BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE
A new report launched today, has affirmed that although international climate negotiations are crawling at a snail pace, civil society has indeed become influential and plays key roles in pushing for new laws, programmes, policies or strategies on climate change.
According to the report - Southern voices on climate policy choices: civil society advocacy on climate change released in Bonn, Germany, civil society has also become instrumental in holding governments to account on their commitments; in identifying the lack of joined-up government responses to climate change; and in ensuring that national policy making does not forget the poor and vulnerable.
Made public at the UN climate talks in Bonn by a coalition of more than 20 civil society networks in developing countries, with support from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and CARE through the Climate Capacity Consortium, the report provides an analysis of the tools and tactics advocacy groups use to influence policy responses to climate change.
It also highlights the importance to civil society networks of engaging with the media to reach the general public and key decision-makers, and of having good relations with governments to influence policy making and planning.
In Zimbabwe, for example, the Climate Change Working Group has successfully advocated for a new national climate change strategy, while as a result of advocacy activities by the Cook Islands Climate Action Network, a climate change unit has been established within the office of the Prime Minister, to ensure that the issue falls within the portfolio of the highest government officials.
The report also describes how civil society advocacy efforts have influenced international processes, donors and multilateral organisations such as the World Bank, and in some cases the private sector.
Commenting on the new report, the editor, Dr. Hannah Reid of IIED, said “Many of even the world's poorest countries now have active civil society coalitions that work on climate change, and they are increasingly influential.”
“These coalitions can play an important role as bridges between vulnerable communities and those with the power to enact policies that can protect people from the impacts of climate change. This report will help these coalitions learn from each other as many operate in isolation,” she added.
For his part, William Chadza from the Civil Society Network on Climate Change in Malawi said: “It is interesting for us to see how colleagues in countries as distant as Vietnam work with vulnerable communities as they adapt to climate change and strive to ensure their government can address these people’s concerns.”
He added that “While some governments in industrialised nations seem to ignore climate change, this report shows how in the global Southern civil society organisations are working hard to promote solutions and climate justice for those affected.”
All is however not rosy, as the report as well describes some of the challenges experienced by the coalitions, such as the lack of skills and resources needed to meet their advocacy objectives. The report further reveals that where relations between government and civil society are weak, civil society involvement in key policy making arenas has not been adequate.
The report includes contributions from more than 20 climate networks and their member organisations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific, which work together in the Southern Voices on Climate Change programme funded by the Government of Denmark through the Climate Capacity Consortium, comprised of four Danish NGOs, Climate Action Network International and IIED, with CARE Denmark as the lead agency.