Past, present and future perspectives


Africa's environment has deteriorated steadily, with poverty being the main cause of that degradation, and with the poor being its direct victims. High levels of poverty-in combination with increasing instances of climate variability and natural disasters, internal institutional weaknesses in Africa, and unfair trading practices in developed countries-have made Africans more vulnerable physically, psychologically and economically. The collective African capacity to cope with increasing vulnerability is also generally low.

Given the magnitude of these problems, it may appear as if African governments, and sub-regional and regional organizations, are doing nothing to solve them. This is not so. They have initiated steps to halt or even reverse environmental degradation, although initiatives are now required for more effective implementation of policies and strategies that have been adopted.

It is also significant that Africa has a vision for sustainable development embodied in the newly formed African Union and the New Partnership for Africa's Development. There is great optimism that Africa can catch up with the rest of the world and even surpass it, using the Great Transitions scenario. However, if this is to be achieved, African countries need, amongst other things, to:

African governments must show greater political will and commitment to solving environmental problems, and must be prepared to devote their own financial and human resources to practical environmental action. They must also address the issue of corruption if they are to improve efficiency in utilization of resources, and they must embrace the democratic process for better governance.

African national governments, sub-regional organizations, AMCEN and the international community are encouraged to contribute to implementation of the specific activities proposed in the 31 areas for action identified above. A key responsibility lies with AMCEN, and with sub-regional groupings and national governments, to mobilize adequate technical, human and financial resources for the implementation of these activities. The international community is also urged to support the efforts of the national governments, subregional organizations and AMCEN, in the spirit of the New Partnership for Africa's Development.