Past, present and future perspectives


Five years after the OAU was established, African countries adopted the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, in Algiers in September 1968. The main objective of the Algiers Convention was to encourage individual and joint action for the conservation, utilization and development of soil, water, flora and fauna, for the present and future welfare of humankind.

The main principle of the Algiers Convention states: 'The contracting states shall undertake to adopt the measures necessary to ensure conservation, utilization and development of soil, water, floral and faunal resources in accordance with scientific principles and with due regard to the best interests of the people.'

The Algiers Convention also demands that parties undertake to:

Well after the Algiers Convention, the modern environmental agenda-which was first set at the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment- also shaped environmental policies and programmes in the region. For example, African governments have responded positively through policy implementation to global, regional and sub-regional environmental problems and challenges, although the success of policy implementation has varied from one sub-region to another. At the national level, the Stockholm Conference influenced the establishment of the first environment ministry in 1975 in what was then Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). More environment ministries have been established in other African countries over the past three decades. At the global level, the Stockholm Conference led to the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), with its headquarters in Nairobi.

The global environmental, political, economic and social issues of the 1960s and early 1970s influenced the preparations for, and the final decisions of, the 1972 Stockholm Conference. For Africa, the Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment stands out as the defining document in terms of 'soft law' on environment and development issues. The Stockholm Declaration laid the foundation in terms of:

Box 1.2 Opening a new window in global environmental management

'One of our prominent responsibilities in this conference is to issue an international declaration on the human environment; a document with no binding legislative imperatives, but-we hope-with moral authority, that inspire in the hearts of men, the desire to live in harmony with each other, and with their environment.'

Professor Mostafa K. Tolba, President of the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology, and head of the Egyptian delegation at the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment

The 1972 Stockholm Conference rekindled the African spirit of living in harmony with each other and with the environment, as was stated by Professor Mostafa K. Tolba (who later became the second UNEP executive director) at that conference (see Box 1.2).

In addition to the Algiers Convention, African countries are party to some of the following international agreements, which were adopted in the 1970s: