NGOs and Climate Crisis: Fragmentation, Lines of Conflict and Strategic Approaches

“The global crisis situation challenges us to adopt a new process-oriented approach to the engagement of civil society” – concludes Klaus Heidel in a contribution to the 2009 Social Watch Deutschland Report. Heidel presents a critical reflection on the role of civil society – indeed, a rare phenomenon from the ranks of civil society organizations. He cites limitations, divisions, and the diverse dilemmas facing civil society actors. (Heidel 2009)

The debate is overdue. For many years, the belief has survived that we are one global civil society, which – in a historic mission – will save the world in light of the universal failure of state policies. This position is experiencing a renaissance, particularly following the disappointing United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009. At the same time, the international climate negotiation process highlights how large the conflicts of interest among civil society climate actors have now become in terms of geography, positions, and ideologies. There can no longer be any talk of strength through unity, of harmony of positions. The political conflicts of interest are further joined by numerous internal institutional principles and constraints on civil society work – especially with respect to access to resources and financial aid and to (media) publicity.