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Throughout the process there has been steady participation and influence by NGOs. The active group of NGOs, while international, was predominantly from the islands themselves. The few Northern-based international NGOs played a support role while their island counterparts took the lead. During the PrepCom, NGOs were critical of AOSIS for not taking up their concerns. At the end of the resumed session in March, NGOs issued a set of specific amendments to the draft Programme of Action. AOSIS reviewed these amendments and during the Conference proposed that many of them be included in the text. Issues that bear the mark of NGO input include Chapter III on waste management; Chapter XIV on human resource development; and language on partnerships with women, youth, indigenous people and other major groups that appears throughout the text. During the Conference itself, many NGOs were included on both island and non-island delegations. Others worked the floor in both the Main Committee and the Barbados Declaration contact group to good effect. Without NGO input, many believe that the Programme of Action and the Barbados Declaration would have been less people-centered.

Within the NGO community, the new partnership between island NGOs and others reinforced many of the lessons learned during the UNCED process, namely that the most effective role of Northern NGOs is information dissemination, support and advocacy directed at their own governments. Despite organizational and financial problems, the NGO Islands Forum proved to be a source of great energy and unity within the NGO community and offered a place to strategize and develop the means for future inter-regional cooperation between NGOs. NGOs also were the driving force behind the SUSTECH '94 exhibition of sustainable technologies for island development and the Village of Hope, which became the interface between the Conference, the issues and the people of Barbados. Without the efforts of NGOs, the Conference might have been seen solely as an exercise in diplomatic rhetoric rather than an event that may benefit small islands and their people.

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