A striking feature of recent policy initiatives is the priority given to improving opportunities for cooperation at the global, regional, sub-regional and national levels.

Regional initiatives which create new levels of cooperation have taken place: many of these emphasize the commonness of Africa’s problems and the opportunity collaboration brings to solving these problems. The NEPAD-EAP is one such initiative. It was prepared through a consultative and participatory process under the leadership of AMCEN. It sought to identify the root causes of environmental degradation and the most effective projects from an environmental, institutional and financial perspective. The plan takes a long-term perspective and identifies eight programme areas and actions that African countries should adopt to maintain the integrity of the environment and ensure the sustainable use of their natural resources. It responds to some of the challenges of the MDGs – particularly goals Number 1 on eradicating poverty, Number 7 on environmental sustainability and Number 8 on developing a partnership for development, as well as to the general principles of Agenda 21.

At the sub-regional level, collaboration has also been an important policy focus. In some instances this is between countries, whereas in others it focuses on cooperation within a given country. Sub-regional cooperation is evident in a range of areas, from transboundary natural resource management to disaster responsiveness and early warning systems. The EAC Development Strategy emphasizes economic cooperation and development with a strong focus on the social dimension, and the role of the private sector and civil society is considered as central and crucial to regional development (EAC 2001).

There are several sub-regional initiatives that deal with monitoring and early warning. In the EAC the Regional Environment Assessment Guidelines for Shared Ecosystems of East Africa has been initiated. This builds on an earlier initiative by the then East African Cooperation, where the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources made specific recommendations on shared ecosystems, including developing regional environmental assessment procedures and guidelines for shared ecosystems. These assessment guidelines will form a basis for valuating activities in or near shared ecosystems that are likely to cause significant ecological, environmental, health and social impacts. Collaborative initiatives around food security and drought warning have been other areas of sub-regional collaboration, particularly in the SADC region. Box 6 looks at the importance of cooperation in developing early warning for the WIO Islands.

Box 6: Western Indian Ocean (WIO) islands: vulnerability to sudden disaster
The Western Indian Ocean islands have a high level of vulnerability to sudden disaster. Such disasters include tropical cyclones (Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and Réunion); land-based volcanoes (Comorosand Réunion); flooding from torrential rain (Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius); droughts (Madagascar, Mauritius); plagues of locusts (Madagascar); epidemic disease (Comoros and Madagascar), coral bleaching (Seychelles), and throughout the region, transport accidents and marine oil spills. The principal impact of the tsunami ofDecember 2004 in the Western Indian Ocean fell upon the Maldivesand the Seychelles, with some damage occurring in the outerislands of Mauritius.
    While the Western Indian Ocean countries have well-developed and effective early warning and response systems for the more common tropical cyclones experienced every year, the tsunami of December 2004 demonstrated the weaknesses of certain aspects of the existing systems of disaster management and the need for reassessment and development. Review is now being made of the future risks arising from tsunamis, the cost of protective measures and the value of investing in improvements that need to be made for better protection against the more common disaster risks in the region.
   While sometimes the impact of a disaster is irremediable and the event often inescapable, intervention to reduce the risk of the events and damage has been the focus of long-standing national and regional
review and action. Reports available since 1951 show that the top ten disasters in the islands of Comoros, Madagascar and Mauritius, covering 96 per cent of the population of the region, resulted in 2 632 deaths and affected the lives of 10.5 million people. These disasters were principally from tropical cyclones, flooding from torrential rain, famine, disease epidemics and transport accidents.
   At both the national and international level, the follow-up to the event of the tsunami of 26 December 2004 is still unfolding. Plans for improving the early warning systems are being integrated with building the capacity for emergency relief in the region which can be turned to respond to risks of the wide variety of natural and other disasters to which the island countries may be subjected. These have a grave impact on Madagascar with its population of 17 million (over 90 per cent of the population of the sub-region) where most people live in poverty, where one-third of the children suffer from malnutrition and widespread famine is not uncommon in years of poor harvests.
   Long-term plans for monitoring sea level rise and sea surges are at the stage of pilot projects and isolated research exercises. The priority given to these, supported by the Indian Ocean Commission, is likely to be increased, but the need for routine monitoring of tsunami risks has to be considered in the light of other relative risks of disaster and the capacity of each country to respond to them, within the context of comprehensive hazard and risk management.

Source: IOC 2005