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Preface Annex 1
POLICY AND LEGAL RESPONSES FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Africa has responded to the challenges posed to sustainable development by committing to and establishing policies for creating an enabling environment at the regional, sub-regional, national and local levels that support sustained economic growth, environmental integrity, efforts for peace, stability and security, democracy and good governance, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development and gender equality. Although much remains to be done to make this policy objective a reality, Africa (both governments and its people) are committed to and share the Brundtland Commission’s vision for a future that is more prosperous, more just and more secure (WCED 1987).
Across Africa, there has been a rich and varied response to these challenges at multiple levels, from the regional to the community level. Governments, non-governmental organizations, community groups, scientists and other experts have all been important contributors to developing policy and defining practical responses to implement such policies. Since the Brundtland Commission put forward its vision for sustainable development in 1987, there have been other key policy responses which reinforce its messages and which seek to make sustainable development a reality. Landmarks on this trajectory of responses include:
Through these policy initiatives, African governments have taken a comprehensive approach to the issue of sustainable development. They have emphasized the following, as well as the links between these aspects:
Multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), at the global, regional and sub-regional levels, are an important response to these broad policy positions. They seek to take the challenges identified in policies on board and provide for practical responses. Multilateral environmental agreements may establish clear rules or suggest managerial frameworks to resolve problems. African countries are party to at least 30 conventions at the global level, dealing with various aspects of environmental management, and related areas, such as trade, that impact directly on environmental sustainability.
Most African countries have signed the three international conventions adopted at the UNCED in 1992 – the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) – as well as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Other MEAs to which African countries are party include those dealing with international trade in endangered species, the management of migratory species, hazardous waste management, cultural heritage, ozone depletion, biosafety, invasive alien species and forest management. Also of critical importance are agreements reached in the trade area, especially the World Trade Organization (WTO) and related agreements on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and sanitary and phytosanitary provisions. Several agreements in agriculture, such as the International Convention for Protection of Plants, have important implications for biodiversity and the sharing of benefits arising from its use. Human rights and development agreements adhered to set the framework for addressing these environmental issues. Additionally, Africa has a growing number of regional and sub-regional MEAs which promote collaboration by establishing an agreed approach to a given issue, which in turn sets the basis for harmonized and coordinated national law. Foremost among these is the ACCNNR adopted by the AU in 2003. This policy and legal approach is reinforced through the establishment of regional and sub-regional organizations. Many sub-regional organizations have spearheaded the development of environmental management policy and law at the sub-region level. In critical areas of sub-regional concern, there have been important multilateral agreements; these include cooperation in the management of shared river basins, wildlife and forests.
These policy and legal initiatives have been complemented by the development of institutions at the regional and sub-regional levels. The African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) is one such initiative which increases opportunities for the development of collaborative approaches to environmental management. Box 3 provides more information about AMCEN. Crucial too is the strengthening and reorganization of the African Union. Its Constitutive Act provided for the establishment of a specialized technical committee on natural resources and the environment. The Pan-African Parliament, established in 2004, has a permanent standing Committee on Rural Economy, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment. In 2005, the AU launched the Economic, Social and Cultural Council of the AU (ECOSOCC) to facilitate and promote civil society participation in the affairs of the AU. See Box 7.