Sustainable environmental management requires recognizing the interlinkages between different aspects of the environment, as well as the complex interactions between factors in human society causing change to the environment. Given this, there is a need to deal with environment and development issues in a holistic, comprehensive and integrated manner.

The need for integrated approaches has been recognized in the Stockholm Convention, and in 1987 the Brundtland Commission identified it as the basis of sustainable development strategies. This approach was further developed in the Rio Declaration, Agenda 21 and the UNCED conventions. The WSSD Johannesburg Plan of Implementation draws attention to the ways in which such an approach may create better opportunities for water resource and energy management as well as for the identification and development of alternative technologies.

In the 1990s, many African countries broke with the narrow sectoral approach that had been inherited from the colonial era and which was founded on command-and- control rule-based systems and were the forte of their environmental management systems, to develop more integrated approaches. In this period, most countries adopted national environmental action plans; many also began to reform the natural resource management legislation, giving it a stronger rights and opportunities content. Most African countries also adopted environmental provisions in their constitutions, in many cases echoing the commitment in the African Charter on Human Rights and Peoples Rights recognizing environmental rights.

The NEPAD-EAP, adopted in 2003, takes an integrated approach to the environment and development with full consideration of economic growth, income distribution, poverty eradication, social equity and better governance as part and parcel of Africa’s environmental sustainability agenda (NEPAD 2003). The ACCNR also commits to such an approach and calls on parties to integrate development and environmental concerns by treating both as an integral part of national and local development plans, and to give full consideration to ecological, social, economic and cultural factors in their development.