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Environmental Diplomacy and the role of Non-state actors

by on April 20, 2013

There has been an increase in international attention towards the environmental questions over the past years because as we look to the future, population growth, economic development, and technological change are likely to increase the demand for natural resources.

The main concerns are that, environmental degradation and previous exploitation of these resources will decrease the supply. Environmental issues have continued to be discussed and have moved up in most international agenda since the mid-1980. Environmental diplomacy has involved an increasingly range of actors like intergovernmental organisations, United Nations, International institutions and non-governmental organisations.

Non-state actors have contributed to the international world and will continue to. They  have become a vocal platform for the involvement of civil society since the 1950’s.There are a private initiative that are usually involved in the developmental projects on a non-profit basis and have  sufficient power to influence and cause a change in international relations .These groups do not belong to any established institution of a state. Their importance in the negotiation of issues related to Environmental cannot be over looked.

This article will focus on a particular negotiation relating to an environmental issue by non-governmental organizations as non-state actors.

Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over forty countries and focuses campaigns on world-wide issues such as global warming, deforestation, over-fishing, commercial whaling, genetic engineering, and anti-nuclear issues. Greenpeace uses direct action, lobbying and research to achieve its goals. This global organization does not accept funding from governments, corporations or political parties, relying on its 2.9 million individual supporters and foundation grants.

Some of their successful stories include negotiating for the EU to ban importation of illegal timber importation after Greenpeace uncovered illegal logging in Russia’s Far East and occupied a Russian timber ship in 2000 to highlight this problem. They also revealed Finland’s illegal timber trade with Russia and took action by occupying the roof of Admiralty Arch in London to draw the world’s attention to these issues. Other achievements include uncovering illegal timber being used in the refurbishment of the Houses of Parliament and exposed uncertified plywood being used to renovate an official EU building. And then in 2009, Green Peace lodged a complaint before the Public Prosecutor at the Court of Nantes against one of the world’s leading international timber and wood products wholesalers.


The organization states that after two years of difficult negotiations, a compromise was reached which, while it isn’t everything we might have hoped for, is still going to be a massive shot in the arm for forest conservation. The law will ban illegal timber from Europe. The EU is a huge market for timber; the world’s largest in fact, so this law will have a significant impact on the global timber trade. All companies operating within the EU will be required to establish a traceability system for wood products. And offenders could be fined. It will also strengthen the European Union’s Forest Law, Governance and Trade programme (FLEGT), a series of agreements between the EU and forest countries to try and stem the flow of illegal timber into Europe.

In conclusion, it must be said that, the rise of organisations such as Green Peace has championed the area of helping to improve the world’s environment. Their approach, which has been termed as Environmental Diplomacy, such as direct action, lobbying and reporting their research outcomes have helped bring the environmental degradation menace and its consequences to the fore. Current research has enabled non-state actors embrace environmental sustainability by getting the local people involved. Also, countries are now obliged to respond and act accordingly to safeguard their environments for posterity.


  1. Barston, R.P (2006) Modern diplomacy Published by Pearson Longman.



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One Comment
  1. Good piece here. Environment policy has been rising up the agenda over the past few decades as we become more aware to what we are doing to the world. But as the recession has hit it seems like the environment is not as important anymore and that economic growth is more necessary.but the growth of environmental groups as you have mentioned mean that the environment will once again move up the agenda in coming years.

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