The Africa Environment Outlook (AEO) assessment was initiated in 2000 by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN). The first report, AEO-1, was launched during the AMCEN 9th session in Kampala in July 2002, where it was acknowledged as a flagship assessment in Africa. It was subsequently used as the primary background document in the preparation of the NEPAD Environment Action Plan (NEPAD-EAP), showing strong links between environmental assessment and policy making. The 10th AMCEN session, in June 2004, reaffirmed its endorsement of the AEO assessment as a valuable monitoring and reporting tool for sustainable environmental management and a framework for national, sub-regional and regional integrated environmental assessment and reporting in Africa. During the 22nd session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum in February 2003 in Nairobi, the AMCEN decision on the AEO process was endorsed under decision GC 22/9, which recommended that UNEP continue to support the process.
|Figure 4: Africa and its sub-regions
in the Africa Environment Outlook
The Africa Environment Outlook assessment covers the continent including its sub-regions, as illustrated in Figure 4 below.
When it was done
In May 2003, the UNEP Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA) launched the Africa Environment Outlook 2 – Our Environment, Our Wealth (AEO-2) assessment. This involved consultations at regional and sub-regional levels was participatory, with inputs by scientists and other experts from national and sub-regional institutions in Africa. The Collaborating Centres, using their national networks and capacities built through the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) process, coordinated inputs and the peer reviews in their sub-regions.
AEO Members of the assessment team
The AEO-2 assessment was based on wide consultation and participation, involving UNEP and various partners in the Africa region. It reflected a variety of sub-regional perspectives and priorities. The AEO process involved partnership with six GEO Collaborating Centres responsible for producing sub-regional state of the environment and policy retrospective reports for Central Africa, Eastern Africa, Northern Africa, Southern Africa, Western Africa and the Western Indian Ocean Islands. Participating CCs engaged individual and institutional experts at the national and sub-regional level to provide inputs into the process. Experts from specialized organizations6 were also involved in providing inputs for sections of the report and in its review to ensure sub-regional balance, scientific credibility and comprehensiveness. Throughout the process, the AMCEN Inter-Agency Technical Committee (IATC) provided policy guidance. The committee reviewed and approved the proposed structure of the report in March 2004. In February 2005, IATC endorsed the draft recommendations of the report for approval by the AMCEN special session which met in Dakar in March 2005. The final draft report was presented to IATC for a final review and approval for publication in November 2005. The AEO-2 assessment was launched in June 2006 and endorsed by the AMCEN ministers a few weeks later.
Major environmental issues assessed
The range of environmental issues for assessment in the AEO-2 process was far more than could be comprehensively addressed in the report. Therefore, stakeholders had to select the most important early in the process. Important issues differ at different levels of analysis (regional, sub-regional, national, sub-national, and community level). For example, a detailed analysis of the coastal marine environment may be a critical issue for Southern Africa as a sub-region. At the national level, however, it may be of great importance to Mauritius but not to Botswana which is a land-locked country. The selection of the issues, therefore, had to be common across most of the countries in a sub-region and also of importance to Africa, as a region, in the context of the NEPAD environmental action plan.
In the development of issues important for AEO-2, a consultative group on data and issues was formed which identified a long list of broad potential issues. This list was then sent to national level stakeholders who either added or eliminated thematic areas proposed depending on their importance to the national environment, and they gave details of variables they wanted addressed in each broad theme.
The assessment analyses environmental change in the context of atmosphere, land, freshwater, forests and woodlands, coastal and marine environments, and biodiversity. It discusses the main human drivers of environmental change and considers how these impact on human well-being and development. It covers demographic change, poverty, social change, including gender and the division of labour, health and education. The integrated and multidimensional discussion of livelihoods and environment sets the basis for evaluating and determining policy. The report also highlights emerging issues such as invasive alien species, chemicals, genetically modified crops and the environment as a key factor for peace and regional cooperation.
The AEO-2 assessment provides a comprehensive assessment of environmental state-and-trends, and the implications of this for human well-being and development. It includes an analysis of policy responses and the opportunities available to policymakers to maximize the benefits offered by the environment. It addresses five consecutive and inter-related questions:
- How and why is the environment important from a human perspective?
- How is the environment changing, and why, and what opportunities does it hold?
- Are there special issues, which affect the environment and development, that require immediate attention and new approaches?
- How will different policy choices affect the future?
- What can be done to ensure that environmental value is retained and the lives of people are improved?
The AEO assessment builds capacity in all aspects of IEA, including SoE reporting, policy analysis and scenario development at national, sub-regional and regional levels in Africa. Capacity-building workshops were organized at sub-regional level for national experts and non-government organizations (NGOs) on the methodologies of state of the environment/policy retrospective reporting using the DPSIR framework, including methods of data management. A scenario development workshop was also held.
Impact and follow-up
The AEO assessment reports has had political impact at the highest level. As highlighted above, the first report was used as background document in the development of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) Environment Action Plan, which was adopted by the African Union Heads of State summit in 2003. It was also endorsed in Chapter 8: Africa in the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) Plan of Implementation. In addition, it stimulated a number of additional resolutions at the AMCEN sessions. Because of data problems encountered in the preparation of the report, AMCEN also approved the Africa Environment Information Network (AEIN) to enhance data and information access and infrastructure in Africa. About 10 countries were involved in the pilot phase, and at least five of them have produced draft national environment outlook reports. The second phase will extend forward from 2006 and the number of countries involved will increase. By the end of 2007, more than 30 countries (out of 53) are likely to have produced national IEA reports because such reports are one of the required AEIN outputs at the national level. Overall, more countries are using the AEO/GEO methodology than ever before.
The Opportunities Framework, which was used in the second report: Africa Environment Outlook 2. Our Environment, Our Wealth (AEO-2) has also been embraced in the region with other assessment processes highlighting it. The report itself has been adopted by AMCEN. The 24th Session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Forum held in February 2007 acknowledged the AEO-2 in linking sustainable development and poverty reduction.
6. They included, among others, The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), African Development Bank (ADB), the Organisation for African Unity (OAU), Southern African Development Community (SADC), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), Arab Magreb Union (AMU) and the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC).