5 March 2012, Khartoum –The significance of population dynamics as a driving factor of environmental change in Sudan was the focus of a workshop held yesterday in Khartoum which brought together 30 representatives of government ministries, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations.
Supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), this was the first event staged as part of a new initiative which is examining the complex relationship between population dynamics and environmental change.
The inception workshop was held in collaboration with Sudanese Government entities, including the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Natural Resources (MEFPD), the Ministry of Welfare and Social Security (MWSS), the Higher Council of the Environment and Natural Resources (HCENR) and the National Population Council (NPC).
The topics of population and the environment are currently addressed separately at the country level.
The joint project is aiming to better understand the inter-linkages between population dynamics and environmental changes in Sudan and their potential to contribute to the peace and development process through guiding environmental, population, and economic policy-making.
To this end, UNEP and UNFPA will use a regional perspective to ensure diverse input and the involvement of the relevant government bodies and research institutions have ensured strong ownership within Sudan.
Held at the Information Centre of the Sudanese Environmental Conservation Society (SECS), the workshop challenged participants to explore ways to strengthen national institutions so that they may play a key role in developing frameworks for planning, implementation and monitoring of policies that address concerns relating to population and environment.
The opening speeches highlighted some of the different perspectives.
The Secretary-General of the National Population Council and a chair of the Social Subcommittee of Population and Environment in the National Parliament, Professor Sittanaffar Badi, proposed that there is a need to move from empirical discussions to practical implementation and said that successes can be replicated.
Prof Badi shared the example of a community from the Soria village of Butan, central Sudan, who had no source of water during the dry season although a seasonal tributary of Atbara River was not far from village. Following an investigation by a government technical team, a simple water harvesting intervention was introduced which in just three months had resulted in major improvements in the health and livelihoods of both farmers and pastoralists in the community.
UNEP’s Sudan Country Programme Manger, Robin Bovey, said the joint project was important as it would consider the impact of environmental dynamics on issues which impact populations, including water, climate change, livelihoods, demographic changes, and environmental and population governance. Mr Bovey said that there had been significant impacts on both population and the natural resource base following the secession in July 2011.
The Secretary of the Higher Council of the Environment and Natural Resources, Professor Saeed Eldin, submitted that the main issues to be tackled as the institutions commenced joint efforts at both national and state level would be the challenges of urbanization, migration, population growth and distribution, sustainable development and climate change.
The UNFPA Acting Country Director, Ms Sharareh Amirkhalili, highlighted other issues requiring attention including the poor socio-economic conditions of women in the country - currently one in two women are illiterate (48%) - and other demographic factors including increased migration from rural-to-urban and urban-to-urban areas. In light of these issues, Ms Amirkhalili noted that sound policies governing joint programming between mandated institutions was necessary.
During the workshop it became clear that coordination was a factor which could ultimately be the driving force of the interlinkages and partnership.
As a follow up to the inception workshop, UNEP and UNFPA will hold the first state workshop in Gaderef State on 27 March, in conjunction with government partners, with the goal of articulating priorities and formulating a joint programme.
(See image above) The workshop venue was sponsored by the Horn of African Environmental Network. The building features a unique, environmentally-friendly design incorporating a traditional vault structure with sandstone blocks. It is situated in southern Khartoum, off Wad Medin Road.