Be a political party within their own organization

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Non-Government Organizations (NGO) have been, in theory, in existence for many decades. Non-government organizations can vary in many different forms of association. For the purpose of this paper, the acronym NGO will be used, which is the official name given to non-government groups shortly after the formation of the United Nations after the Second World War, in 1945. As clearly stated in their name “Non-Government Organizations” are free and independent of direct control by government.1 Throughout the world there are many different types of NGOs, which can make the process of defining such an association a difficult task. There are a few basic characteristics that NGOs must abide by in order to be considered a NGO. These characteristics are: NGOs must not be a political party, NGOs must not be a criminal group and thirdly they must be a non-profit organization.2 Although, these three characteristics could possibly be disputed, these characteristics hold true for the majority of NGOs that have influence in the global political arena. Political party association could be the one characteristic that could promote the most debate of the three characteristics because a significant amount of NGOs work closely with political groups of like-minded views, but as noted before NGOs can not be a political party within their own organization.

Non-Government Organizations have many different missions and visions but the majority of their goals have one common theme of “Working together in partner with the United Nations for a more peaceful and sustainable world.”3 The key word in this quote is sustainable, this type of theme is ideal for building the foundations of energy policy, and more specifically policy that can bring a decrease in fossil fuel use (as well as an increase use of renewable energy). Greenpeace is a NGO that has taken energy policy to an intense new level. This research paper will include a brief section on Greenpeace and its role as a significant NGO in the global world of energy policy and energy renewable options.

NGOs at the International Level

There are tens of thousands of different NGOs across the world. There is a broad range of different groups focusing on many different issues. Over the past decade there has been a significant increase in the number of NGOs around the world (See table #1 for specific growths). At the international level the main role of NGOs are concentrated in three major debatable issues: Human Rights, Environmental Issues, and Development issues. Energy policy can fall under all three categories.4 Under The Charter of the United Nations, Article 71 it states, “The Economic and Social Council may make suitable arrangements for consultation with non-government organizations which are concerned with matters within its competence.”5 This alone does not make NGOs a significant player in global decision-making process but rather a significant influencer. Under this article it is clear that there are some rights for NGOs at a consultation level. NGOs are allowed to at some degree, to voice their opinions and knowledge of certain areas in global governance but are not allowed to play a role in the “General Assembly” which ultimately makes the critical decisions.

NGOs represent a wide variety of issues but their greatest influence is their democratic nature to speak for the “Public Interest.” This type of philosophy has helped NGOs to be a great influence in global debates. Although NGOs have increased in number and influence over the course of history they have also endured many setbacks in their journey to reach their goal. A great deal of setbacks have been due to the difficult task of assembling the massive varieties of different NGOs at the international level. If the NGOs were able to join together to provide a solid foundation on global issues, they could have a greater strength in knowledge and power, to negotiate global issues with the UN and at other global political gatherings. Throughout the history of NGOs, they have experienced triumphs and defeats in reaching their ultimate goal for a peaceful and sustainable world. Of course many defeats have been due to their lack of decision-making power at all levels of governance, but the unification of like-minded NGOs joining together as one organization could only strengthen their battle.6

NGOs and Energy Policy (Greenpeace)

Greenpeace is a NGO that has made significant impacts at many different levels in global climate change and other energy policy debates. Greenpeace is a strong supporter of the Kyoto Protocol which is an international treaty aimed to cut fossil fuel emissions below 1990 levels (55 countries representing 55% of total 1990 emissions must ratify this protocol).7 Greenpeace views the Kyoto Protocol as a “Small step in the right direction,” but they believe that there must be a 50% reduction in fossil fuel emissions achieved by no later than 2020.8 The United States is the leader in fossil fuel emission use, yet has backed out of the Kyoto Protocol, which has fueled Greenpeace to take action against political leaders in the United States as well as other players that fight against the Kyoto Protocol.

Greenpeace is a NGO that has had a history of radical participation in its fight against oil producers and the political powers that support the increase of conflict that derives from the world’s dependency on fossil fuels. As stated in Jeremy Leggett’s book, The Carbon War, “In the summer of 1997, Greenpeace decided to launch their most difficult campaign yet: an all out effort to draw a line in the sand over fossil fuel use.” (Pp.271). Greenpeace’s philosophy behind this campaign as Leggett noted, was to decrease fossil fuel use based on the knowledge that international government was supporting efforts to find new oil reserves and not recognizing the extreme impact fossil fuels play in the destruction of the natural environment and more specifically global warming. This campaign began with Greenpeace’s objection to the increase production of oil in the Atlantic frontier. Greenpeace focused on BP (large oil producer) as their target because BP had expressed interest in certain forms of renewable energy (solar) yet continued to increase their oil production. Greenpeace activists stationed themselves on one of BP’s oil rigs and refused to leave. After several days the activists were arrested and removed from the rigs9. Although, Greenpeace did not necessarily achieve any significant policy or international laws passed by this one event they were able to stop oil production for a small portion of time and make their opinions heard.

Greenpeace is a respectable organization, which has a reputation for making their opinions and views acknowledged at a global level. Greenpeace has offices in over 40 countries across the world, which has enabled this NGO to become a powerful and influential organization in global environment issues.10 Greenpeace is leading in many areas in the action to stop global warming. Greenpeace in the UK have joined forces with other NGOs to boycott such oil producers as Esso. Their goal of this campaign is to boycott this company until they change their position on the Kyoto Protocol. Efforts such as these perhaps seem small or insignificant at this moment in time, but as Greenpeace has seen over the course of their history, eventually their beliefs will be recognized and supported by international laws and policies that can help stop the global warming process. Greenpeace is not by any means solely comprised of extreme environmentalist that sacrifice themselves for the earth but rather they are an extremely knowledgeable organization with scientific and statistical support for their claims against oil producers and politications in the realm of global warming and fossil fuel emissions.11

Although Greenpeace is leading the crusade to end global warming there are many other NGOs that play a vital role in educating and supporting the push for policies to be pasted at the international level to stop climate change. NGOs such as: Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club and the World Wildlife Foundation have all played significant roles in this environmental fight. Each NGO is unique in their own philosophies such as; Friends of the Earth have launched a campaign not on the global level but rather at the local/individual level. Friends of the Earth have challenged their supporters to take initiatives at the individual level by decreasing personal fossil fuel emissions and switching to renewable sources of energy. While each NGO is different they all hold similar ideals behind the ultimate goal to stop global warming.


In conclusion, NGOs have a history of providing information to governments and companies about not only local and national issues but also at an increasing rate, at the international level. International government alone, is difficult strictly between the massive diversities between each country that is represented at these international conferences. The goals of the NGOs are not only to have their voices heard but actually understood. The NGOs feel it is essential to have action against climate change made at the political level. Although, the United States has backed out of the Kyoto Protocol, NGOs such as Greenpeace do not look at this as a failure but believe some of their efforts have made a difference with the countries that have ratified this international treaty. Perhaps, with the increase over the past decade of NGOs and the future of NGOs looking bright, they may some day join together in their efforts. When this day does evolve the pressure at the political level will be felt and action will be taken.

Table #1: Growth of NGOs from 1990 to 2000.




Growth (%)

Culture and Recreation
















Social Services








Economic Development, Infrastructure




Law, Policy Advocacy




















Source: Anheier, Glasius and Kaldor, 2001, in the

Human Development Report 2002.


2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.


5 Ibid.



8 Ibid.

9 Leggett, Carbon Wars, 2001.


11 Ibid.

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