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Preface Annex 1
POLICY AND LEGAL RESPONSES FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
STRENGTHENING INSTITUTIONS AND EMPOWERING PEOPLE
The lack of capacity, in terms of skills and opportunity, to manage environmental resources undermines the potential for sustainable development – consequently, strengthening institutions and empowering people are important strategies.
The UNCED conventions recognized this and these, along with the ACCNNR, have focused on the value of procedural rights, research, education and information, as well as respect for local knowledge and value systems to achieve this. The WSSD has also drawn attention to the close relationship between well-being and empowerment. It is increasingly recognized that in enhancing capabilities and opportunities for people to participate in decisions that affect their well-being and livelihoods, health services and education must be improved, and sufficient and potable water, shelter, and adequate and nutritious food ensured. WSSD looks specifically at how these aspects of human well-being can be improved, and the MDGs set out targets related to these aspects, to be achieved by 2015.
At the regional and sub-regional levels, empowerment has also been identified as key for sustainable development, although in many countries the development of laws and programmes to make this a reality are still lacking. The AU has, through the creation of the ECOSOCC, sought to increase opportunities for meaningful dialogue with civil society, as discussed in Box 7. At the sub-regional level, economic and development communities are also trying to empower the public. In 2001, the EAC launched the EAC Court of Justice and the EAC Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Assembly has seven standing committees, which include one on Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources.
In most policy initiatives, developing skills and capacity of resource users, as well as of national institutions, is seen as essential. This issue is an important focus in the Rio Declaration, Agenda 21, several MEAs including the CBD and WSSD, and the NEPAD-EAP. The NEPAD-EAP focuses on building Africa’s capacity to implement global and regional MEAs. In order to achieve this, eight activities are identified, including human resource development, public education and awareness, strengthening institutions and improving coordination, supporting the development of information systems, mobilizing and strengthening the role of scientific and technical communities, and promoting south-south cooperation and sharing of expertise (NEPAD 2003).