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Building a Green Civil Society in China


Building a Green Civil Society in China Chapter 9 September 2004; The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) organizes meeting with environmental ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Building a Green Civil Society in China

Building a Green Civil Society in China Chapter
  • September 2004 The State Environmental
    Protection Administration (SEPA) organizes
    meeting with environmental, energy, and water
    resource officials concerning a new hydro plant
    and 13 dams scheduled to be built on one of
    Chinas last remaining wild rivers.
  • Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) organized
    tour to the Nuijang area to determine if the dams
    would be detrimental to the environment and
  • After several petitions were sent to the central
    government, the project was put on hold until
    environmental safety can be ensured.
  • This is a huge step for China in allowing NGOs
    and the public to have a say in what happens to
    its people.

Opening Political Space for Environmental NGOs
  • Over the past 20 years Chinas economic explosion
    has caused an ecologic implosion.
  • Environmental degradation costs China 9 of its
    gross national product.
  • In 1994 the National Peoples Congress (NPC)
    passed a the Rules for Registering Social
    Organizations, which for the first time granted
    legal status to independent NGOs.
  • The first to register were environmental groups.
    These groups form the largest sector of civil
    society groups in China.
  • China has made the environment a priority by
    launching a five year plan. This plan was from
  • China set aside 85 billion for the plan which
    included cleaning rivers and lakes, installing
    wastewater treatment and hazardous waste
    facilities, and carrying out a massive
    reforestation effort throughout the country.
  • In 2004 many new laws were being passed to
    protect the environment even further.

Green Civil Society with Chinese Characteristics
  • Even though China is making progress with
    allowing NGOs, it still has many restrictions.
  • NGOs must have a government sponsor and can not
    open branch offices. There can only be one NGO
    performing the same work in a single province.
  • Despite government pressure, by the late 1990s a
    handful of groups started increasing their area
    of operation, both geographically and
    thematically, which greatly enhanced their policy
  • Many new groups were birthed out of this
    movement. The Center for Legal Assistance to
    Pollution Victims (CLAPV) is one such group.
    Another is The South-North Institute for
    Sustainable Development (SNISD). Both these
    groups have helped revolutionize the way China
    thinks about her environment.
  • Many such groups have been formed in the last ten
    years and continue to bring environmental
    awareness and change to China.

Extending Their Reach
  • Environmental groups in China have begun to go
    beyond their original focuses and have helped in
    saving some of Chinas other resources. Some of
    these resources include endangered species and
    looking at ways of producing clean energy.
  • Many new groups have sprouted up all over China.
    Notably in their Universities where many young
    people are rallying around issues that are
    important to them. Some such issues are wetland
    preservation, and the reduction of harmful
    pesticides in China.
  • This specialization is a sign of NGO sectors
    growing maturity.

Government-organized NGOs
  • The government has welcomed these changes. In
    fact they have even created (GONGOs) Government
    Organized Non Government Organizations. GONGOs
    are given free office space and some financial
    support from government groups.
  • The close links that staff have to government
    help them conduct research and produce studies
    that can help put important environmental issues
    on the governments agenda.
  • GONGOs generally serve as research centers or
    consulting firms for their parent agency, rather
    than implementing policies or projects.
  • Many GONGOs produce scientific research to inform
    environmental or energy policy.

International Outreach to Environmental NGOs
  • International assistance has been major catalyst
    for expanding the number and capacity of Chinese
    environmental NGOs.
  • There is still no legal procedure allowing
    international NGOs and foundations to operate in
    China. This leaves these organizations in a
    vulnerable position.
  • However many international NGOs do operate in
    China and contribute financially to their
  • U.S. and European foundations have been
    increasingly active in supporting Chinese and
    international NGO work in China.
  • Blue Moon Fund is responsible for primarily
    funding Global Environment Institute who conducts
    studies and works with government, business, and
    NGO communities to promote Chinas environmental
    agenda, particularly in clean energy.

Continuing Constraints on Political Space
  • Since issuing the Rules for Registration of
    Social Organizations in 1994, the Chinese central
    leadership has struggled with the tension over
    granting NGOs freedom while still maintaining
    control over them.
  • Some fear that this tension will cause the
    central government to halt the growth of social
  • The Chinese central government has established
    some federations such as the All China
    Environment Federation and the Womens
    Federation, and the Labor Federation.
  • These federations are controlled by the central
  • Some green groups and lawyers fighting against
    pollution issues have encountered major obstacles
    or backlash from local governments and industries.

Opportunities for a Stronger NGO Community
  • NGOs have benefited from the central governments
    call for community participation to promote
    grassroots democracy such as village elections
    and the four rights regarding land use and
    property changes in rural areas.
  • The four rights are the right to be informed, to
    participate, to monitor, and to be involved in
    local government decision making.
  • NGOs in China have grown in size and capacity
    mainly due their willingness to partner with
    international organizations a well as local news
    media organizations and universities.
  • In 2004 the World Business Council on Sustainable
    Development set up a China office, which aims to
    create a forum for exchange and cooperation among
    Chinese and foreign enterprises.

Next Steps
  • In the long run environmental NGOs in China must
    become more independent in terms of funding and
    must strengthen their capacity to manage their
  • Most NGOs are aware of these needs and are
    seeking training to help themselves in this area.
  • International assistance and domestic pressure
    for legislation is needed to help guarantee NGOs
    legal status and permit tax-deductible donations
    by Chinese.
  • Chinese NGOs are not only challenged by
    government regulations and limited internal
    capacity, they also face the challenge of a
    changed society.
  • NGOs and private citizens have been empowered to
    voice their opinions regarding central government
    policies and have taken part in 74,000 mass