Africa: Ministers pledge action on environment

The 19th ordinary session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN-19) concluded with a commitment to collective action and collaboration in addressing Africa’s environmental challenges.

The conference, held from 14 to 18 August in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, brought together delegates from 51 African countries, as well as international partners and stakeholders, to strategize on ways to seize opportunities and enhance cooperation for sustainable development on the continent. 

The AMCEN-19 theme, Seizing Opportunities and Enhancing Collaboration to Address Environmental Challenges in Africa, saw delegates engage in constructive dialogues and formulate strategies to harmonize efforts to address the challenges and seize emerging opportunities. 

In his keynote address, Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Demeke Mekonnen highlighted the important contribution of AMCEN in promoting collective environmental and climate action across the continent and allowing African countries to speak with one voice on the global diplomatic arena.

He stressed that it is only through enhanced global partnership that humanity can effectively achieve a sustainable solution. 

The President of AMCEN and Ethiopia’s Minister for Planning and Development Fitsum Assefa Adela stated that “the session takes place at a critical time when climate has become an emergency.” 

The conference culminated in the Addis Ababa Declaration and five decisions. 

In the declaration, African Union Member States committed to continue to address and find solutions to environmental challenges facing the continent and to take advantage of the opportunities available to advance national and regional sustainable development agendas.

They also agreed to continue to strengthen the role of AMCEN as the principal forum for advancing collective national and regional environmental policies and actions and to take concrete action to implement AMCEN decisions.

The Ministers committed to engaging with relevant national authorities to ensure sustainable financial contributions to the Trust Fund of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment and the United Nations Environment Programme Environment (UNEP) Fund. 

The Declaration congratulates Kenya and the African Union Commission for the upcoming Africa Climate Summit – which will take place from 4 to 6 September 2023 – in Nairobi and encourages all African member states to work with the African Union Commission and Kenya to ensure successful outcomes of the Summit.

It also welcomed the initiative of the Republic of Congo to organize in Brazzaville, the Summit Amazon-Borneo-Mekong and Southeast Asia–Congo, (Summit of the Three Basins) from 26 to 28 October 2023. 

The decisions encompassed a range of vital issues, including the five points: 

(1) Omnibus decision on seizing opportunities and enhancing collaboration to address environmental challenges in Africa. 

(2) African participation in the development of an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.  

(3) African preparations for the fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management. 

(4) Engagement of Africa at the 6th session of the United Nations Environment Assembly. 

(5) Climate Change: The decision welcomed the outcomes of COP27, including decisions that recognize the special needs of the African continent. 

Elizabeth Mrema, Deputy Executive Director of UNEP, which hosts the AMCEN Secretariat, emphasized the importance of AMCEN-19’s outcomes.  

“As key decision-makers, we should actively participate in the upcoming global meetings to advocate for perspectives and priorities from the African context,” she urged.

Highlighting the upcoming sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, she called upon delegates to develop resolutions steering Africa’s environmental agenda in the forthcoming cycle of UNEP’s programme of work.