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United Nations Environment Programme United Nations


Working Draft 1

May 22, 2002

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  1. At the beginning of the new millennium Africa is characterized by two interrelated features: rising poverty levels and deepening environmental degradation. Africa is the poorest region of the world. It has the largest share of people living on less than US $1 per day. Almost 40% of the people in Africa live below the poverty line. At least one-third of Africa's population is undernourished and that number is also growing. Africa is the only region of the world where poverty is projected to rise during this century if adequate measures are not urgently taken. Of the 45 countries on the UNDP list of Low Human Development Indicators, 35 are in Africa. Indeed two-thirds of the 48 countries included in the list of Least Developed Countries are in Africa.

  2. The United Nations Secretary General's Millennium Report provides that "Nowhere is a global commitment to poverty reduction needed more than in Africa south of the Sahara, because no region of the world endures greater human suffering". In his report to the second session of the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the Secretary General notes that half of Africa's population lives in poverty and that the number of poor people is increasing substantially in the region. f adequate measures are not taken urgently.

  3. In adopting, in New York in September 2000, the United Nations Millennium Declaration, the Heads of State representing the international community, committed themselves to "support the consolidation of democracy in Africa and assist Africans in their struggle for lasting peace, poverty eradication and sustainable development, thereby bringing Africa into the mainstream of the world economy". More specifically they agreed to "take special measures to address the challenges of poverty eradication and sustainable development in Africa, including debt cancellation, improved market access, enhanced Official Development Assistance and increased flows of Foreign Direct Investment, as well as transfers of technology."

  4. Related to the rising poverty is the degradation of the environment and increasing loss of the region's natural resources. UNEP's Africa Environment Outlook (AEO) observes that conditions in natural habitats and fragile ecosystems have been deteriorating resulting in diminishing biodiversity. There are high rates of exploitation of such resources as freshwater, forests, and coastal and marine stocks continue to be used at rates beyond their viable rates of replacement. Land degradation, natural as well as human-induced environmental disasters, and invasive alien species continue to be major problems in Africa. Natural disasters, such as floods, droughts, earthquakes and landslides cause considerable human suffering and economic damage in the continent. On the whole, environmental degradation undermines prospects of fighting poverty, economic growth and sustainable development in Africa. Measures aimed at renewing the region's economies and eradicating poverty must thus promote environmental sustainability. Such measures are founded on the recognition that the environment in general and ecosystems in particular are important sources of goods and services for poverty reduction and economic growth. Just as ecological decline deepens poverty, so can poverty exacerbate environmental degradation. The vicious circle between poverty and degradation of the environment needs to be addressed in a comprehensive manner.

  5. In his Millennium Report, the Secretary General of the United Nations concluded that "only Africans can break out these vicious cycles". Africa's leaders have explicitly recognized the fact that economy recovery and growth as well as poverty reduction cannot be achieved without investments in environmental management. This recognition is in the New Partnership for Africa Development adopted by the African Heads of State. It is a programmatic framework in which the leaders pledge "based on a common vision and a firm and shared conviction, that they have a pressing duty to eradicate poverty and to place their countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable growth and development, and at the same time to participate actively in the world economy and body politic.'' NEPAD recognizes that the range of issues necessary to nurture the region's environmental base and sustainable use of natural resources is vast and complex, and that a systematic combination of initiatives is necessary in order to develop a coherent environmental programme.

  6. NEPAD recommends the development and adoption of an environment initiative - a coherent action plan and strategies - to address the region's environmental challenges while at the same time combating poverty and promoting socio-economic development. This Environmental Action Plan for the first decade of the 21st century is a response to address such challenges. It is prepared through a consultative and participatory process under the leadership of the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN). The plan is about Africa's common and shared sustainable development problems and concerns. It is a body of collective responsibilities and actions that African countries adopt and will implement to maintain the integrity of the environment and ensure the sustainable use of their natural resources through partnerships with the international community. It provides an appropriate framework for the establishment of a strong partnership for the protection of the environment between Africa and its partners based on the commitments contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration.

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