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Environmental protection in Africa – A major challenge… the 30/09/16

The 2nd edition of the international Colloquium on Environmental Rights in Africa was held from 25th to 27th July 2016 in Marrakech (Morroco). The event brought together experts from Africa, Europe and America. The theme of the 2nd meeting was “Development Plan for the 2030 period” An important issue for environmental protection in Africa.

Africa, like other continents in the world, is confronted by the pressure of ecological risks. Global warming, water shortages, air pollution, desertification… The African continent can no longer continue to ignore environmental problems. They must, henceforth, be at the centre of development policies. A huge challenge.

Since the beginning of the century, the 30% increase in carbon dioxide due to human activity has had devastating effects. According to the United Nations Convention, one of the negative effects is desertification. “Degradation of lands in arid, semi arid and sub humid regions”. The reasons are many: deforestation, climate change, soil erosion…with consequences which are equally devastating: decline in the standard of living (famines, illnesses, poor access to water) destruction of ecosystems and biodiversity, destruction of arable lands and displacement of people becoming sources of conflicts (climate refugees).

Ecological footprint

An alarming state of affairs

In West Africa (Mali, Chad, Sudan), the over cultivation of land and deforestation have heightened natural desertification, even causing some people (as in Niger) to leave their villages. People also have to contend with water related challenges.

Water has become scarce and unevenly distributed in the world. According to a United Nations report, “water crisis” may get “worse” in the near future. A worrying observation also by the UN: “more than five billion people (67% of the world’s population) will still not have access to decent sanitation infrastructure by 2030”

 

The increase in the energy needs of emerging and developing countries threatens the future of water resources. “(67% of the world’s population) will still not have access to decent sanitation infrastructure by 2030” according to the UN.

In Africa, only 4% of water reserves have been used. The lack of sanitation infrastructure results in losses estimated at about 28.4 billion dollars annually, or close to 5% of the continent’s GDP. Snowball effect, this has an impact on biodiversity (fauna, flora, ecosystems). On the black continent, biodiversity ensures human health since it is an important source of food, medicine and ecosystem services. In fact 80% of Africa’s rural population depends on traditional medicine. In Zimbabwe for example, 50 species of mushrooms, 25 species of fruits and 50 species of leafy vegetables are harvested in the wild.

Colloquium: hope for change?

Aware of these environmental issues, the International Colloquium on Environmental Rights in Africa focuses discussions on two issues:

  • Post 2015 climate governance in Africa. Legal implications of the 2015 Paris Treaty for Africa and institutional mechanisms for implementation and monitoring of the new climate treaty.
  • Implementation of ODD (Objectives for sustainable development) : any new mechanisms? Adaptation of the law, policies, current strategies and institutional mechanisms for implementation and monitoring of the ODDs.

Africa must prepare for the coming changes and contribute to reduce environmental footprints. For this reason, African leaders – and the rest of the world – would have a role to play in adopting measures to preserve the environment. Environmental rights is a recent notion and if there are still difficulties in its application, then perhaps one of the keys for success would be to promote it by teaching it in schools, universities and other educational institutions. Not only these however, but also, making citizens adopt environmentally friendly practices as well as making them vote to require leaders to implement environmental rights, will undoubtedly promote its application. The Kingdom of Morroco will also play host to the COP 22 on climate this year. It will be the spokesperson for participants of the colloquium and will put forth its grand conclusions during COP 22. This colloquium will be an opportunity to build on the progress made post COP21, and prepare for the next COP in Marrakech in November 2016.

 

Photo credit: freepik.com

For further information: Ministry of Environment of Morroco

 

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