African Ministers Adopt Programmes to Boost Sustainable Development

African Environment ministers on Friday adopted a common voice in the implementation of the Rio+20 outcome document.
At the end of the fourteenth regular session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), the first meeting post Rio+20, the ministers adopted documents covering a raft of areas, from sustainable development in the context of an inclusive green economy to a common stance on climate change negotiations to the strengthening of UNEP.
The Arusha Declaration on Africa’s Post Rio+20 Strategy for Sustainable Development, presented to the President of Tanzania Jakaya Kikwete, stressed the need for Africa to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the outcomes of Rio+20.
“The conference recognizes the Green Economy as an important tool for realizing sustainable development and for eradicating poverty in Africa,” said Mr. Kikwete. “However, there is a need to maximize the opportunities of a Green Economy transition across a wider range of relevant sectors from natural resource management to transport and clean energy systems.”
“African ministers therefore decided to establish mechanisms for a coordinated support to countries for the promotion of a Green Economy, including development of partnerships, national strategies, promotion of regional and international cooperation and transfer of resource efficient and green technologies and know-how,” he added.
The ministers agreed to endorse an updated common position to ensure Africa’s participation in priority issues such as the climate talks leading up to the 18th Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC in Doha later this year.
Other decisions adopted include an agreement to strengthen and consolidate commitment to the promotion of sustainable development and effectively integrate the economic, environmental and social dimensions in local, national and regional development policies and strategies.
The African ministers also reaffirmation the need to speak for the continent in one voice and ensure the adequate representation of Africa in all committees established for the follow up  of the outcomes of Rio +20. 
They promised to initiate an African green economy partnership that facilitates coordinated support to member states and serves to implement the global partnership for action on green economy as a vehicle for poverty eradication, decent jobs creation and sustainable development.
The ministers agreed to consider the Great Green Wall for Sahara and the Sahel Initiative – which aims to halt soil degradation, reduce poverty, conserve biodiversity, and increase land productivity in some 20 countries around the Sahara – as a flagship programme that represents Africa’s contribution to the achievement of “a land degradation neutral world in the context of sustainable development” as recommended by the Rio+20 Conference.
UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said Africa had a key role to play in international negotiations that could secure a better future for the continent.
“The follow up to Rio+20 needs to mark a moment of renewed commitment, greater urgency and a turning point in terms of implementation of what has already been agreed,” he told delegates at the conference.
“A fully engaged Africa at the UN General Assembly and beyond can assist greatly in ensuring that the gains made at Rio+20 are not only secured, but acted upon in order to boost the lives and livelihoods of now one billion Africans and six billion others across this extraordinary world.”
Flagship programmes for realizing sustainable development in Africa will be further developed and implemented, taking into account cooperation frameworks.
Regarding the strengthening and upgrading of UNEP, which was one of the key outcomes of Rio+20, the ministers urged the General Assembly to establish universal membership in the Governing Council of UNEP and ensure secure, stable, adequate and increased financial resources from the regular UN budget (to a level of two per cent of the overall budget), to be supplemented by voluntary contributions.
They called for the strengthening of the UNEP engagement in key United Nations coordination bodies and empower the agency to lead efforts to formulate United Nations system-wide strategies on the environment.   
The ministers also requested additional measures beyond the Rio+20 agreement, including upgrading regional offices and establishing five sub-regional offices in Africa, as well as establishing a universal membership body known as the Environment Assembly with a ministerial segment called the Ministerial Conference on Environment.
Mounkaila Goumandakoye, Regional Director of UNEP’s Regional Office for Africa, said UNEP would support all the decisions adopted by the ministers.
“In addition to the provision of secretariat services, our support will focus on scientific and technical advisory services as we increase assistance to African countries in the implementation of the Rio+20 outcomes, taking into account the threat that climate change continues to pose,” he said.
“Our collaboration with AMCEN will also focus on programmatic support in the design and implementation of programmes, in line with the regional flagship programmes identified at this session, that respond to the needs and priorities of countries in the areas of sound environmental management,” he added.

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