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The Role of Environmental Organizations in International Environmental Law

David Hunter, International Environmental Law for Natural Resources Practitioners (1997)

Under traditional views of international law, only nation-states have rights and responsibilities. Non-governmental actors, industry, and subnational governments are not allowed to participate in international law. Due to general trends of globalization, however, the nature of international law-making is changing.2

Although the demise of the nation-State as the primary political law-making authority can be overstated, the trends do seem unmistakable. Information, capital and people (including activists) now circulate through national boundaries, with little if any restriction from governmental authority. Non-state actors, for example multinational corporations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), now conduct their own foreign policy, gather their own information, make their own alliances and, increasingly, expect to participate fully in international affairs.

The expanding role of non-State actors may be even more pronounced in environmental law than in other fields.3 The number of environmental NGOs addressing international issues, particularly in developing countries, has exploded in recent years as has their technical capacity to build networks, gather and analyze technical information, and gain the attention of policymakers in every country. Moreover the urgency of environmental issues leads NGOs to look actively for alternatives to the often slow an