Regional processes, such as the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) and African Ministerial Council on Water (AMCOW) provide leadership on environment and freshwater. AMCEN has been in existence since 1985, while AMCOW was launched in 2002. Both mobilize political and technical support to address diverse environmental issues, such as land degradation and desertification, chemicals management, access to safe water and sanitation, and integrated water resource management (IWRM).

From the outset, AMCEN has sought to strengthen cooperation in environmental policy responses in the region. In its inaugural declaration adopted at the end of the 1985 meeting in Cairo, AMCEN highlighted its major objective as strengthening cooperation between African governments in economic, technical and scientific activities, with the prime objective of halting and reversing the degradation of the African environment in order to satisfy food and energy needs (AMCEN 1985).

African ministers have also pursued cooperative initiatives on critical environmental issues, such as energy use, the phase-out of lead fuel, and chemicals. They have also adopted an agricultural initiative (Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme) to boost food production and help the region attain food self-sufficiency (see Chapter 3: Land). Through the NEPAD process, African governments have also produced a health strategy, which among other issues, recognizes the centrality of health to development, and that poverty cannot be eradicated – or substantially alleviated – as long as disease, disability and early mortality continue to burden Africa’s people (NEPAD 2003b). For example, malaria has slowed annual economic growth by 1.3 per cent, imposing a loss of US$12 000 million on the region per year (RBM/WHO 2003).

Africa has adopted a number of MEAs that address regional concerns. These include the Convention on the Ban of the Import into Africa and the Control of Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within Africa (Bamako) (see Chapter 11: Chemicals) and the 2003 African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (ACCNNR) (see Chapter 1: The Human Dimension and Chapter 8: Interlinkages: The Environment and Policy Web). Although implementation of both remains a challenge due primarily to the lack of resources, these two conventions show the spectrum of regional cooperation in environmental issues. These are complemented, as discussed below by various sub-regional agreements and initiatives.

The launch in October 1999 of the African Renaissance Institute played an important role in developing a framework for enhancing cooperation. South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki, who launched the Institute, encouraged the mobilization of all African countries, including their people and organizations, to promote the objectives of an African Renaissance – the rebirth and renewal of the region (Mbeki 1999, Box 2).

Box 2: African Renaissance to promote regional cooperation

For Africa, the future of all countries is interdependent: meaningful peace, stability, sustained development and improved human wellbeing in one country is only possible where all countries in the region have achieved that.

In facing the challenges of development, the region has to overcome its negative history, which includes:

  • Unstable political systems, in which one-party states and military rule prevailed, led to conflict, civil wars and genocide that contributed to the displacement of millions of people and the creation of refugee populations;
  • Predatory elites, who have thrived on looting national wealth and the entrenchment of corrupt practices;
  • The growth of the international debt burden, to the extent that in some countries, combined with unfavourable terms of trade, it makes negative growth in national per capita income inevitable; and
  • Declines in the standard of living and the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people.

The tasks of the African Renaissance include:

  • Establishing institutions and procedures, which enable Africa to collectively deal with challenges of democracy, peace and stability;
  • Achieving sustainable economic development, that results in the continuous improvement of the standards of living and the quality of life of the masses of the people;
  • Qualitatively changing Africa’s place in the world economy, freeing it from its international debt burden, and transforming it from being a supplier of raw materials and an importer of manufactured goods;
  • Ensuring the emancipation and equality of the women;
  • Successfully confronting the scourge of HIV/AIDS; and
  • Strengthening the genuine independence of African countries and Africa, as a region, in their relations with the major powers, and enhancing their role in the determination of the global system of governance in all fields, including politics, the economy, security, information and intellectual property, the environment, and science and technology.

Source: Mbeki 1999

Regional Economic Communities

Figure 1: African economic regions fostering cooperation There are a number of regional economic communities (RECs) in Africa. These include, among others, the:

  • Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD);
  • Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS);
  • Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA);
  • Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD);
  • Southern African Development Community (SADC);
  • Arab Maghreb Union (UMA); and
  • Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS).

All of these RECs are actively engaged in promoting cooperation, although primarily with a focus on economic development. Principles and motivations underlying their formation generally include sovereign equality; solidarity, peace and security; human rights, democracy and the rule of law; equity, mutual benefit; and the peaceful settlement of disputes. Several have embarked on extensive environmental collaboration.

At the sub-regional level, the SADC Treaty recognizes peace and security provisions, alongside cooperation in natural resource management (NRM), as essential to meeting its objective of achieving sustainable utilization of natural resources and effective protection of the environment (SADC 1992). In support of this, various protocols that establish shared institutions have been adopted, these include:

  • The Protocol on Shared Watercourse Systems, which was signed in 1995 by the member countries and amended in 2000 to harmonize it with the most important aspects of the 1997 UN Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Water Courses.
  • The Protocol on Energy, 1996.
  • The Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology, 1996.
  • The Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement, 1999.

Another example of cooperation in SADC is the establishment, in 2004, of the Zambezi Basin Commission after more than two decades of on-and-off negotiations among the eight riparian states.

A number of other recent initiatives at the sub-regional level hold promise for enhanced regional cooperation in a number of different areas, including the environment. In Eastern Africa, for example, the revival of the East African Community (EAC) in 1999 is intended to widen and deepen cooperation among the member states – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – in many areas, including environmental management (Box 3).

Box 3: Main organs of the East African Community

The EAC is an intergovernmental organization comprised of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The cooperation and integration envisaged in the EAC is broad-based. It includes:

  • Trade, investment and industrial development;
  • Monetary and fiscal affairs;
  • Infrastructure and services;
  • Human resources, science and technology;
  • Agriculture and food security;
  • Environment and natural resources management;
  • Tourism and wildlife management; and
  • Health, social and cultural activities.

Its main organs are the Summit of Heads of State and/or Government; the Council of Ministers; a coordination committee; sectoral committees; the East African Court of Justice, the East African Legislative Assembly; and the Secretariat. Environmental cooperation is facilitated

by the Sectoral Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, which has four working groups that focus on terrestrial ecosystems, aquatic ecosystems, pollution and related matters, and policy, legal and institutional frameworks (Sikoyo and Wakhungu 2003). The recommendations of the working groups are provided to the three heads of state to assist them in their decision making on environmental issues.

The community has developed, “A Vision and Strategy Framework for the Management and Sustainable Development of the Lake Victoria Basin.” Among the various responsibilities of the Council of Ministers is the management of the Lake Victoria basin, and fisheries. This includes, for example, agreeing to controls on container boats on Lake Victoria as these are believed to be involved in smuggling fish, and allowing smallscale cross-border fishing and trade.

Source: LVDP undated, Sikoyo and Wakhungu 2003

In the Great Lakes Region (GLR), where conflict has been an obstacle to regional cooperation, the link between environmental quality, and peace and security has been articulated by policymakers. Meeting in Nairobi in September 2004 for the UN Great Lakes initiative, stakeholders from seven countries proposed principles and actions critical to addressing suspicion and conflict, and for encouraging cooperation among the member states. The principles focus on peace and security, democracy and good governance, economic development and regional integration, and humanitarian and social issues (ICGLR 2003).The following actions and principles were seen as essential for development in the GLR (UNEP 2004b):

  • Environmental quality and sustainable NRM are a precondition for peace and security in the GLR. Peace and security are a precondition for good environmental quality and sustainable resource management. Given this close relationship between peace and environment, it was emphasized that management plans should include provisions which encourage equitable access to and sharing of benefits from natural resource use, so as to avoid competition for natural resource control. These plans should also identify and support opportunities through which environmental management can contribute to peace and peaceful coexistence.
  • Political commitment to the tenets of democracy and good governance are critical for the sustainable management of environmental resources. This includes strengthening national capacities, and fostering regional cooperation through the development of sustainable NRM programmes. Such programmes should focus on strategic transboundary resources such as lakes, river basins, mountain ecosystems, protected areas, and unique cultural, biodiversity and historical sites.
  • Environmental management and protection should be an integral part of economic development and regional integration for sustainable development. This includes the use of sustainable transboundary natural resource management (TBNRM) as an opportunity for regional economic development and integration.
  • Armed conflicts result in diverse humanitarian and social situations that have environmental implications, such as increased environmental degradation. This, in turn, leads to – or exacerbates – poverty which, in turn, further increases environmental degradation through unplanned development of human settlements and the overharvesting of resources. Effective responses include considering environmental sustainability in decisions related to the location and establishment of refugee camps, to avoid increasing stress on already fragile environments, and encouraging cooperation between the host and refugee populations, especially on the use of natural resources, by taking into account the needs of the host community.