A Project of the American Enterprise Institute and the Federalist Society

Chinese NGOs In Difficulty


April 23, 2006

Environmental protection NGOs are suffering from a shortage of funds and a low registration rate, while many are simply too small to have an impact, a recent survey has revealed. There were 2,768 environmental protection NGOs in China at the end of last year, with a total membership of 224,000, said the survey, released by the All-China Environment Federation (ACEF) last Saturday.

Government departments and student volunteers initiated more than 90 per cent of them, but only a little over 20 per cent had registered with authorities. A membership system is widely used as the major fundraising method, but more than 70 per cent do not have fixed money sources. The scale of NGOs in China is usually very small: There are less than 70,000 full-time staff and nearly 30 per cent only have part-time staff. Because of lack of funds, about half of the full-time staff are unpaid, and many lack necessary insurance.

About 80 per cent of NGO members are below 30, and more than 90 per cent of leaders have a college or higher degree. More than 95 per cent of the members say they do the work solely for environmental protection and not to make money. In 2005, nearly 3 billion yuan (US$370 million) was raised by these NGOs.

Wang Yuqing, deputy director of the State Environment Protection Administration (SEPA), said that the survey would help SEPA understand more about the NGOs and make better use of them in the future.

The survey, conducted by ACEF, one of the six NGOs under SEPA, sent a clear signal to all environmental protection NGOs that they are encouraged to work closely with SEPA, he said.

"Our relationship should not be based on opposition, but rather be co-operative and complementary," he said.

He also encouraged NGOs not to linger on general appeals, but instead make in-depth investigations and then put forward feasible suggestions.

Pan Yue, also a deputy director of SEPA, said greater public participation in environmental protection is always welcome. SEPA will increase openness of environment information and democratization in the policy-making process, Pan said while speaking at the 2006 Earth Award Ceremony in Beijing last Friday. "SEPA always encourages environment lawsuits for the public benefit and always tries to act on the recommendations of the public and NGOs," he said. Ten individuals from three groups were given this year's Earth Award, on account of their contributions of time and money to environmental causes. Initiated by the China Forum of Environmental Journalists in 1997, several hundred people have received the award, the highest award to honour people from all walks of life who have made prominent contributions to environmental protection.

FAIR USE NOTICE. This document may contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. NGOWatch is making this article available in our efforts to advance the understanding of NGO accountability, human rights, labor rights, social and environmental justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.