Goroka Environmental Awareness Group have been very active in environmental matters in PNG for some time. In 1990, the leading NGOs formed the National Alliance of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO). The aim of NANGO is to promote coordination of efforts in conservation and environmental protection. It also aims to coordinate the activities of NGOs to enhance their effectiveness.
In Vanuatu, there are a number of NGOs actively involved in environmental issues and awareness. These groups have been quite effective in promoting environmental awareness at the grassroots level for the sound management of Vanuatu's natural resources. Like those in PNG, the NGOs in Vanuatu have formed an umbrella organisation known as the Vanuatu Association of Non- Governmental Organisations (VANGO). The main aim of VANGO is to promote sustainable development in the country. VANGO maintains a small resource centre of information, and organises training, workshops, and seminars at the local levels on important development issues.
Key Issues on NGO/private sector participation:
As with private sector participation, some countries have national statements that acknowledge that NGOs and the private sector have an important role to play in environmental protection. However, the participatory role of these groups in environmental decision-making has been restricted. Some of the constraints include:
- Limited recognition by government agencies
- Lack of statutory mandate, which means that they can only make recommendations
- Lack of a legitimate forum for NGO participation.
- Lack of financial resources and training
- Communication problems derived from poor infrastructure
- Inability of NGOs to coordinate their activities at the national, provincial/regional and local levels
There are a number of reasons why the participation of NGOs could be beneficial to the integrated decision-making process.
- NGOs are normally formed from the grassroots level and are therefore more in touch with community concerns as compared to government agencies
- NGOs have relatively smaller overheads compared to government agencies, and are more efficient at disseminating information. In this regard, they can be a vital source of communication with local communities
- NGOs could play a useful role in monitoring and evaluation of environmental regulations