Although the objectives of most MEAs are interlinked and an interlinkages approach to environmental challenges at a thematic level has been developed, the same levels of interaction have not been created between the administering authorities at the different spatial levels – national to global. This presents its own challenges to establishing synergies for effective implementation. There is a need to link regional institutional structures with the institutions for administering the different MEAs. Improving interlinkages between regional institutions is also important. This involves developing multilevel and cross-sectoral interlinkages.

African countries are party to a number of international and regional conventions. At a regional level these include Bamako (which deals with Hazardous Waste) and the ACCNNR. Global MEAs include Basel, CITES, the CBD, the UNCCD, the UNFCCC and Ramsar. Many African countries are still developing systems for incorporating these conventions into their programmes and policies, and thus have not yet focused on developing interlinkages between conventions. However, addressing this at an early stage – and as part of the process of implementing the conventions – may create opportunities for spreading costs and increasing synergies between these different MEAs. It is also important to develop synergies between implementing institutions for these conventions and institutions involved in poverty alleviation, health and other development needs.

Specific challenges relate to collaboration in communications as well as to information flow, particularly as it relates to reporting requirements. One way to address this is through the development of shared databases. Funding may be an important constraint, particularly as it is often given for sectoral projects and not for groups of projects that promote an interlinkages approach. Human capacity may also limit opportunities for interlinkages.

In developing synergies it might be helpful to cluster conventions – depending on their focus – around specific themes. For example the CBD and its Cartagena Protocol, Ramsar, UNCLOS and the World Trade Organization among others are all important in the management of invasive alien species. It is helpful to create specific synergies between these conventions to develop an effective managerial regime which can be implemented at the national level. Similarly, the successful implementation of several MEAs is dependent on effective customs management. Here interlinkages between CITES, the Cartagena Protocol and the Basel and Bamako Conventions, and with customs authorities, is essential to manage trade in and movement of endangered species, living modified organisms, chemicals and hazardous waste. Developing customs capacity to meet the challenges of these conventions is best done in a holistic manner in order to avoid duplication of costs.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) can play an important role in promoting an interlinkages approach, particularly by facilitating communication among MEA secretariats and with the WTO.


Across Africa there are various initiatives that focus on building partnerships across sectors. For environmental policymakers these emerging partnerships present important opportunities. Policymakers are faced with the challenge of how to build collaboration between these partnerships and other processes, develop linkages and ensure the better inclusion of environmental issues in their activities.

Intra-regional trade

Trade is a major source of economic development and can boost resources available for improving social and environmental services. Given this, and the impacts of trade on environment, developing linkages with trade organizations is an important opportunity for the environment.

The Abuja Treaty of 1991 proposed the establishment of an African Economic Community by the year 2000 in order to foster the economic, social and cultural integration of the continent. An important milestone in that direction would be to establish free trade zones at the level of the existing sub-regional economic communities, since intra-regional trade can be a major boost for African economies.

Regional economic integration provides a forum for the negotiation of outstanding trade issues and can be a useful vehicle for delivering payments for ecosystem services. For instance, the NBI is an appropriate forum where upper riparian countries of Uganda and Ethiopia may negotiate funding for watershed protection from the lower riparian countries of Egypt and Sudan. In addition, the hydroelectricity power authorities in Sudan and Egypt could channel resources to support reforestation in upper riparian countries whose watersheds maintain a steady, clean and sustainable flow of water.

New Partnership for Africa’s Development

Box 16: African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM)

Within the framework of the NEPAD, the members of the AU have adopted a system of voluntary peer review named African Peer Review Mechanism. It is the systematic examination and assessment of the performance of a state by other states. The ultimate goal is to help the reviewed state improve its policy making and adopt best practices. Peer review examinations and assessments rely heavily on mutual trust and understanding between the states being reviewed and reviewers.

The typical mandatory review takes place every three to five years unless under special circumstances an ad hoc review is requested. An APRM starts by developing a report (Background Documents and Draft Programme of Action) and is followed by an APRM team visit to the country concerned to discuss the report. Areas subject to review are democracy and political governance, economic governance and management, corporate governance and socioeconomic development. The programme of action should have benchmarks with specific time to measure the capabilities of a country to comply with the NEPAD objectives and commitments, including protection of human rights, free and fair political processes, sound fiscal management and macro-economic governance. The peer review is a selfassessment mechanism performed by Africa.

Source: Cilliers, undated

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is a multisectoral initiative focused on achieving economic revival in Africa; the linkages between economic development and other sectors, such as science and technology and the environment, have been clearly identified. It seeks to build partnerships and promote cooperation between African countries as well as between Africa and other international groups, such as the G8. Within Africa. an important aspect of this cooperation is the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) discussed in Box 16.

The APRM has developed and adopted a coherent environment action plan (NEPAD-EAP) and strategies to address the region’s environmental challenge in an integrated manner. The NEPAD-EAP views better governance, poverty eradication, economic growth and income distribution as part and parcel of Africa’s sustainable development. In July 2003, the second session of the Assembly of the African Union Heads of States and Government endorsed the Action Plan for the Environment Initiative of NEPAD. UNEP (2004) indicates that implementation of the plan is challenging and will require the support and active participation of African countries as well as development partners to provide finance and coordination.

The NEPAD initiative and the NEPAD-EAP recognize policy interlinkages and the relationship between biophysical and anthropogenic factors. Implementing a multidimensional plan through a sectoral structure at the national level compounds the challenge of financing, and at the same time opens up new opportunities for policy integration at the sub-regional and national levels.