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Increasingly development theorists and practitioners view NGOs as catalysts of sustainable development. NGOs have been regarded as champions of democratisation and promoters of new ways of engaging in politics, with considerable influence on the development of civil society and new partnerships in environmental and social advocacy. This article analyses the ways in which Costa Rican environmental NGOs (ENGOs) engage in politics, by focusing on their perceptions of their roles in environmental governance and in representation of civil society. The results of this study suggest that the ENGOs’ ways of engaging in politics differ little from traditional forms of governance, while their conceptions of engaging in politics without being political are novel. While most ENGOs had no clear conception of the stakeholders whom they were supposed to be representing, the notion of representativeness is complex and should be revisited.

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