Africa has responded to the challenges posed to sustainable development by committing to and establishing policies for creating an enabling environment at the regional, sub-regional, national and local levels that support sustained economic growth, environmental integrity, efforts for peace, stability and security, democracy and good governance, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development and gender equality. Although much remains to be done to make this policy objective a reality, Africa (both governments and its people) are committed to and share the Brundtland Commission’s vision for a future that is more prosperous, more just and more secure.
The relationship between human society and the environment is complex and multidimensional, with changes in one domain affecting the other. Although the world has more resources and capacity than ever before, it has not managed to use these in a way that maximizes human opportunity and simultaneously protects the resources that sustain humanity. It is increasingly evident that many of the environmental changes people are setting into motion have fundamental consequences for human well-being and the range of sustainable development options available. A critical message from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) is that nearly two-thirds of the services provided by nature are declining worldwide. Resolving this and moving towards a more sustainable and just future requires not only better management systems but also a need to address the key issues that undermine sustainable development.
Across Africa, there has been a rich and varied response to these challenges at multiple levels, from the regional to the community level. Governments, non-governmental organizations, community groups, scientists and other experts have all been important contributors to developing policy and defining practical responses to implement such policies. Since the Brundtland Commission put forward its vision for sustainable development in 1987, there have been other key policy responses which reinforce its messages and which seek to make sustainable development a reality. Landmarks on this trajectory of responses include:
- The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992 with its broad policy consensus reflected in the Rio Declaration and a defined programme of action in Agenda 21;
- The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) and its Johannesburg Plan of Implementation;
- The globally agreed time-bound development goals and targets in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs);
- The creation of the African Union (AU) to succeed the Organization of African Unity (OAU);
- The New Partnership for Africa’s Development-Environment Action Plan (NEPAD-EAP); and
- The AU’s African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (ACCNNR).
Through these policy initiatives, African governments have taken a comprehensive approach to the issue of sustainable development. They have emphasized the following, as well as the links between these aspects:
- An explicit recognition that the environment is integral to sustainable development. In particular there is an increasing shift to seeing the environment as an opportunity for development rather than a constraint;
- A renewed determination to harness the opportunities the environment provides for economic growth and human well-being;
- A commitment to building a more just future based on the recognition that inequity (at multiple levels, including global trade relations and gender) and poverty are important drivers in unsustainable environmental management and are at the core of the growing vulnerability of Africa’s people;
- An acceptance that an integrated approach to environmental management is the basis for sustainable development. Such an approach requires understanding the relationship between different aspects of the environment and developing a holistic approach to management, as well as acknowledging the linkages between environment and other areas of human activity, such as trade, science and technology;
- A resolve to build partnerships and promote collaboration, at multiple levels, to address and find solutions to the challenges of sustainable development. This includes not only political collaboration, but also building partnerships in science and technology, capacity-building, trade, human and financial resources;
- An acknowledgement that strengthening national institutions and empowering people is key to effective and sustainable resource management, human development, eradicating poverty, and creating a more equitable society and in addition is consistent with human rights;
- A commitment to enhance human capacity, including scientific and technological capability, so as to be more able to respond to the environmental and development challenges effectively;
- An appreciation of the importance of linking policy objectives to clear implementation plans and objectives and a growing commitment to do this; and
- A desire to build and sustain societies based on peace and cooperation, to rid the region of conflict.
Multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), at the global, regional and sub-regional levels, are an important response to these broad policy positions. They seek to take the challenges identified in policies on board and provide for practical responses. Multilateral environmental agreements may establish clear rules or suggest managerial frameworks to resolve problems. African countries are party to at least 30 conventions at the global level, dealing with various aspects of environmental management, and related areas, such as trade, that impact directly on environmental sustainability.
Most African countries have signed the three international conventions adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992 – the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) – as well as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Other MEAs to which African countries are party include those dealing with international trade in endangered species, the management of migratory species, hazardous waste management, cultural heritage, ozone depletion, biosafety, invasive alien species and forest management. Also of critical importance are agreements reached in the trade area, especially the World Trade Organization (WTO) and related agreements on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and sanitary and phytosanitary provisions. Several agreements in agriculture, such as the International Convention for Protection of Plants, have important implications for biodiversity and the sharing of benefits arising from its use. Human rights and development agreements adhered to set the framework for addressing these environmental issues. Additionally, Africa has a growing number of regional and sub-regional MEAs which promote collaboration by establishing an agreed approach to a given issue, which in turn sets the basis for harmonized and coordinated national law. Foremost among these is the ACCNNR adopted by the AU in 2003. This policy and legal approach is reinforced through the establishment of regional and sub-regional organizations. Many sub-regional organizations have spearheaded the development of environmental management policy and law at the sub-region level. In critical areas of sub-regional concern, there have been important multilateral agreements; these include cooperation in the management of shared river basins, wildlife and forests.
These policy and legal initiatives have been complemented by the development of institutions at the regional and sub-regional levels. The African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) is one such initiative which increases opportunities for the development of collaborative approaches to environmental management. Figure 1 provides more information about AMCEN. Crucial too is the strengthening and reorganization of the African Union. Its Constitutive Act provided for the establishment of a specialized technical committee on natural resources and the environment. The Pan-African Parliament, established in 2004, has a permanent standing Committee on Rural Economy, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment. In 2005, the AU launched the Economic, Social and Cultural Council of the African Union (ECOSOCC) to facilitate and promote civil society participation in the affairs of the AU.
Increased role of civil society
In the last 20 years, the role of civil society in environmental policy development has changed significantly. Today, African governments recognize that civil society must be consulted in environment and development initiatives. Increasingly, civil society organizations are demanding to be more actively included in policy-making processes, including those at a national, sub-regional and regional level.
Civil society is often thought of as a third sector in a tripartite relationship with the state and business. This is the arena in which citizens collectively exercise social and political values to promote various aspects of community well-being. Civil society organizations (CSOs) include religious, traditional, farmers’, women’s, academic and professional, civic, microfinancing, rights claiming, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as trade unions. CSOs do not equate with civil society as a whole and they may have diverse or even contradictory interests. The number of CSOs participating in environment and development issues has grown considerably since the beginning of the 1980s and these organizations vary in scope and scale. There are those that operate primarily at a local level, including community-based organizations (CBOs) and those with national, sub-regional, regional and global mandates. Although the number of CSOs has grown across Africa, there is considerable variation between countries and between urban and rural settings.
In the 1980s, CSOs began to engage more actively in development issues as illustrated by their roles in fighting apartheid, advocating an international code of conduct for the marketing of breast-milk substitutes, improving and increasing official aid (including food aid) following the African famine of the mid-1980s, and working with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and others to reform Structural Adjustmen Programmes (SAPs) given the negative social impact of these programs. The activities of African NGOs concentrated on development tasks in the economic, social, cultural and environmental sector. Most African NGOs were not actively engaged in defining policy but had a strong programmatic focus that sought to improve human wellbeing through improved agriculture, more efficient energy management, water purification and the development of microenterprises among other things. During this period, science and particularly government science-based institutions played a central role in explaining problems and defining solutions and, because the environment was seen as a public good, a government lead was believed to be warranted. There was a proliferation of laws and policies that sought to increase controls over environmental use. At the regional as well as the national level, NGOs worked to complement the activities of governments and international agencies in humanitarian areas, such as food crises, but also in environmental management areas including water, wildlife, forest and energy management. The increasing role of community-based organizations, and in particular NGOs, during the 1980s, was linked to a reassessment by donor agencies on the states’ ability to act as vehicles for development. Structural Adjustment Programmes introduced in the 1980s forced many African governments to withdraw or reduce many development and public services, which created a space for the growth of CBOs.
By the 1990s, the role of CBOs began to widen, particularly in the environment and development sector. In 1990, the Arusha Charter on Popular Participation recognized the need to fully integrate African civil society in various governance structures of key institutions in order for them to fully participate in defining the long-term development policies of Africa. CSOs began to actively carve out a role that went beyond being service providers to being more active participants in policy making. Success in this has varied from country to country and institution to institution; in many places this role has remained superficial. At the same time there were important shifts taking place in how the environment was perceived. A more complex understanding of the environment that acknowledged its role in local livelihoods and human well-being was beginning to emerge. Although the framing of solutions to environmental problems still tended to be externally focused or driven, concentrating for example on the role of international environmental law, markets and incentives, the role of local users was becoming more prominent. NGOs took on active advocacy roles, often focusing on the subsistence needs of poor people. Increasingly, NGOs were present at hearings, panels and briefings and in dialogues with governments. In global policy processes, there was a gradual increase in the prominence of Southern NGOs.
At the global level, various initiatives to increase opportunities for participation in environmental policy development were also adopted. The United Nations made direct provision for CBO participation at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). Since then, CSOs have played an active role in UN conferences concerned with development issues and which have a bearing on the environment, including ones on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), human rights, women, social development, racism, least developed countries, food aid, and communication and information, as well as the Millennium Summit. Although such approaches were adopted, they fall short of a concerted and formalized approach to bring all sectors together. The UN conferences and other processes seek to deal with issues that cannot be treated purely from a national perspective – environmental issues, for example, traverse national or regional boundaries. Participation has given CSOs the opportunity to engage with CSOs from other countries and regions, as well as with governments other than their own. More recently, initiatives by various UN agencies have been adopted to increase CSO participation in UN-led development activities. For example, the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP’s) Global Civil Society Forum and Global Women’s Assembly on Environment provide new opportunities for civil society participation in its programmes. These initiatives have played a key role in widening the influence of CSOs, including those from Africa.
Although there were many successes after UNCED, the following decade revealed the need for users and managers of natural resources to be more actively involved in shaping their own futures. It has also drawn attention to the complex links between human-driven change and the environment. From this emerged a new understanding of the need for integrated approaches focusing on multiple and cross-dimensional linkages. Increasingly, there is a shift to policy processes that bring together not only the different environmental sectors but also other sectors which impact on the environment, such as health, technology and finance, with intellectuals from different disciplines, including the biophysical and social sciences, in partnership with civil society in formulating responses. Rights claiming and advocacy by civil society have been important in bringing about this shift. NGOs became key players in putting forward public concerns, interests and priorities.
By the end of the 1990s, CSOs had come to engage more actively in analysing problems, defining solutions and framing policies. There has been a notable growth in civil society organizations across the board and the kinds of roles they have taken on. They have successfully negotiated a place in regional and subregional intergovernmental organizations, including the African Union (AU) and New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). Civil society organizations have played an important role in the development of AU protocols in critical issues of environment and development concern, including biosafety, genetic resources and the rights of women. Partnerships with governments and the business sector have also become increasingly important. This includes partnerships establishing transboundary natural resource management areas, protected areas management and implementing environmental impact assessments. They have also become more critical development partners, raising concerns and drawing attention to some of the potential difficulties associated with new state initiatives. For example, in January 2001, some 200 CBOs from 45 African countries met at the African Social Forum and rejected a neo-liberal approach to globalization. New kinds of CSOs have begun to emerge: of particular importance has been the development of networks, bringing together different types of CSOs for a common purpose, sometimes in partnership with business, governments and multilateral organizations. Some of these have been local or national in focus, addressing for example HIV/AIDS, land claims, and participation in Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRSs). Others have taken regional or sub-regional approaches, focusing on a growing range of issues that require cooperation including water resource management, malaria, chemical management, peacebuilding and food security. These include networks such as the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and the African Stockpile Programme.
Environment for development
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) commits Africa’s leaders to place their countries, individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable growth and development, and at the same time to participate actively in the world economy, enlarging Africa’s economic prospects.
Africa has come to approach the environment in a fundamentally new way – it has moved from seeing environmental issues as a constraint to development to seeing the environment, if properly managed, as an opportunity for development.
African governments have adopted new, more encompassing and forward-looking environmental policy and legislation. Beginning in the 1980s, following the Stockholm Human Environment Conference of 1972 and the Lagos Plan of Action of 1980, African countries began to refocus on how to manage the environment and why it was important from a development perspective. By the 1990s, the Brundtland Commission, the UNCED conventions, and Agenda 21, as well as advocacy and actions of civil society, motivated African countries to make a fundamental break with the environmental approaches that had developed during the colonial era and had persisted since then.
In 2002, with the launch of the African Union (AU), a fundamental shift was made from predominantly political cooperation to a joint Africa-wide commitment to promote socioeconomic development. Environmental resources were, and are, seen as a key part of this. The AU’s Constitutive Act provides for coordinated policy development in the important environmental areas of energy, mineral resources, food, agriculture and animal resources, forestry, water and environmental protection. The African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (ACCNNR), adopted by the AU in July 2003, revised the original convention adopted in Algiers in 1968. The Convention commits Africa to development that is based on the achievement of ecologically rational, economically sound, and socially acceptable policies and programs which recognize the human right to a satisfactory environment as well as the right to development.
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) commits Africa’s leaders to place their countries, individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable growth and development, and at the same time to participate actively in the world economy, enlarging Africa’s economic prospects. It seeks to address environmental challenges while reducing poverty, and recognizes that the range of issues necessary to nurture the region’s environmental base and promote the sustainable use of natural resources is vast and complex, and thus that a systematic combination of initiatives is necessary to develop a coherent environmental program.
Poverty and inequity
Eradicating poverty is the greatest challenge facing Africa and the world today, and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.
Since the Brundtland Commission, there has been growing recognition of the close relationship between poverty and environmental problems, as both cause and effect, and thus the futility of approaches that do not take a broad perspective and address the factors underlying world poverty. The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) refocused attention on this relationship and the need to improve opportunities through increased investment in human capacity, technology and industrial development, as well as the need for equitable and adequate access to water and energy.
Many policies now deal directly with the relationship between environmental use and equity at the global and national level. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), for example in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), links the issues of sustainable use and conservation closely to the fair and equitable sharing of benefits. Agenda 21 focuses on the need to combat poverty, with the long-term objective of enabling all people to achieve sustainable livelihoods. This requires policies to address issues of development, sustainable resource management and poverty eradication simultaneously. The 2005 World Summit in New York emphasized the importance of peace and security, development and human rights as the basis for human well-being.
It is widely acknowledged that better environmental management systems which promote human well-being can be an important tool for eradicating poverty. Poverty has many facets and is not restricted to income levels and includes, among other factors, health and education dimensions. Addressing poverty requires actions in multiple areas as identified in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Inequity at multiple levels, including in gender, has implications for successfully addressing poverty.
Global inequity has important ramifications for the economies of Africa and the opportunities available to it, and thus its ability to eradicate poverty. Trade and increased local entrepreneurship are widely seen as essential to stimulate Africa’s economy, and it is acknowledged that natural resources can be used to extend trade opportunities internationally and domestically. However, as the Brundtland Commission stressed nearly 20 years ago, the international economy will only promote growth if the sustainability of the resource base is guaranteed and if trade is equitable. Growth was then, and continues to be, stifled by depressed commodity prices, protectionism, intolerable debt burdens and a declining flow of investments. For example, the European Union’s (EU) and United States’ agricultural subsidies make it difficult for farmers in developing countries to compete effectively. The EU, while demanding African countries liberalize 90 percent of their markets over ten years, refuses to reform its highly protectionist Common Agricultural Policy.
At the regional and sub-regional level, policy and programs have also been developed to take these concerns on board. The Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) policy for environment and natural resource management, for example, linked the need for growth with equitable sustainable development within the sub-region. The empowerment of the poor, including women, through increased access to resources fosters social inclusion and promotes growth. This cannot be achieved without taking on board the environment dimension, especially in Africa where most countries’ economic mainstay is the natural resource base.
Harnessing opportunities for development
To meet economic growth targets and the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets, to realize regional and national environmental goals, to decrease poverty and to improve overall well-being requires that Africa maximize the opportunities available to it.
The New Economic Partnership for African Development seeks to position Africa to take advantage of the opportunities presented by changing global trade by promoting good governance, allocating resources efficiently and exploring partnerships with the private sector and within key political fora. It seeks to balance the neoliberal economic reforms it is promoting with support for social services, particularly health and education.
At the sub-regional level, economic communities have been developed, including the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS), the East African Community (EAC), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU). Many of these initiatives focus on increasing opportunities offered by the natural resource base and stimulating inter-African trade by reducing restrictions on the movement of people, goods and services. Some initiatives, such as the Spatial Development Initiatives (SDI) in Southern Africa, provide for joint development and planning in contiguous regions, some of which straddle international borders. Several SDIs seek to harness the under-utilized potential for economic growth by promoting tourism, and other natural resource-based activities, thus increasing investment and lending, infrastructural development and opportunities for local livelihoods, particularly the development of local small and microenterprises.
In addition, policies have clearly identified the need to look at the opportunities industry and technological development can bring. The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) focuses specifically on the need to strengthen the contribution of industrial development to poverty eradication and sustainable natural resource management. This includes actions, at all levels, to mobilize resources to enhance productivity, increase income-generating employment activities, financial and technical support to rural communities, the development of small and micro-enterprises, and the support for natural resource management to create sustainable rural livelihoods. The commercialization of wild resources, such as medicinal plants, fruits and resins, can offer important livelihood opportunities. Figure 1 looks at the benefits the commercialization of seaweed has brought to poor people in Tanzania. Intellectual property rights of those engaged in product development and poor control of genetic resources potentially undercut the extent of benefits that can be earned.
Sustainable environmental management requires recognizing the interlinkages between different aspects of the environment, as well as the complex interactions between factors in human society causing change to the environment. Given this, there is a need to deal with environment and development issues in a holistic, comprehensive and integrated manner.
The need for integrated approaches has been recognized in the Stockholm Convention, and in 1987 the Brundtland Commission identified it as the basis of sustainable development strategies. This approach was further developed in the Rio Declaration, Agenda 21 and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) conventions. The WSSD Johannesburg Plan of Implementation draws attention to the ways in which such an approach may create better opportunities for water resource and energy management as well as for the identification and development of alternative technologies.
In the 1990s, many African countries broke with the narrow sectoral approach that had been inherited from the colonial era and which was founded on command and control-based systems and were the forte of their environmental management systems, to develop more integrated approaches. In this period, most countries adopted national environmental action plans; many also began to reform the natural resource management legislation, giving it a stronger rights and opportunities content. Most African countries also adopted environmental provisions in their constitutions, in many cases echoing the commitment in the African Charter on Human Rights and Peoples Rights recognizing environmental rights.
The New Partnership for Africa's Development-Environment Action Plan (NEPAD-EAP), adopted in 2003, takes an integrated approach to the environment and development with full consideration of economic growth, income distribution, poverty eradication, social equity and better governance as part and parcel of Africa’s environmental sustainability agenda. The African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (ACCNNR) also commits to such an approach and calls on parties to integrate development and environmental concerns by treating both as an integral part of national and local development plans, and to give full consideration to ecological, social, economic and cultural factors in their development.
Cooperation at multiple levels
A striking feature of recent policy initiatives is the priority given to improving opportunities for cooperation at the global, regional, sub-regional and national levels.
Regional initiatives which create new levels of cooperation have taken place: many of these emphasize the commonness of Africa’s problems and the opportunity collaboration brings to solving these problems. The NEPAD-EAP is one such initiative. It was prepared through a consultative and participatory process under the leadership of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN). It sought to identify the root causes of environmental degradation and the most effective projects from an environmental, institutional and financial perspective. The plan takes a long-term perspective and identifies eight program areas and actions that African countries should adopt to maintain the integrity of the environment and ensure the sustainable use of their natural resources. It responds to some of the challenges of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – particularly goals Number 1 on eradicating poverty, Number 7 on environmental sustainability and Number 8 on developing a partnership for development, as well as to the general principles of Agenda 21.
At the sub-regional level, collaboration has also been an important policy focus. In some instances this is between countries, whereas in others it focuses on cooperation within a given country. Sub-regional cooperation is evident in a range of areas, from transboundary natural resource management to disaster responsiveness and early warning systems. The East African Community (EAC) Development Strategy emphasizes economic cooperation and development with a strong focus on the social dimension, and the role of the private sector and civil society is considered as central and crucial to regional development.
There are several sub-regional initiatives that deal with monitoring and early warning. In the EAC the Regional Environment Assessment Guidelines for Shared Ecosystems of East Africa has been initiated. This builds on an earlier initiative by the then East African Cooperation, where the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources made specific recommendations on shared ecosystems, including developing regional environmental assessment procedures and guidelines for shared ecosystems. These assessment guidelines will form a basis for valuating activities in or near shared ecosystems that are likely to cause significant ecological, environmental, health and social impacts. Collaborative initiatives around food security and drought warning have been other areas of sub-regional collaboration, particularly in the SADC region.
Partnerships with the global community
Although sustainable development is primarily a national responsibility, many of the major challenges facing African countries have a global dimension. Thus, developed countries have some responsibility in the international pursuit of sustainable development, particularly in view of the pressures their societies place on the global environment and of the technologies and financial resources they command.
The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) noted that Africa’s efforts to achieve sustainable development have been hindered by conflicts, insufficient investment, limited market access opportunities and supply side constraints, unsustainable debt burdens, historically declining levels of official development assistance and the impact of HIV/AIDS. The developed world has, through private enterprise, benefited from the use of natural resources, particularly diamonds and forest resources, in conflict areas. For example, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Nations Security Council found that over 100 private companies, foreign and multinational, were involved in illegal extraction. Such conflicts have displaced hundreds of thousands of people and had a negative impact on forest resources as a result of settlement, uncontrolled logging and fire. At the WSSD, developing countries reiterated their acknowledgement of the responsibility they bear in the international pursuit of sustainable development.
However, Africa must be the driver of its own future. Africa recognizes, as the WSSD did, that effective global cooperation requires the creation of an enabling environment at the regional, sub-regional, national and local levels which supports sustained economic growth and sustainable development, promotes peace, stability and security, and establishes good governance, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development seeks to create such an environment and sets the basis for global collaboration. Among other things, it has developed a peer review process. A meeting of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) Inter-Agency Technical Committee (IATC) in 2004 called for the peer review mechanism process to be expanded to include environmental criteria.
There are a number of areas in which global collaboration is seen as important. Numerous policy agreements have acknowledged the vital role developed countries can play in creating access to new technologies, enhancing technological and other capacities, securing access to new financial resources and creating a fairer global trade system. The WSSD commits parties to implement the outcomes of the Doha Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), further strengthen trade-related technical assistance and capacity-building and ensure the meaningful, effective and full participation of developing countries in multilateral trade negotiations by placing their needs and interests at the heart of the WTO work program. At the WSSD, the developed countries specifically committed to supporting Africa in a number of areas including industrial development and opportunity, water and energy management, health and technology.
In various fora the global community has agreed to development goals, including those in Agenda 21, WSSD and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These global policy processes have also acknowledged that realizing these goals will require access to new and additional financial resources, improved trade opportunities, access to and transfer of environmentally-sound technologies, education and awareness-raising, capacity-building, information for decision-making and improved scientific capabilities. In the case of the MDGs, defined targets in these areas need to be met within the agreed time frame. Eradicating the debt burden, as well as improving flows of foreign direct investment (FDI) and development aid, will create new opportunities for developing countries.
Peace, development and environmental cooperation
Conflict situations have negative impacts on the environment and consequently on human well-being. The 2005 World Summit drew attention to the need for peace as the foundation for human well-being. Over 30 African countries have been involved in wars in the last five years, and many more experience local resource conflicts. Despite this, Africa has an impressive record on the collaborative management of environmental resources. This cooperation has promoted peace and stability in most parts of the region. Important areas of collaboration include the management of water resources and shared river basins as well as more general transboundary natural resource management.
In many parts of Africa, river basin organizations have been established to regulate the rights and responsibilities of the different riparian states. The South African Development Community (SADC) region has adopted a Protocol on Shared Watercourse Systems which creates a regional approach to management based on river basins. In the Northern and Eastern Africa sub-regions, the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) seeks to enhance management and to take concrete steps to realize the development potential of the Nile. Launched in February 1999, the NBI provides a basin-wide framework to fight poverty and promote socioeconomic development through the equitable utilization of and benefit sharing from the Nile Basin water resources. Over the past 30 years, various groupings of countries in the Nile Basin have engaged in cooperative activities. However, the inclusion of all countries in a joint dialogue opens up new opportunities for realizing win-win solutions. It also holds the promise for potential greater regional integration, economically and politically, with benefits far exceeding those derived from the river itself.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) action plan seeks to promote a regional cooperation framework for integrated water resource management, including harmonizing policies and legislation on water resources, facilitating the exchange of experiences, reviving consultation between riparian countries on coordinated management of shared or transborder water basins, and strengthening partnership with all stakeholders. Similarly, the East African Community (EAC) has cooperative water management initiatives, including the revitalized Lake Victoria Development Programme (LVDP), which has developed a common vision for the Lake Victoria Basin development, agriculture, food security, energy, tourism, civil aviation safety, lake resource conflict management, telecommunications and meteorological and inter-university cooperation.
Policies and laws have been developed in several sub-regions to support sustainable transboundary natural resource management including for wildlife, forests, marine resources and mountainous environments. The EAC has transboundary ecosystem management on Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Elgon. The East Africa Cross Border Biodiversity Project, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and executed by the three governments in the Eastern African sub-region, sought to identify and promote systemic national and regional policies and administrative measures to ensure sustainable management of cross-border biodiversity (ecosystems) and to reduce biodiversity loss at crossborder sites in east Africa. The project has generated information on the status of the cross-border sites and detailed policy analyses of forest policies in the three countries, identifying convergences and divergences, which can be used to inform interventions within the EAC strategy.
Social conflict and wars have had a high human and environmental cost. Large numbers of people have been displaced as a result of war, placing new burdens on the natural resource base. In conflict situations, effective management, monitoring and enforcement are not always possible. Such conflict also has adverse consequences for natural resources management, as the collapse of effective government results in indiscriminate harvesting and utilization of natural resources. The revival of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) will hopefully help strengthen environmental governance in Central Africa. This underscores the linkage between environmental resource management and conflict. As long as there is conflict, environmental resource management initiatives, such as those anticipated in the treaty establishing ECCAS, will remain unimplemented as the member states concentrate on the more immediate issues relating to the conflict.
Strengthening institutions and empowering people
The lack of capacity, in terms of skills and opportunity, to manage environmental resources undermines the potential for sustainable development – consequently, strengthening institutions and empowering people are important strategies.
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) conventions recognized this and these, along with the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (ACCNNR), have focused on the value of procedural rights, research, education and information, as well as respect for local knowledge and value systems to achieve this. The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) has also drawn attention to the close relationship between well-being and empowerment. It is increasingly recognized that in enhancing capabilities and opportunities for people to participate in decisions that affect their well-being and livelihoods, health services and education must be improved, and sufficient and potable water, shelter, and adequate and nutritious food ensured. WSSD looks specifically at how these aspects of human well-being can be improved, and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set out targets related to these aspects, to be achieved by 2015.
Most policy initiatives recognize that rights of access to environmental information, participation, recourse to a court of law as well as fair, transparent and accountable processes are important procedural rights needed to support people as effective players in environmental policy and decision making. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) recognized the potential of users to be effective resource managers – by giving users a direct stake in the resource, the incentive to manage efficiently is increased. Achieving this includes strengthening tenure rights and promoting civil participation in policy development, decision making and environmental management. In addition, the WSSD’s Johannesburg Plan of Implementation identified the need to specifically promote women’s equal access to and full participation in decision making, on the basis of equality with men. It recognized that this needs to be complemented by mainstreaming gender perspectives in all policies and strategies, eliminating all forms of violence and discrimination against women and improving the status, health and economic welfare of women and girls through full and equal access to economic opportunity, land, credit, education and health-care services.
At the regional and sub-regional levels, empowerment has also been identified as key for sustainable development, although in many countries the development of laws and programmes to make this a reality are still lacking. The African Union (AU) has, through the creation of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council of the African Union (ECOSOCC), sought to increase opportunities for meaningful dialogue with civil society, as discussed in Figure 6. At the sub-regional level, economic and development communities are also trying to empower the public. In 2001, the East African Community (EAC) launched the EAC Court of Justice and the EAC Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Assembly has seven standing committees, which include one on Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources.
In most policy initiatives, developing skills and capacity of resource users, as well as of national institutions, is seen as essential. This issue is an important focus in the Rio Declaration, Agenda 21, several Multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and WSSD, and the NEPAD-EAP. The NEPAD-EAP focuses on building Africa’s capacity to implement global and regional MEAs. In order to achieve this, eight activities are identified, including human resource development, public education and awareness, strengthening institutions and improving coordination, supporting the development of information systems, mobilizing and strengthening the role of scientific and technical communities, and promoting south-south cooperation and sharing of expertise.
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- EAC, 2001. The Second EAC Development Strategy: 2001-2005. East African Community. Proceedings of the Second Summit of the East African Community. 24 April. Arusha, Tanzania.
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- Katerere, Y. and Mohamed-Katerere, J. C., 2005. From Poverty to Prosperity: Harnessing the Wealth of Africa’s Forests. In Forests in the Global Balance – Changing Paradigms (eds. Mery, G., Alfaro, R., Kanninen, M. and Lobovikov, M.), pp 185-208. IUFRO World Series Vol. 17. International Union of Forest Research Organizations, Helsinki.
- MA, 2005b. Living beyond our means: natural assets and human wellbeing – Statement of the Board. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.
- NEPAD, 2003. english2.pdf Action Plan for the Environment Initiative. New Partnership for Africa’s Development, Midrand.
- Reinicke, W. H. et al, 2000. Critical Choices: The United Nations, Networks and the Future of Global Governance. International Development Research Centre, Ottawa.
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- Turton, A. R., 2003. The Evolution of Water Management Institutions in Selected Southern African International River Basins. In Water as a focus for Regional Development (eds. Biswas, A. S., Onver, O. and Tortajada, C.), pp 251-89. Water Resources Management Series. Oxford University Press, New Delhi.
- Uganda, 2002. The Nile Basin Initiative Act. Uganda Gazette, Entebbe.
- UN, 1992. Agenda 21. Proceedings of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 3-14 June. United Nations.
- UN, 2002. World Summit on Sustainable Development Plan of Implementation. Proceedings of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Johannesburg, South Africa. 26 August – 4 September. United Nations.
- UN, 2003. UN System and Civil Society – An Inventory and Analysis of Practices: Background Paper for the Secretary-General’s Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations Relations with Civil Society. May 2003. United Nations.
- UNEP, 2006. Africa Environment Outlook 2: The Human Dimension – Our Wealth, Our Nation.
- UN Security Council, 2002. Final Report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and other forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. United Nations Security Council. United Nations, New York.
- WCED, 1987. Our Common Future.World Commission on Environment and Development. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
This is a chapter from Africa Environment Outlook 2: Our Environment, Our Wealth (e-book).
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