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Environment Liaison Centre International (ELCI) was conceived at the dawn of the modern environmental movement when global apprehension over the state of the planet’s ecosystem reached its tipping point. Pressure from Civil Society Groups around the world led the United Nations to convene a Conference on the Human Environment in 1972 (UNCHE or Stockholm Conference).

One result of the conference was the creation of an International Assembly of UN-accredited Non-Governmental Organizations (INASEN) to follow up UNCHE from a civil society perspective. INASEN’s crowning achievement was to open an NGO Environment Service Centre in Nairobi in 1974. The centre went on to become a formal non-profit organization in 1976 and, in 1987, was renamed the Environment Liaison Centre International (ELCI), a Global Coalition [of NGOs] for Environment and Development.

Key historical figures were instrumental in ELCI’s creation including Margaret Mead, the famous American Anthropologist; Barbara Ward, founder of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), and one of the world’s most outstanding writers and speakers on environment and development issues; and Henrik Beer, Secretary-General of the League of Red Cross Societies known today as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

ELCI was established with a number of objectives including advising NGOs on issues being raised by NGOs before UNEP and the Governing Council; promoting the participation of NGOs from the South; encouraging the development of information and service centres in the world; taking inventory of the human, technical and financial resources of NGOs and UNEP, facilitating direct communication and utilisation of resources among NGOs and between NGOs and UNEP; and providing staff support for the preparation of global NGO meetings.

Historical Achievements of ELCI

By 1992, ELCI had been engaged in a number of highly successful initiatives including:

  • Introducing the Centre Report, a quarterly journal that initially reported on developments at UNEP. The report was renamed EcoForum in 1980 and went on to become a valued instrument alerting groups on emerging issues and providing information on measures to deal with them. At the height of its circulation, EcoForum was available in four languages (French, English, Spanish and Arabic) with a distribution list of over 7,000 NGOs.
  • Leading the charge to successfully prevent the construction of the Jonglei Canal, a Sudan Government/ World Bank Project that would have drained one of the world’s largest wetlands, the 80,000 square km Sudd Swamp in Southern Sudan
  • Lobbying successfully at the 1976 UN Conference on Human Settlement for the creation of the UN Centre for Human Settlements ‘Habitat’ centre in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Engaging in numerous other initiatives including creating a directory of 3,000 NGOs / CBOs working on environmental issues in the developing countries, giving voice to unknown NGOs doing good work in environmental issues, bearing witness by bringing local environmental issues to the attention of the world, building networks of like-minded environmental groups, providing information and research on environmental and health issues, providing small grants to improve the environment and taking up a number of environmental causes such as the use of fuel wood for energy, speaking out against the pollution of the environment, promoting world environment day, the world conservation strategy, and the role of women in environment.

Foundation for Current and Future Influence

This history and the foregoing environmental trends are the foundation upon which ELCI continues to grow and shape its vision. ELCI particularly notes that the UN General Assembly, in its 66th session of June 2012, endorsed the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, entitled "The Future We Want". In it, the UN General Assembly asserts that:

We recognize that opportunities for people to influence their lives and future, participate in decision-making and voice their concerns are fundamental for sustainable development. We underscore that sustainable development requires concrete and urgent action. It can only be achieved with a broad alliance of people, governments, civil society and the private sector, all working together to secure the future we want for present and future generations (paragraph 13);

…and that;

We acknowledge the role of civil society and the importance of enabling all members of civil society to be actively engaged in sustainable development. We recognize that improved participation of civil society depends upon, inter alia, strengthening access to information and building civil society capacity and an enabling environment… (paragraph 44).

Subsequently, the Sustainable Development Goals aspire to achieve results in poverty reduction, ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and ensuring healthy lives. Furthermore, a number of the goals resonate with the idea of a healthy environment that is supporting lives and providing ecosystem services

Standing between an ecstatic history of growing environmental movements, a present that bears witness to the true impacts of bad decisions in environmental terms, and a future that needs to be secured for present and coming generations, ELCI’s role remains ever more urgent, hence ELCI’s running mission of strengthening the capacity of Civil Society Organizations to sustainably manage environmental resources, support environmental governance and enhance livelihood and economic opportunities for communities.