Interlinkages between and among institutional structures dealing with environmental management and policy and those from other institutions whose area of mandate has a relationship to the environment, such as trade and health, remain weak and need to be redressed if development challenges are to be effectively addressed.

At the national level, management and governance systems are based on different sectors. The World Resources Institute (WRI) suggests that sectoral approaches to environmental management and governance at the international level mirror patterns at the national level and this remains true for Africa (WRI and others 2003).

Boxes 2 and 4 show, in relation to health issues, that responding effectively to challenges may require interventions in different sectors. In order to achieve this, mechanisms not just for coordinating response but also for coordinating problem analysis are needed. One challenge is to achieve this without overstretching the capacity of institutions that are already under considerable financial and human resource strain. Options include developing multilevel, inter-sectoral and inter-state strategies that cut across institutions and, at an early stage, developing deliberative and inclusive policy-making processes. These should be complemented by processes that review and refine policy, in order to support adaptive management.

At the regional level, the main institutional responses have been sectoral. The main regional and sub-regional institutional development has been the creation of economic groups which cluster countries around common issues and specifically around economic and social development. These organizations have focused primarily on economic cooperation and trade, with less attention paid to environmental issues. The Commission for Africa (2005) reports that trade among Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) countries grew by 15 per cent, from US$4 500 million in 2002 to US$5 300 million in 2003. These organizations have therefore been effective in increasing trade integration among their members. As more integrated approaches to development have emerged that focus on the links between environment, development and human well-being, these organizations have developed a broader range of interests. The Southern African Development Community (SADC), for example, has been instrumental in the development of collaborative approaches to watercourses, forests and wildlife – although the interlinkages between these issues and their relation to other issues remain relatively weak. The role of these institutions in promoting environmental collaboration is discussed in Chapter 1: The Human Dimension. Chapter 12: Environment for Peace and Regional Cooperation considers the value of inter-state collaboration on environmental issues. The challenge now lies in taking this a step further and for these economic commissions to become effective vehicles for ensuring the integration of environment into the development process.

Figure 4: Ecological debtor and creditor countries 2001 The African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) is an Africa-wide body for environmental policy development and environmental governance. It can, as discussed in Chapter 1: The Human Dimension, be an important vehicle for improving environmental cooperation, although it still faces various challenges in securing finance for the implementation of its programmes, the harmonization of regional and global environmental issues, and the full incorporation of these issues at the national and subregional levels, among many others.

A mechanism that fully addresses policy interlinkages at the regional level is yet to be developed. Given that decisions affecting the environment are most frequently taken outside “the environment sector,” such as trade and finance, a regular interface between AMCEN and other equivalent bodies at the regional level needs to be strengthened. Implementation of framework MEAs such as the CBD and the ACCNNR requires multisectoral coordination and policy integration. Environment ministries and their entities, such an AMCEN, can face real challenges in such situations.