(b) Proposals for policy and institutional change and proposals for a medium-term programme (2000-2004)
28. A representative of the secretariat presented an informal document entitled "Proposals for policy and institutional change". The document, which covered four years - 2000-2004 - had been prepared in pursuance of the recommendations made by the AMCEN Bureau in Cairo in January 2000. Its objective was to prepare Africa to face the prevailing environmental challenges. It addressed key issues and areas of concern, the basis of and proposals for policy change, key components of the institutional and organizational changes, resource mobilization and the new structure of AMCEN which would feature the Conference, the Bureau, an Inter-sessional Committee, the secretariat and an Inter-agency Technical Committee.
29. A further document entitled "Proposals for a medium-term programme
(2000 - 2004)" was also introduced by a representative of the secretariat.
30. In the ensuing discussion, a number of experts expressed the view that
given the importance of the document on policy proposals for the future of AMCEN, it should have included a programme of work and a budget to support the proposed activities. In response, a representative of the secretariat said that a programme and budget would be prepared upon approval of the document by the experts. Some experts felt that the document addressed too few areas of concern; it should, for example, have covered agriculture, tourism and biological diversity, which were very important to African economies. It was explained that the rationale behind the document was to focus on a number of key environmental issues that could be discussed by the experts. The document did not aim at addressing all conceivable environmental threats and actions, as it covered a relatively short period.
31. A few experts felt that the transfer of technology should have been
highlighted in the paper, but a representative of the secretariat pointed out that the acquisition of negotiating skills had been given prominence. Responding to an expert who felt that the paper attached too much importance to climate change at the expense of other environmental issues such as biological diversity, the representative of the secretariat remarked that climate change was already the most crucial environmental issue in Africa as it affected other areas such as agriculture and biological diversity. Supporting that view, one expert observed that some African countries were already experiencing the consequences of climate change.
32. One expert expressed the view that countries should be made aware of how to make maximum use of existing funding mechanisms to enable them to fund all their medium-term programmes. Another expert observed that funding was probably not the biggest problem facing African countries; many countries were unable to implement environmental programmes as a result of insecurity arising from internal and external conflicts. A representative of the secretariat assured the experts that UNEP was committed to taking up the issue of security.
33. Referring to the provisions aimed at securing Africa's position at the 2002 Earth Summit, one expert suggested that AMCEN should recommend that, resources permitting, a stock-taking exercise should be undertaken before embarking on the preparation of the document to be submitted to the special session of the General Assembly. In response, a representative of the secretariat noted that UNEP, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank and the Organization of African Unity had already embarked on a strategy under which organizations in each subregion would meet to draw up an evaluation document and that a regional conference would be held to merge those evaluation documents into a regional synthesis.
34. With regard to the issue of access to information, it was recommended that developed countries should assist African countries in the development of and access to information systems.
35. A few experts expressed concern that the indicators for assessing progress were inadequate. Responding to that concern, a representative of the secretariat conceded that the indicators were not comprehensive but said that UNEP hoped to come up with a comprehensive environmental outlook on Africa within four years.
36. With regard to the relationship between the subregional organizations and the Inter-sessional Committee, a representative of the secretariat explained that the subregional organizations would be represented on the Technical Committee which would link up with the Inter-sessional Committee. The Inter-sessional Committee would comprise 10 countries - the 5 elected Bureau member countries and another 5 countries, one from each subregion. There was therefore a clear relationship between the Inter-sessional Committee and the subregional bodies.
37. A number of experts expressed concern that the dumping of used cars in some African countries was causing substantial atmospheric pollution in cities and towns. The countries concerned faced a dilemma because if they banned the import of used cars, the mobility of their people would be compromised. They were therefore constrained to continue authorizing the import of such vehicles knowing full well that they constituted a serious environmental threat.
38. One expert said that the paper on "Proposals for a medium-term programme" should be made more succinct by shortening the background section and eliminating inconsistencies. The programme element on freshwater resources should contain a stipulation that only the environmental aspects of freshwater management would be dealt with. Among instruments in the section on environmental information, assessment, early warning and environmental security, a reference to the Commission on Sustainable Development should be added, while two more actions should be included: work to consistently monitor changes in the environment in order to provide early warning signals, and to develop collectively appropriate responses and instruments for environmental disaster management.
39. The programme element on managing land and combating desertification in Africa should be modified so that it would cover the current situation and challenges of land degradation in general, challenges related to desertification and to water erosion, and flood and coastal zone management. Lastly, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) should be mentioned under "Instruments" in the field of trade and the environment.
40. The experts recognized that the adverse impacts of climate change posed serious threats to the development of African countries, making it necessary for Africa to play a key and active role at the forthcoming sixth session of the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention. African countries that were parties to the Convention were urged to take the necessary steps to ratify or accede to the Kyoto Protocol. Ratification by the annex I parties, who were responsible for the largest share of historical and current emissions of greenhouse gases, was even more important in order to facilitate its early entry into force.
41. It was also recommended that common positions should be developed regarding the implementation of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action, development of the agreed mechanisms, including the Clean Development Mechanism and Activities Implemented Jointly, the transfer of technology and capacity-building.
42. UNEP was called on to assist African countries in convening a regional meeting of scientific, technical and legal experts and policy makers to prepare position documents on key issues on the agenda of the forthcoming Conference of the Parties.
43. International financial institutions, the African Development Bank and
donor countries were invited to support African countries in their capacity-building efforts to address the dangers posed by the adverse effects of climate change.
44. Further to the presentation concerning the Convention on Biological
Diversity, it was pointed out that as biodiversity was a cross-cutting issue, article 14 of the Convention should be referred to in programme element I in annex I of the "Proposals for policy and institutional change", while the decisions of its Conference of Parties should be cited under "Instruments" and the need to incorporate the assessment of impacts of socio-economic development on biodiversity should be included among "Actions". It was also suggested that in the programme element on "Managing land and combating desertification in Africa", the challenges should include the application of the ecosystem approach, as well as human and institutional capacities for implementation of the programme of work under the Convention. Participation by AMCEN in the implementation of that part of the programme which dealt with traditional knowledge was also suggested. A reference to the process being pursued by the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests and the United Nations Forum on Forests should be added under "Instruments"in the programme element on "Managing biological diversity".
45. At the end of the discussion on this item, the Expert Group adopted the proposals for policy and institutional change and the medium-term programme as proposed by the secretariat and amended during the discussions.