CCS FOCAC Policy Briefing |FOCAC and the roles of environmental NGOs

Policy Briefing No. 10 – August 2018

Since the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), environmental concerns as an agenda topic has gradually increased. From brief mentions in the first and second FOCAC conference to practical action plans by the fourth FOCAC in 2009, the environmental agenda has broadened to include tackling climate change, using new energy sources and pollution prevention among other concerns. The 2015 Johannesburg FOCAC Action Plan was especially significant as it included ten environmental aims and for the first time cooperation mechanisms in tackling illegal wildlife trade. Bringing these important issues to the FOCAC agenda can be owed partly to the work of non-state actors such as journalists, environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs), conservationists and academia. These actors importantly shed light on China’s investment in environmentally-sensitive natural resources’ sectors and major infrastructure projects with high environmental and social impact in Africa. In particular, environmental NGOs carry out extensive research projects, write reports, engage with governments and other stakeholders as well as provide practical solutions to address concerns. Still, while NGOs make significant contributions to addressing environmental concerns through their expertise, they remain outsiders to the FOCAC process. Globally NGOs play significant roles in addressing environmental concerns, however, there are a limited few who carry out essential projects in order to ensure that China-Africa engagement follows a sustainable pathway. Their expertise and capacity should not be taken for granted; rather their experiences and knowledge should be put to better use. This policy brief discusses the important roles fulfilled by environmental NGOs, provides an overview of NGO work in the China-Africa field and deliberates various platforms where they could play a bigger and more influential role in FOCAC. The brief recommends that environmental NGOs from China and Africa should be formally included during FOCAC proceedings and action plans as well as encouraged to participate in the China-Africa partnership, particularly through people-to-people exchanges. [Continue reading]