INTRODUCTION

“Human development is about freedom. It is about building human capabilities – the range of things people can do, and what they can be. Individual freedoms and rights matter a great deal, but people are restricted in what they can do with that freedom if they are poor, ill, illiterate, discriminated against, threatened by violent conflict or denied a political voice.”

HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORT 2005 (UNDP 2005)

BACKGROUND

The theme of the Africa Environment Outlook 2 – Our Environment, Our Wealth is Environment for Development. This is inspired by two landmark documents of the United Nations (UN) – the Brundtland Commission’s report, Our Common Future, and Agenda 21 – and Africa’s own vision of renaissance.

In 1987, the Brundtland Commission advised that:

“The downward spiral of poverty and environmental degradation is a waste of opportunities and of resources. What is needed now is a new era of economic growth – growth that is forceful and at the same time socially and environmentally sustainable” (WCED1987).

Echoing this approach the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), in its environmental programme of action, Agenda 21 reaffirmed the links between environment and development, drawing attention to the fundamental connection between environmental goods-and-services and human well-being:

“Integration of environment and development concerns and greater attention to them will lead to the fulfilment of basic needs, improved living standards for all, better protected and managed ecosystems and a safer, more prosperous future” (UN 1992).

Building on this vision, Africa Environment Outlook 2 – Our Environment, Our Wealth (AEO-2) profiles Africa’s environmental resources as an asset for the region’s development. The assessment highlights the opportunities presented by the natural resource base to support development and the objectives of the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). The report reaffirms the need for sustainable livelihoods, and the importance of environmental initiatives in supporting them. The emphasis is put on what should and can be done with existing (remaining) environmental assets, in the context of identified constraints (issues), rather than focusing on what has been (already) lost.

The following are particularly illustrated:

  • adding value to the resource that still exists (or remains);
  • using natural resources efficiently (and sustainably) to derive maximum benefit;
  • mitigating the constraints and negative effects;
  • maximizing the total value of Africa’s natural assets;
  • making a case for safeguarding and improving the remaining assets; and
  • converting the current environmental challenges into opportunities for development.