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African Ministers to accelerate action through effective mechanisms for sustainable development

In a ministerial declaration issued in Durban, South Africa on Friday, November 15, 2019 at the closing of the 17th Ordinary Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), African governments agreed to make the Conference the forum for making regional environment policies with effective mechanisms for implementation.

AMCEN 2019
Nigeria’s Minister of Environment, Dr Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, speaking during a session at AMCEN in Durban, South Africa

Held under the theme, “Taking action for Environmental Sustainability and Prosperity in Africa”, the Conference was held from November 11 to 15 and focussed on the need for African countries to take practical action, including implementation of policies, relevant regional and global frameworks, in order for the continent to attain environmental sustainability and prosperity and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa’s Agenda 2063.

“We need to ramp up our efforts to implement the decisions for the benefit of our Continent,” Barbara Creecy, President of AMCEN and Minister of Forestry and Fisheries and Environmental Affairs of the Republic of South Africa, said.

“As we deliberated on the contribution that the Circular Economy, Blue Economy and biodiversity can make, this is an ideal opportunity to involve our youth and women in a more meaningful way in these, whilst guarding against environmental degradation,” she added.

Ministers have also committed to continue taking concrete actions to address environmental challenges and climate actions to unlock inclusive wealth creation that safeguards the socio-economic wellbeing of Africa. They reiterated their support in aligning AMCEN to global efforts, especially thorough the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), the highest global environmental decision-making body.

“At AMCEN we have seen African Ministers of the Environment demonstrate a powerful commitment to environmental protection, sustainable development, and to transforming policy into action. The UN Environment Programme stands ready to support this shared vision of a prosperous Africa which ensures the well-being of both people and the environment on which we are all depend,” said Joyce Msuya, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Key decisions made at the conference included:

On acting for environmental sustainability, Ministers committed to take measures to evaluate their progress in implementation of their decisions and address emerging issues. They reaffirmed their commitment to use all policy tools at national and regional levels to achieve strong, harmonised, coherent delivery of environmental and sustainable development related programmes to enable the achievement of Agenda 2063 of the African Union and 2030 Agenda.

On circular economy, Ministers recognised the value of the circular economy and its potential to improve the way in which goods and services are produced and consumed, reduce waste, create jobs and contribute to sustainable development. They also agreed to raise the political visibility and awareness of the circular economy.

The 17th Ordinary session of AMCEN committed to replicate, scale up and use circular economy approaches as part of Africa’s transformation efforts as contained in Africa Agenda 2063.

On blue economy, Ministers committed to raise awareness on blue economy by recognising that oceans and freshwater sources play a critical role in the economic development of the continent. They stressed the need to enhance the development of the Blue Economy of Africa as well as to mitigate the impacts of natural disasters such as floods and cyclones.

On Biodiversity, a commitment was made to raise the visibility and importance of the contribution of biological resources and their services in sustainable development through promoting the opportunities offered by the biodiversity economy. Ministers committed to address the threats facing biological resources in order to mitigate the impact of the challenges that the continent is facing.

They also committed to provide political direction and momentum to highlight the urgency of action at the highest levels in support of a post-2020 global biodiversity framework. Ministers reaffirmed their pledge to swiftly implement the Pan-African Action Agenda on Ecosystem Restoration for Increased Resilience as part of Africa’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021–2030.

On land degradation, desertification and drought, Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to provide adequate resources to address the drivers of migration related to desertification, land degradation and drought. They also reaffirmed their commitment to the 2018–2030 Strategic Framework of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and recognized the value of the land degradation neutrality and its potential to improve development and prosperity of Africa.

On climate change, Ministers acknowledged the recent findings of the international scientific community regarding climate change, including the three recent special reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); the Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, Climate Change and Land Report, and Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, which reflect the specific circumstances of Africa and linkage between its vulnerability to climate change and urgent development challenges.

They reaffirmed the commitment of the African countries to the full implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Paris Agreement in line with the principles and provisions of the Convention. Ministers emphasized the importance of the implementation of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

On Plastic Pollution, Ministers committed to supporting global action to address plastic pollution, and which will need further work to engage more effectively on global governance issues on plastic pollution, including reinforcing existing agreements.

On strengthening informed decision-making, Ministers welcomed the proposal for a science-policy-business forum to contribute to the provision of information to policymakers for informed decision-making on environmental issues.

At the conference, Creecy of South Africa assumed the Presidency of AMCEN, taking over from Lee White, Gabon’s Minister for Forests, Sea, the Environment and Climate Plan.

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