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Regional policies

There has been progress on the policy front as the region took steps to consolidate the African Renaissance. Various structures and policy measures of the new African Union (AU) were strengthened, the most significant of which was the adoption by heads of state and governments of a new environmental action plan. The second session of the Assembly of the AU Heads of State and Government endorsed the Action Plan for the Environment Initiative of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in July 2003. (Box 1).

Box 1: the NEPAD Environment Action Plan

The Action Plan of the Environment Initiative of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) was prepared to promote Africa’s sustainable development and assist the region to confront its short-term economic growth challenges without losing sight of the long-term environmental, poverty eradication and social development imperatives.
The action plan is organized in clusters of programmatic and project activities to be implemented over an initial period of 10 years. Programme areas cover the following priority sectors and crosscutting issues:

  • combatting land degradation, drought and desertification;
  • wetlands;
  • invasive species;
  • marine and coastal resources;
  • cross-border conservation of natural resources; and
  • climate change.

The plan also addresses the related problems of pollution, forests and plant genetic resources, freshwater, capacity building and technology transfer. The implementation of the plan is a challenge which will require the support and/or active participation by African countries and development partners.

Source: AU 2003a

The other significant policy development was the adoption by the AU Assembly of the revised African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (Box 2).

Box 2: African nature convention adopted
The 1968 African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources was revised in 2003 with support from UNEP and the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
The new text makes the African Convention a comprehensive and modern regional treaty on environment and natural resources conservation, the first to deal with a wide spectrum of sustainable development issues, including land and soil, water, and biological diversity conservation and sustainable use. It also addresses processes and activities which affect the environment and natural resources, as well as their relationship with sustainable development.
The convention provides for procedural rights (to information, participation and access to justice), echoing Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration. It encourages cooperation among parties to implement the convention, and whenever transboundary effects are likely to occur, and provides mechanisms including an independent secretariat.
The revised convention will enter into force once it has been ratified by 15 African states
Source: AU 2003b

This updates and strengthens the 1968 Convention and boosts the commitment by African governments to a collective approach to biodiversity conservation in the region. Africa’s commitment to biodiversity conservation was further reinforced by the Africa Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Ministerial Declaration of October 2003, which recognizes that the biodiversity of Africa’s forest ecosystems is essential for the livelihoods of the African people (IISD 2003). The declaration highlights problems of illegal logging, a move that should pave the way for strong legislation supportive of sustainable forest management, fair profit-sharing and poverty alleviation.

Several African countries announced new protected areas showing commitment to biodiversity conservation.
Source: Still Pictures
The Vth World Parks Congress, about two months after the AU second Assembly, reinforced Africa’s commitment to biodiversity conservation, with several countries in the region announcing the establishment of new protected areas.
Africa made significant progress in 2003 to phase out leaded vehicle fuel, whose emissions are both an environmental and human health risk. A UNEP survey found that most African countries will be using lead-free petrol, or should be close to phasing out lead from vehicle fuel, by the end of 2005. Countries such as Cape Verde, Egypt, Ghana, Libya, Mauritius and Mauritania are already fully lead-free. Other countries that have drawn up action plans to phase out lead by 2005 include Eritrea, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Togo and Uganda. (UNEP 2003b, World Bank 2003b

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