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Über dieses Buch

This book documents the influence of nongovernmental organizations on the rise of the sustainable development movement in international politics. It adds to the body of scholarly research on non-governmental organizations, by examining their political influence during the first two decades of international environmental politics - from the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment in 1972 to the establishment of the World Conference on Environment and Development in 1982. NGOs wielded their rational moral authority to achieve their goals in attending environmental mega-conferences. In turn, these successes gave rise to a symbiotic relationship with the United Nations Environment Program and secured a seemingly permanent position at not only the negotiating table, but also the inner hallways and back rooms of the United Nations.



Chapter 1. An Invitation to Explore the Role of NGOs

The chapter invites the reader to investigate how non-governmental organizations influenced the sustainable development discourse. Nongovernmental organizations’ influence may not have been known and predictable, but their influence was significant. The traditions established at Stockholm largely remain intact as diplomats prepare for the upcoming Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012.

The chapter also provides information on the research design and methodology as well as introducing the chapters in the remainder of the book.

Anne E. Egelston

Chapter 2. NGOs Herald the Arrival of Sustainability

The chapter provides background information about the United Nations-nongovernmental organization relationship and how these rules have developed over time. It opens by presenting background information about the United Nations system and gives a brief overview of one of its organs – the United Nations Environment Program. The chapter continues with a review of the United Nations Environmental Conferences focusing on the Stockholm-Rio-Johannesburg Trajectory that highlights major turning points in the ongoing diplomatic negotiations about sustainable development.

The remainder of the chapter introduces the sustainable development discourse with a focus on its importance as a political compromise that allowed Northern developed countries to discuss environmental protection with Southern developing countries. As a result sustainable development remains a controversial topic representing different philosophies ranging from resource conservation to socio-economic equality through environmental justice.

Anne E. Egelston

Chapter 3. Theoretical Concepts

This chapter seeks to establish nongovernmental organizations influence on broader processes of global environmental governance. The chapter begins by establishing nongovernmental organizations’ agency as one subcategory of global civil society. The next section reviews theoretical approaches to nongovernmental organizations’ relationship with states and institutions. After determining that global civil society and regime theory do not match the boundary conditions of this case study, Sect.


reviews global environmental governance. Scholars within this field of study conclude that nongovernmental organizations may influence treaty outcomes at international environmental negotiations.

The remainder of the chapter incorporates time as a key dimension representing the broader processes of governance and establishes nongovernmental organizations’ rational moral authority as a source of nongovernmental organizations’ influence. Nongovernmental organizations convert their authority into influence by successfully achieving their goals. The section concludes by theorizing about factors which assist nongovernmental organizations in converting their authority into influence.

Anne E. Egelston

Chapter 4. From Stockholm to Our Common Future

This chapter presents the historical narrative for this project; namely, the political history of the sustainable development discourse. The purpose of this chapter is to present a cohesive story about the actors, agents, and structures that overcame problems stemming from the East-West conflict, the North-South gap, and existing rules and traditions of state diplomacy to create a new environmental paradigm. Although sustainable development may not harden into a regime, it nevertheless permanently altered the relationship not only between man and his environment, but also between each other.

The chapter also reviews how the limits discourse shaped one conceptualization of sustainability. This chapter contains two distinct discourses dealing with sustainable development. The first discourse was promoted by the United Nations and included an emphasis on continuing economic growth. The Club of Rome funded initial research on a second discourse emphasizing a steady state economy around finite limits. George Mitchell, owner of Mitchell Energy and a prominent member of the Club of Rome continued funding and promoting this limits discourse.

Anne E. Egelston

Chapter 5. Reflections

This chapter pulls together the key elements in the book to present an analysis of nongovernmental organizations' influence during the creation of the sustainable development discourse. The chapter forms three key propositions based upon the case study. The key propositions give an overview of the theoretical importance of this research, namely, that NGOs successfully bargained their special expertise into a seemingly permanent symbiotic relationship with UNEP. The next section assesses the explanatory power of current global environmental governance theory and concludes that existing approaches explain some facets of this case study. However, current theories generally fail to consider NGOs role as a policy implementer and also fail to assess NGOs influence while engaging in this activity. The fourth section fills this gap in scholarly theories. Similarly, the fifth section reviews conditions impacting NGO influence. This chapter also concludes that NGOs influence did not begin at the end of the Cold War.

Anne E. Egelston

Chapter 6. Parting Thoughts

This chapter summarizes the key themes of this book – that nongovernmental organizations are an important, influential actor. NGOs political role, function and influence begins concurrently with the Stockholm conference and continues unabated throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. They successfully leveraged their rational moral authority into political influence that created a symbiotic relationship between United Nations Environment Program and nongovernmental organizations that fostered the sustainable development discourse. The chapter speculates that NGOs do not need sustainable development to harden into a formal regime in order to convince other actors to adopt its normative principles. In short, NGOs continue to work promoting the sustainable development discourse both within and outside the United Nations system. The chapter concludes by commenting that further research is needed to NGOs' political influence over extended periods of time, separate from specific international environmental negotiations.

Nongovernmental organizations continue to work promoting the sustainable development discourse both within and outside the United Nations system. The failure to achieve a sustainable development regime removed enforcement capabilities at the national level. Nongovernmental organizations have, however, successfully moved forward with policy experimentation and implementation that has nevertheless spread the sustainable development discourse.

Anne E. Egelston


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