A recent study published in PLOS ONE describes the diverse missions of global environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs), revealing how geographical disparities in human and financial resources play a role in organizations’ work. The study was conducted by researchers from McGill University, the University of Georgia, and the Leibniz Centre of Tropical Marine Research.
In analyzing the mission statements of 679 environmental NGOs around the world, the research team determined that, contrary to prior thoughts, climate politics and environmental justice are two significant foci for over 40% of the most powerful organizations globally. While many might assume that environmental groups focus on environmental protection and conservation, engagement on climate change and respect for nature and human rights play a larger role than previously understood.
"There are more powerful organizations working on climate issues than on issues of biodiversity loss or land degradation," says co-author Klara Winkler, who is a postdoctoral researcher from McGill University. "It is important to be aware that some environmental issues garner more attention than others because it means that these other issues risk being neglected or even forgotten."
Interestingly, the study also found that environmental NGOs have regional disparities in human resources and financial capacity, which they hypothesize speak more to labor costs and financial flows. For example, their findings demonstrate that NGOs in North America and Europe have the highest median financial capacity while Latin America and the Caribbean has the highest median number of employees.
In other words, North America and Europe have fewer employees handling more money and Latin America and the Caribbean have more employees handling less money. This, reports Science Daily, “is also indicative of a global division of labor where Northern environmental NGOs act as donors or coordinators for large projects, while Southern organizations are subcontracted for implementation.”
Another finding was seen in Africa and Oceania, where there are the lowest number of employees and in African NGOs, which have the lowest median annual budgets.
"The findings give us an indication of how feasible it is for NGOs to advocate and implement their agendas in practice. Seeing where the disparities and limitations are in different regions can help us better understand observed differences in environmental policies and politics," concludes co-author Stefan Partelow from the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research in Germany.