Throughout much of Africa, the interlinkages between institutions and within governance processes are poorly developed. Developing an interlinkages approach can improve opportunities for more effective regional cooperation, inclusive policies, improved regional-national synergies, and stronger and more sustainable partnerships.

Box 15: International law framework for improved institutional linkages

Creating opportunities for effective collaboration requires a clear and agreed framework.

The United Nations Charter urges states to cooperate in order to avoid the scourge of war, to reaffirm fundamental human rights, to establish conditions under which justice and mutual respect can be maintained and to promote social progress. It urges states to build good neighbourly relations and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all people. In Africa, the African Union (AU), with its focus on sovereign equality; solidarity, peace and security; human rights, democracy and the rule of law; equity and mutual benefit; and the peaceful settlement of disputes complements this framework.

International law identifies several key principles that set the basis for cooperation and that can be helpful in building interlinkages. These include state sovereignty, state responsibility and good neighbourliness. Specific multilateral agreements address various aspects of human society, defining the agreed standards and frameworks, and further elaborating on the basis for collaboration. These areas include development, trade, human rights and environmental management.

Source: Mohamed-Katerere 2001

International law and policy, at both the global and regional levels, identifies motivations as well as an overall framework for developing institutional interlinkages, as set out in Box 15. These international law principles help to address problems of unequal power between countries.

One major and crosscutting challenge for developing institutional linkages is the lack of harmonization of environmental management approaches (Mohamed- Katerere 2001). Legal systems in Africa are closely linked to their colonial past, with different countries having English, French or Portuguese legal systems. More specifically, in terms of environment, common approaches have not been developed across nations. Regional initiatives, such as the ACCNNR, set a clear basis for the harmonization of such legal and policy frameworks at the sub-regional level.

Governance regimes impact on environmental management and change, in multiple ways and at different scales, across all environmental sectors.

  • First, environmental governance – and decentralization and devolution of power – affects the opportunities local users have in managing environmental resources and in particular their ability to manage natural resources as productive assets (WRI and others 2005).
  • Second, political governance, and in particular how power is shared between the centre and the local, is particularly important. For example, poor governance, within inadequate levels of transparency and accountability, often results in managerial systems that are vulnerable to corruption and conflict. Conflict has multiple ramifications for economic development and trade (OECD Development Centre and AfDB 2005), environmental sustainability and human well-being. Africa has suffered more than 30 wars since the 1970s (UN 1998). According to the World Bank, in 2005 about one-fifth of Africa’s people lived in countries affected by conflict and for the average African country, half of the indicators point to a risk of conflict (World Bank 2005). The poorest counties have the highest risk of new conflicts (UN Millennium Project 2005c). Chapter 12: Environment for Peace and Regional Cooperation highlights the interconnectedness of conflict with the loss of biodiversity, the overharvesting of ecosystems goods and services, the spread of illegal trade in natural assets and population displacement. These are all detrimental to ecosystems health and productivity. Good governance is critical for resolving conflict and building peace, mitigating its ill effects and avoiding conflict.
  • Third, governance in non-environmental areas, such as trade, is also of direct significance. Corporate and trade-related governance may have important implications for environmental change. While a weak regulatory system might be attractive from an investment perspective, it can have disastrous environmental and social costs. Emeseh (2004), for example, suggests that the lack of or weak enforcement of environmental regulations in Nigeria is designed to protect international oil companies. Companies engaged in extracting timber from Liberia, diamonds from Angola and Rwanda, coltan from Rwanda, and gold from Uganda are all sheltered from environmental regulation enforcement (Watkins and Fowler 2002), creating both human and environmental costs. Similarly, the dumping of hazardous wastes in Africa has been a major problem, especially during the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, and has left many parts of Africa faced with the problems of stockpiles. International agreements, such as the Bamako Convention, which seek to regulate this, have not been fully incorporated into national legislation.