African nations seek joint environment plan

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[NAIROBI] Environment ministers from more than 20 African countries have endorsed a proposed regional environmental plan for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). But no new funds have so far been allocated for the initiative, whose implementation is expected to cost US$250 million.

The Environment Action Plan was approved at a meeting in Maputo, Mozambique last week. It aims to improve environmental conditions in Africa, focusing on the problems of desertification, invasive species, poverty and environment, forests, marine and coastal environments, health and environment, climate change and wetlands.

The plan also seeks to build Africa’s capacity to implement regional and international environmental agreements, and to address environmental challenges in the overall context of NEPAD, an initiative launched in 2001 by the leaders of five African countries to promote economic and social development on the continent.

“[The action plan] is the first coherent, strategic and long-term programme of action adopted by African ministers to promote sustainable development in Africa,” says Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme. “[It ensures] that the continent is able to confront its short-term economic growth challenges without losing sight of long-term environmental, poverty eradication, and social development imperatives.”

The costs of drawing up the action plan were covered by Global Environment Facility (GEF) – an international financial body that helps developing countries fund projects that protect the global environment. But, says Neil Pratt of the GEF, massive resources are needed to fund specific components of the plan.

Pratt is upbeat, however, about the prospects for gaining funds, pointing to a meeting of donors that will be held for this purpose in Algeria in December.

“Donor nations are interested in channelling much of their traditional aid to Africa within the framework of NEPAD,” he says. “The understanding is that the implementation of NEPAD would result in increases of overall aid, financial support and investment.”

Mozambican president, Joachim Chissano, who opened last week’s meeting, said the plan would only succeed if rich countries demonstrated the political will to make the necessary funds available. Since the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, he said, developed countries had not committed sufficient resources to implement sustainable development.

Chissano said the plan would allow each African country to play an important role both for its own benefit, and for the benefit of the continent as a whole. “Through this NEPAD initiative, Africa is showing the world its ability to design solutions for its own sustainable development,” he said.

The action plan was developed under the leadership of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) in close cooperation with the Secretariat of NEPAD and the Africa Union with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme and the GEF. It will now be submitted to the heads of state summit of the African Union due to take place in Maputo next month.

Link to Environment Action Plan