The African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) was established in December 1985, following a conference of African ministers of environment held in Cairo , Egypt . Its mandate is to provide advocacy for environmental protection in Africa; to ensure that basic human needs are met adequately and in a sustainable manner; to ensure that social and economic development is realized at all levels; and to ensure that agricultural activities and practices meet the food security needs of the region.
AMCEN has continued to give guidance in respect of key political events related to the environment, including multilateral environmental agreements. AMCEN has also led the process for the development of the action plan for the Environment Initiative for the New Partnership for Africa 's Development (NEPAD). AMCEN is currently guiding the process for the implementation of the action plan for the environment initiative of NEPAD, including its work programme for the biennium 2005-2006. The Ministerial Conference prompted and encouraged the preparation of the comprehensive regional report on the state of Africa 's environment, Africa Environment Outlook (AEO) , by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The AEO process has been adopted by AMCEN as its instrument for monitoring and reporting on the environment. Additionally, AMCEN successfully facilitated the revision of the 1968 African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (Algiers Convention). Measures are being taken to strengthen the linkages between AMCEN and the region's two marine and coastal conventions, namely, the Convention for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Eastern African Region (Nairobi Convention) and the Convention for Cooperation in the Protection and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the West and Central African Region (Abidjan Convention).
AMCEN has continued to pay particular attention to the implementation of environmental conventions established in furtherance to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit) in 1992, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol.
The main challenges facing AMCEN are twofold: namely, gross financial difficulties and the rather complex organizational structure adopted by the Ministerial Conference.
The Conference is the highest organ of AMCEN. African ministers responsible for the environment are members of the AMCEN Conference. The Ministers decided at the first session of AMCEN that the Conference would meet every two years, and that a Bureau would be established to act on its behalf between meetings. UNEP has served as the Secretariat of AMCEN since its inception. The UNEP Regional Office for Africa serves as the secretariat to AMCEN.
Since the first session of AMCEN, a number of programmes and initiatives have been developed to facilitate the effective implementation of its mandate towards environmental protection in Africa . Of particular note are the establishment of the regional scientific and technical committees and the network of national focal points, which worked with mixed results on various thematic issues to advance the objectives of AMCEN in the region. In addition, the decisions taken at various meetings of AMCEN were implemented successfully when resources were available.
AMCEN is currently holding discussions with the African Union Commission (AUC) on issues related to the harmonisation and linkages between the Ministerial Conference and the AUC. It is expected that AMCEN would ultimately become a Specialized Technical Committee (STC) of the African Union Commission in line with the AU Summit's Sirte Declaration of February 2004.