Major Groups & Stakeholders

Since its inception, the United Nations Environment Programme (UN ENVIRONMENT) has had a special relationship with civil society in tackling environmental issues. The Stockholm Conference on Human Environment, which led to the creation of UN ENVIRONMENT in 1972, owed much to the enthusiasm, dedication and commitment of civil society. Many multilateral environmental agreements - Basel Convention, Montreal Protocol, Biodiversity and Climate Change Conventions, among others, were developed thanks to the lobbying efforts of civil society.

Engaging Major Groups and Stakeholders as partners

UN ENVIRONMENT recognises the importance of engaging Majors Groups and other Stakeholders as partners and appreciates the perspectives they bring to the table, valuable research and advocacy functions they perform and their role in helping foster long-term, broad-based support for UN ENVIRONMENT’s mission.

Intergovernmental decisions will have stronger and broader recognition and support by the public if governments take Major Groups and other Stakeholders views into account as early as possible in policy-making and decision-making processes. Major Groups and other Stakeholders also play a direct role in the formation of policy as researchers, think-tanks, and watchdogs, or through advocacy.

A key role in achieving sustainable development

After the Earth Summit in 1992, UN ENVIRONMENT adopted the Major Groups approach as defined in Agenda 21, the action plan of the United Nations related to sustainable development. In the spirit of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration from 1992, Rio+20 recognized that sustainable development requires the meaningful involvement and active participation of all nine Major Groups.

The Rio+20 outcomes reaffirm the key role of Major Groups and Stakeholders to achieve sustainable development and underscore in Paragraph 43 of the outcome document that “broad public participation and access to information and judicial and administrative proceedings are essential to the promotion of sustainable development”.

UN Environment believes that the commitment and genuine involvement of all social groups is critical to the effective implementation of the objectives, policies and mechanisms in the field of environment and development. Hence, any policies, definitions or rules that affect the participation of non-governmental organizations in the work of the United Nations and that are associated with Agenda 21,  Rio+20  and the Future We Want must apply equally to all Major Groups .

Agenda 21 defines the nine ‘Major Groups’ and in chapter 23 recognizes the important role of civil society and the need to strengthen the role of Major Groups.

  • Business and industry
  • Children and youth
  • Farmers
  • Indigenous Peoples and their communities
  • Local Authorities
  • Non-governmental organizations
  • The scientific and technological community
  • Women
  • Workers and Trade Unions


When implementing its Programme of Work, UN ENVIRONMENT relies on implementing and executing partners from Major Groups and Stakeholders, relying on their expertise, capacity building and outreach abilities and regional, national and local presence.

In order to support strategic partnerships in the most effective way, UN ENVIRONMENT distinguishes between three different forms of partnerships:


UN ENVIRONMENT commits to facilitate inputs resulting from Major Groups and other Stakeholders expertise and views, at the intergovernmental level, in line with applicable rules and regulations. Accredited Major Groups and other Stakeholders are invited to participate in all relevant global and regional fora, in particular the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) of UN ENVIRONMENT Sessions as well as its Special Sessions including its preceding and associated Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum (GMGSF). Major Groups and other Stakeholders are invited to provide their input into the preparatory process, including agenda setting and into the UNEA Sessions can comment and provide expertise also during the preparatory process. Decisions then taken by member states at the UNEA serve as the basis to UN ENVIRONMENT’s Programme of Work.


A principle mandate of UN ENVIRONMENT is to monitor and assess the global environmental situation to ensure that emerging environmental problems of wide international significance receive appropriate and adequate consideration by governments. UN ENVIRONMENT’s role in undertaking and organizing assessments consists of catalysing the efforts of the scientific community around environmental topics and collaborate with those networks to undertake the assessment or reporting activities. UN Environment operates in the following manner:

  • Identification of institutes or associations that have the required scientific expertise;
  • Development of networks between these organizations named “collaborating centres” and UN Environment to facilitate similar standards and reporting procedures;
  • Establishment of a contract between UN Environment and the CSO that stipulates how UN Environment will assist the organization technically and financially to undertake the assessment or reporting activities;
  • Development of the scientific assessment/products by the collaborating centre with UN Environment support.

UN ENVIRONMENT undertakes those collaborative global and regional environmental assessments such as the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) report. Capacity building of scientific institutions in developing countries and countries with economies in transition is at the core of the scientific assessment process. Major Groups and other stakeholders play a central role in these assessments. The Global Environment Outlook is based on a network of more than 30 collaborating centres, many of which are universities, research institutes, etc.


For many years, UN Environment has recognized the importance of engaging Majors Groups and Stakeholders of civil society as partners. UN Environment appreciates the perspectives that they bring to the table, the valuable research and advocacy functions they perform and their role in helping foster long-term, broad-based support for UN Environment’s mission.

Majors groups and stakeholders can help implement UN Environment’s programme of work far beyond UN Environment’s capabilities. They can adapt UN Environment’s global work to national or local realities, and liaise between UN Environment and local communities. They provide scientific, policy and law expertise necessary for the implementation of the Programme of work. Major groups and stakeholders can also act as watchdogs or through advocacy, to foster accountability.

Finally, they are also well-placed to raise public awareness and engage the general public in an informative and educative manner, creating a multiplier effect. Many civil society organizations are closely tied to channels of media and can disseminate relevant information effectively. They can educate the public, through schools, universities, scientific institutions, or through targeted campaigns, raising awareness of new generations of their roles and duties so that they become responsible citizens.