What are Major Groups?
At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), better known as the ‘Earth Summit’ in 1992, Governments adopted Agenda 21, an action plan to achieve sustainable development. Chapter 23 of Agenda 21 recognizes the important role of civil society and the need to strengthen the role of civil society. This relationship was formalized under the heading of ‘Major Groups’ which identified nine sectors of non-state participants (as critical to the achievement of sustainable development). These nine Major Groups clearly illustrate the broad range of definitions and categorizations that are attributed to organizations:
- Indigenous Peoples
- Youth and Children
- Forest Workers and Trade Unions
- Farmers and Small Forest Landowners
- Local Authorities
- Scientific and Technological Community
- Business and Industry
- Non-Governmental Organizations
To decide which ‘Major Group’ fits best to your organization, you should consider the nature of your organization and chose the one Major Group you most closely identify with; e.g. if your organization is focused on Women’s rights and involvement, you could identify yourself with the Major Group ‘Women’.
Major Groups and UNFF
When the United Nations Forum on Forests came into being in 2000 as a successor organization to Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) and Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF) before it, it established a mechanism where representatives of the respective Major Groups were identified as Focal Points to serve as links between the UNFF Secretariat and the various Major Groups and their constituencies. UNFF sessions are opened to participants from Major Groups whose organizations are accredited to ECOSOC.
The following are some activities Focal Points undertake on behalf of their Major Groups:
- Coordinating preparation of joint paper for UNFF sessions
- Major Group-led Initiatives
- Communication exchange between UNFF secretariat and their constituencies
- Coordinating preparation for Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue (MSD)