By Romina Rodela
The participation of environmental non-governmental organizations in current debates about environmental policy is an important development in recent times (Bäckstrand et al. 2017; Grant and Vasi, 2017, Weber and Christophersen, 2002). Environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) are of different size and range from volunteering groups to those very processional ones. However, what many of these contemporary ENGOS share is i) knowledge about the natural environment and /or environmental issue they are advocating for and ii) opportunities to mobilise different expertise in support of their pursuits.
In the early times ENGO were prevalently focused on education, awareness raising while in recent years they expanded to include more targeted activities as is advocacy / direct pressure on policy maker (Bäckstrand et al. 2017; Boström et al. 2015; Rootes 2013). Of a great research interest is how over the last decades ENGOs began to be engaged in a particular and quite demanding type of mobilisation and that is legal mobilization.
Legal mobilisation are instances were ENGOs turn to national courts for the purpose of pursuing environmental justice, or seeking the enforcement of environmental & nature protection law (Cichowski 2013; Rodela et al. 2017; Vanhala, 2017). In the case of disputes involving environmental issues most often that would involve ENGOs appealing to national courts in relation to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) processes, reports, and to the linked permits. Such cases take the form of full litigation process and it is worth mentioning that every Member State has its own system, and procedures, in how these litigation cases are handled.
A ligation case with a number of ENGO and Natura 2000 site has been going on in Sweden, also known as the Ojnare case – that is located in the North Est of the Gotland Island. The Ojnare dispute, similar to the one reported by Rodela et al. (2017) as part to this project, involved a clash of interests over a natural area which was declared of interest under Natura 2000 while others sought to pursue economic interests.
As part to this project we aimed to understand the nature of that conflict and the claims of the different actors involved and in 2014, as part to an MSc thesis research, empirical work was conducted on Gotland to that end. Later in result of a growing number of cases across the EU, where ENGO turned to legal mobilisation, we continued the work on that case by focusing on the court litigation. Specifically have sought to map out how and what procedural and substantive knowledge have ENGOs mobilised during EIA litigation, and how that impacts on the process itself.
The outcome of that analysis are summarised in a Working Paper and in a scientific publication submitted for consideration to a scientific journal.
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