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Africa Environment Day, Wangari Maathai Day, Calls for Rio+20 to Address Environmental Challenges

3 March 2012: Africa Environment Day, now celebrated in conjunction with Wangari Maathai Day in honour of the contributions of the late Nobel Laureate, on 3 March, aims to raise awareness of the objectives of sustainable environmental management among decision-makers at all levels. This year's celebration was held under the theme "Lake Chad: Our common heritage, our common future."

Highlighting the growing environmental and sustainable development challenges faced in Africa, the celebrations underscored Wangari Maathai's contributions to countering these challenges through the Greenbelt Movement. These efforts were noted to be particularly important for addressing land degradation, deforestation and inappropriate land management, which are made worse by recurring droughts throughout Africa.

The main celebrations, held in Ndjamena, Chad, served to highlight this situation by emphasizing the continental importance of Lake Chad and the environmental challenges that continue to threaten its existence. Lake Chad in now a tenth of its former size and much shallower, compared to previous years. Many dignitaries, in their messages on the occasion of Africa Environment Day, called for the UN Conference for Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) to take concrete steps to address these challenges. They also urged stakeholders to use natural resources in a sustainable manner in order to ensure that environmental challenges are addressed while ensuring that even the most impoverished have access to sources of income. [AU Press Release] [Message from Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification] [Message from Executive Secretary to the Convention on Biological Diversity] [Message from Director, Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission]