Environmental governance, broadly speaking, refers to the institutions, policies, rules, and practices that mediate how the international community, nation-states, corporations, and citizens interact with the environment at different levels – global, national, and local. Effective environmental governance means the participation and cooperation of all actors – governments, NGOs, the private sector, civil society and community groups, ordinary citizens – in collaborative efforts towards sustainable development and environmental improvement. It involves citizens and civil society organizations in identifying, creating, and monitoring environment and sustainable development policies and processes. The rationale is at least twofold: citizens and communities should have a voice in articulating the environmental problems and policies that affect them, as well as a role in managing natural public goods and the environmental commons. In other words, the diverse stakeholders who are affected by environment and sustainable development policies and impacts should be able to participate in designing, implementing, and monitoring them.
The EU-NGOs Project 'Strengthening Environmental Governance by Building the Capacity of Non-Governmental Organizations' is a global project funded by the European Union (EU), implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and delivered by the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP). The project aimed to promote sustainable development and improve environmental management in target countries from EU neighboring regions of the European Union, through more effective civil society participation in environmental governance. The specific objective of the project was to build the capacities of NGOs in selected countries to the East and to the South of the European Union to engage in environmental governance.
The EU-NGOs project was implemented between 2012 and 2016 and focused primarily on strengthening the internal and external capacities of NGOs and developing professional skills for environmental governance. Since 2012, it provided small grants to 66 NGO-led projects across the 13 partner countries: Armenia, Belarus, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinian Authority, Tunisia and Ukraine (phase 1), and Algeria, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Morocco (phase 2).
The EU-NGOs Project improved NGOs’ capacities to participate in an informed and skilled manner in environmental policy formulation and natural resource management, collaborate in decision-making on key issues, and represent the interests of citizens and communities in environment and sustainable development discussions and debates. By promoting coordination and knowledge exchange among NGOs and other partners the project aimed to have a wider influence on civil society capacity to engage with governments in the tasks and activities of environmental governance.
The EU-NGOs project has produced considerable results with positive effects beyond the supported NGOs, as a large number of CSOs and NGOs have been reached through the frequently implemented training-of-trainers approach, partnerships, and dedicated networks. The EU-NGOs supported, community-led initiatives included directly tackling sustainable waste, water and forest management; providing environmental information to raise public awareness and inform local and national decision-making and policy processes; and creating multistakeholder monitoring committees to facilitate more effective environmental management and accountability, among others. EU-NGOs country programmes placed a large focus on involving communities and civil society in environmental decision and policy making processes, aiming to create a more enabling regulatory framework for civil society engagement and to influence and facilitate suitable local and national environmental policies across different sectors, promoting participatory sustainable development.