By Anthony Aisi
Environment ministers and government representatives from over forty African countries on Friday adopted a set of flagship programmes and decisions that could catalyse a new wave of sustainable development on the continent as they agreed to adopt a common voice and remain fully engaged in the implementation of the Rio+20 outcome document.
At the end of the fourteenth regular session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), the first meeting post Rio+20, the ministers adopted documents covering a raft of areas, from sustainable development in the context of an inclusive green economy to a common stance on climate change negotiations to the strengthening of UNEP.
The Arusha Declaration on Africa’s Post Rio+20 Strategy for Sustainable Development, presented to the President of Tanzania Jakaya Kikwete, stressed the need for Africa to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the outcomes of Rio+20.
“The conference recognizes the Green Economy as an important tool for realizing sustainable development and for eradicating poverty in Africa,” said Mr. Kikwete. “However, there is a need to maximize the opportunities of a Green Economy transition across a wider range of relevant sectors from natural resource management to transport and clean energy systems.”
“African ministers therefore decided to establish mechanisms for a coordinated support to countries for the promotion of a Green Economy, including development of partnerships, national strategies, promotion of regional and international cooperation and transfer of resource efficient and green technologies and know-how,” he added.
The ministers agreed to endorse an updated common position to ensure Africa’s participation in priority issues such as the climate talks leading up to the 18th Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC in Doha later this year.
Other decisions adopted include; An agreement to strengthen and consolidate commitment to the promotion of sustainable development and effectively integrate the economic, environmental and social dimensions in local, national and regional development policies and strategies; A reaffirmation of the need to speak for the continent in one voice and ensure the adequate representation of Africa in all committees established for the follow up of the outcomes of Rio +20, The initiation of an African green economy partnership that facilitates coordinated support to member states and serves to implement the global partnership for action on green economy as a vehicle for poverty eradication, decent jobs creation and sustainable development; A request to Member States to use UNEP’s African Environment Outlook as one of its regular tools for reviewing the state of the African environment to support decision making at national and regional levels;∙ A review of the African 10 Year Framework Programme on Sustainable Consumption and Production so as to hasten the implementation of programmes; An agreement to consider the Great Green Wall for Sahara and the Sahel Initiative – which aims to halt soil degradation, reduce poverty, conserve biodiversity, and increase land productivity in some 20 countries around the Sahara – as a flagship programme that represents Africa’s contribution to the achievement of “a land degradation neutral world in the context of sustainable development” as recommended by the Rio+20 Conference.UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said that Africa had a key role to play in international negotiations that could secure a better future for the continent.
“The follow up to Rio+20 needs to mark a moment of renewed commitment, greater urgency and a turning point in terms of implementation of what has already been agreed,” he told delegates at the conference.
“A fully engaged Africa at the UN General Assembly and beyond can assist greatly in ensuring that the gains made at Rio+20 are not only secured, but acted upon in order to boost the lives and livelihoods of now one billion Africans and six billion others across this extraordinary world.”
Flagship programmes for realizing sustainable development in Africa will be further developed and implemented, taking into account cooperation frameworks.
Mounkaila Goumandakoye, Regional Director of UNEP’s Regional Office for Africa, said UNEP would support all the decisions adopted by the ministers.
“In addition to the provision of secretariat services, our support will focus on scientific and technical advisory services as we increase assistance to African countries in the implementation of the Rio+20 outcomes, taking into account the threat that climate change continues to pose,” he said.
“Our collaboration with AMCEN will also focus on programmatic support in the design and implementation of programmes, in line with the regional flagship programmes identified at this session, that respond to the needs and priorities of countries in the areas of sound environmental management,” he added