Photo: Closed Door by jeco, Creative Commons 2.0 license
One of the biggest frustrations about working in the international arena on environmental issues is the limited role that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like NRDC are often able to play in the actual deliberations of decision-making bodies. Unlike federal agencies in the United States, which tend to be relatively accommodating to public input, international organizations usually don't allow much participation from NGO "observers."
But at least they let you observe! Even if you can't speak, attending these meetings gives activists a valuable opportunity to monitor the positions taken by participating governments and bend their ears in the hallway.
Apparently, even that was too much for the parties to the 1973 Agreement on the Conservation of the Polar Bear, which is meeting in Tromsø, Norway, this week.
Norway, the United States, Canada, Russia and Denmark, which has polar bears on its Greenland territory, are reviewing for the first time in 28 years their accord on protecting the world's estimated 20,000-25,000 polar bears. They are to discuss identifying and protecting critical polar bear habitat areas, managing hunting and seeking ways to curb the impact of greenhouse gasses and manmade toxins.
A number of NGOs with whom NRDC works on polar bear issues--including the World Wildlife Fund--traveled to Tromsø to monitor the meeting and press for action to conserve polar bears. But, over Norway's objection, the heads of the other national delegations at the meeting voted to exclude all "NGOs, an Indigenous organization, and other observers from the critical parts of the meeting, the parts that would discuss climate change, and the action plan of the five Arctic states involved."
Because clearly the conservation of polar bears is too sensitive a topic to let, you know, conservationists actually see.