A comparative study of the role of environmental NGO's in China and South Africa in conservation policy

Burgess, Meryl (2017-12)

Thesis (DPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study explores the roles of environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in conservation policy in two different political systems, one authoritarian (China) and the other a pluralist political system (South Africa). The study takes stock of the broader literature and debates on governance, participation and new institutional arrangements whereby private actors and civil society can have input into policy-making. Based on this, the study demonstrates that civil society and NGOs can fulfil various roles and undertake numerous functions in order to have an impact on the policy process. These roles can be categorised as essentially three: (1) In the supplementary model, NGOs fulfil the demand for public goods not satisfied by government; (2) In the complementary view, NGOs partner with government; they help with the delivery of public goods which are largely financed by the government; (3) In the adversarial view, NGOs prod government to make changes in public policy and to maintain public accountability (Young, 2000). A number of factors can determine the potential for NGOs to participate in policy-making and further influence the process when operating in terms of these roles. These factors include the size of the NGO‘s membership; cohesiveness, skill and social status; as well its financial and other resources. Similarly, the attitudes of public officials towards the NGO as well as the site of decision-making in the political system can also factor into NGO engagement in policy-making. The political system impacts on these factors, but does not as such preclude any of the three listed roles for environmental NGOs. This study shows that, in the field of conservation policy-making, environmental NGOs in both South Africa and China play all three roles in the political systems, as described in literature. It emerges that NGOs are active as playing roles supplementary and complementary to those of the state, and – somewhat contrary to expectations – also an adversarial role. South Africa‘s policy process is open to public participation at all levels of government. Formal and informal institutional arrangements are accessible for NGOs to play a role in policy-making. China‘s policy process on the other hand has few formal institutional arrangements for public participation; hence NGOs have limited roles to play in policy-making. Consequently, most NGOs in China use informal arrangements to participate in policy-making. In addition, this study shows that South African environmental NGOs contribute to fulfilling democratic ideals by performing all three roles, specifically challenging and holding government accountable. However, most NGOs in fact prefer to carry out mainly the complementary and supplementary roles, but are prepared to hold government accountable where and when this is necessary. In contrast, China‘s environmental NGOs are not attempting to contribute towards maintaining authoritarian settings but are forced to play a more narrowly defined role. NGOs are forced to fulfil roles and functions within the system‗s limitations and the government's control.

AFRIKAANS OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie verken die rol van omgewings-nie-regeringsorganisasies (NROs) in bewaringsbeleid in twee uiteenlopende politieke bestelle. Een van die bestelle is outoritêr (Sjina), terwyl die ander (Suid-Afrika) pluralisties is. Die studie neem die breër literatuur en debatte oor regering, deelname en nuwe institusionele konfigurasies waardeur privaat rolspelers en die burgerlike samelewing inspraak op beleidmaking het, in oënskou. Dit wys gevolglik dat die burgerlike samelewing en NROs verskeie rolle en funksies kan aanneem om sodoende ‘n impak op die beleidsproses te hê. Dergelike rolle van NROs kan drieërlei kategoriseer word: (1) In die aanvullende model voldoen NROs aan eise vir openbare goedere wat nie deur die regering gelewer word nie; (2) In die komplementêre beskouing word NROs as vennote van die regering gesien en lewer hulle openbare goedere wat grotendeels deur die regering gefinansier word; (3) In die opponerende beskouing plaas NROs druk op die regering om beleidsverandering teweeg te bring en openbare verantwoording te doen (Young, 2000). NROs se rolspeling en hul potensiaal tot deelname en die beïnvloeding van beleid word deur etlike faktore bepaal. Dit sluit in hoe groot die NRO se ledebasis is; sy mate van samehorigheid, vaardighede en sosiale status; en wat sy finansiële en ander hulpbronne is. Voorts, die amptenary se houdings teenoor die NRO en die besluitnemingslokus in die gegewe politieke bestel kan ook NROs se rolspeling in beleid beïnvloed. Die bestel het ‘n beslissende impak op hierdie faktore, maar verhoed nie juis die uitoefening van die bovermelde rolle deur omgewings-NROs nie. Die studie bevind dat omgewings-NROs in Suid-Afrika en Sjina al drie rolle op die gebied van bewaringsbeleidmaking vertolk. Dit strook met wat in die literatuur beskryf word. Dit is duidelik dat hul rolle aanvullend en komplementêr tot die staat is en – teen verwagtings in – dat hulle ook opponerende rolle aanneem. Suid-Afrika se beleidsproses is op alle regeringsvlakke oop vir openbare deelname. Informele en formele institusionele kanale bied toegang aan NROs om inspraak in beleidmaking te hê. Sjina se beleidsproses bied min formele institusionele toegang vir openbare deelname. Dus het NROs min inspraak in beleidmaking en gebruik hulle eerder informele kanale om deel te hê aan die beleidsproses. Stellenbosch University https://scholar.sun.ac.za v Daarbenewens bevind die studie dat Suid Afrikaanse omgewings-NROs bydra tot die nastreef van demokratiese ideale deur die uitleef van al drie rolle en veral deur die regering uit te daag en verantwoording te eis. Die meerderheid van die NROs verkies egter om hoofsaaklik komplementêre en aanvullende rolle aan te neem, maar is bereid om die regering tot verantwoording te dwing sou dit nodig wees. In teenstelling probeer Sjina se omgewings-NROs nie om outoritêre bestelle in stand te hou nie – hul rolspeling is meer beperk. NROs word genoodsaak om rolle en funksies uit te oefen soos wat dit deur die bestel en regeringsbeheer toegelaat word.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/102778
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