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Agenda item 1: Opening of the meeting

4. The meeting was opened on 3 April 2000 by Mr. Hassan Adamu, the Minister of Environment of Nigeria. After welcoming the participants, he outlined the factors which had led to the establishment of AMCEN in 1985. The meeting of experts and the subsequent ministerial session faced an enormous task in revitalizing the AMCEN machinery and refocusing its objectives and commitments. Drawing on the papers prepared by the secretariat, the meeting should initiate urgent policy change to address growing environmental deterioration in the region, and to enhance the ability of African countries to defend their interests in international environmental negotiations, especially in such new and complex areas as biological diversity and climate change.

5. An introductory address was made by Mr. Bakary Kante, Acting Director, Regional Office for Africa of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). On behalf of the Executive Director of UNEP, Mr. Klaus Topfer, he expressed appreciation to the Federal Government and people of Nigeria for hosting the eighth session of AMCEN. He observed that the presence of representatives of the private sector was symbolic of the process formalized at the Earth Summit in 1992 - the integration of political, economic, social and ecological concerns in the quest for sustainable development. Noting that AMCEN had made considerable achievements, he however regretted the fact that it had not yet realized its full potential as a regional environmental body capable of providing policy guidance, direction and coordination.

6. He remarked that unsustainable exploitation and degradation of forests, soils, wildlife, freshwater and other natural resources threatened to undermine the region's development prospects by perpetuating poverty. That in turn led to environmental degradation, which constituted a loss of wealth. UNEP regarded AMCEN as a major source of inspiration for the development and implementation of its programmes in Africa. In conclusion, he emphasized that for the successful implementation of programmes, the issue of availability of resources should be fully addressed, adding that UNEP was committed to cooperation with AMCEN in its efforts.