African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN)
The African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) was established in 1985 to strengthen cooperation between African governments on economic, technical and scientific activities in order to halt the degradation of Africa's environment and satisfy the food and energy needs of the continent's people. For almost 21 years, AMCEN has facilitated the broadening of the political and public policy legitimacy of environmental concerns in Africa.
MANDATE: AMCEN's mandate is to: provide information and advocacy for environmental protection in Africa; ensure that the basic human needs are met adequately and in a sustainable manner; ensure socio-economic development is realized at all levels; and ensure that agricultural activities and practices meets food security of the region. Among AMCEN's roles include:
- providing continent-wide leadership by promoting awareness and consensus on global and regional environmental issues, especially those relating to international conventions on biodiversity, desertification and climate change;
- developing common positions to guide African representatives in negotiations for legally binding international environmental agreements;
- promoting African participation in international dialogue on global issues of crucial importance to Africa;
- reviewing and monitoring environmental programmes at the regional, sub-regional and national levels;
- promoting the ratification by African countries of multilateral environmental agreements relevant to the region; and
- building African capacity in the field of environmental management.
AMCEN fulfils an important role in providing political guidance to the development of Africa's positions with respect to multilateral environmental agreements, including the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), UN Convention on Biological Diversity and its Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol. AMCEN's work also led to the adoption in January 1991 of the Bamako Convention on the Ban of the Import Into Africa and the Control of Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes Within Africa; and the establishment of four committees related to the development and improvement of the environment of five African ecosystems, namely: deserts and arid lands; rivers and lake basins; forests and woodlands; regional seas; and island ecosystems. AMCEN also led the process for the development of the action plan for the environment initiative of NEPAD, and prompted and encouraged the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to prepare a comprehensive regional report on the state of Africa's environment, entitled Africa Environment Outlook. Furthermore, AMCEN successfully facilitated the revision of the 1968 Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (Algiers Convention). Measures have also been taken to strengthen the linkages between AMCEN and the region's two marine and coastal conventions, namely, the Convention for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Eastern African Region (Nairobi Convention) and the Convention for Cooperation in the Protection and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the West and Central African Region (Abidjan Convention).
STRUCTURE: AMCEN comprises a bi-annual Ministerial Conference, a Bureau, the ACMEN Trust Fund, the Regional Scientific and Technical Committees, and a network of national focal points. The UNEP Regional Office for Africa serves as the AMCEN Secretariat. AMCEN is currently holding discussions with the African Union Commission (AUC) on issues related to the harmonization and linkages between the Ministerial Conference and the AUC. It is expected that AMCEN would ultimately become a Specialized Technical Committee (STC) of the African Union Commission in line with the AU Summit's Sirte Declaration of February 2004. The Bureau of AMCEN has initiated steps to harmonize the roles of the AMCEN secretariat, the NEPAD secretariat and the African Union.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has invested considerable effort in conducting complementary programmes and initiatives to encourage the development and implementation of environmental law by African States. These have included capacity-building in the fields of compliance and enforcement of environmental law at the national level. One continuing UNEP programme, the Partnership for the Development of Environmental Laws and Institutions in Africa, has contributed to the development of legal and institutional frameworks to help curb environmental degradation and consequently reduce poverty.
The AMCEN secretariat has also been working in concert with the African Ministerial Council on Water (AMCOW) since its establishment in 2002, to help provide political leadership, policy and strategic direction, and advocacy for the use and management of water resources in the region. In this regard the secretariat has been providing technical support for a number of activities undertaken by AMCOW.