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Home Sustainable Development Conference Programme
Environment and Peace: An Important Nexus for Sustainable Development in Africa
by Ms. Maria de Amorim, Regional Representative and Director,
United Nations Environment Programme, Regional Office for Africa
1 - Introduction
It is my great pleasure to address this august gathering on the links between environment, peace and security. There is no doubt about the fact that this gathering will emerge with worthwhile results that would be of benefit to a sustainable development agenda. I note, in particular, that the conference is intended to provide participants with updated information on environment issues such as desertification, freshwater resources, climate change and waste management. Given the scope of the conference, as highlighted, and the full array of stakeholders that have been assembled here to take part in discussions, I am indeed optimistic that participants will be able to arrive at credible and feasible ways in which legislators can address the problem at stake.
On my side, I have been invited to speak on how the questions appertaining to peace and security link with key environmental elements. I must say that I cannot, of course, exhaust the issues. Nonetheless I hope to be able to give an acceptable outline of the fundamental factors that dedicate the nature and extent of how peace and security could be influenced by environmental elements, and vice versa.
Largely, we can regard the following as the key environmental issues that form the very basis for dynamics of the environment-peace-security nexus:
- Capacity-building (within the context of Agenda 21) at national level, with special focus on: Environmental economics, accounting and management tools, Environmental law, institutions and policies, Environmental education and training);
- Environmentally sound management of terrestrial ecosystems and their resources (special focus on: preventing and reversing desertification; mitigating the impacts of drought, environmentally sound management and sustainable use of forests and Savannah woodlands, promotion of the environmentally sound management of biodiversity and sound development and utilization of microbial resources and related biotechnologies, environmentally sound management of soils and agricultural lands);
- Environmentally sound management of freshwater resources;
- Environmentally sound management of hazardous and all types of waste and toxic chemicals;
- Environmentally sound management of marine and coastal areas, including island ecosystems;
- Promoting human welfare, environment and development (special focus on: managing demographic change and population pressures development of human settlements, planning and management);
- Managing the environmental impacts of climate change and climate variability;
- Securing greater energy efficiency and sufficiency;
- Monitoring and assessing the state of the African environment.
As you all know, the picture of the extent of the impact of insecurity on environment and population in Africa is not a good one. For instance, according to a report of the UN Secretary-General to the UN Security Council in April this year, the situation looks like this: "Since 1970, more than 30 wars have been fought in Africa, vast majority of them intra-state in origin. In 1996 alone, 14 of the 53 countries of Africa were afflicted by armed conflicts, accounting for more than half of all war-related deaths worldwide and resulting in more than 8 million refugees, returnees and displaced persons". Certainly, ladies and gentlemen, "the consequences of those conflicts have seriously undermined Africa’s efforts to ensure long-term stability, prosperity and peace for its peoples."
With the above observations, it is obvious that any attempt at giving priority to an approach to peace and security will be welcome by concerned stakeholders. In Africa there is certainly the need for forums, such as the one that has brought us here, in furtherance of the deserved quest for acceptable and practical recipes for environmental security. And at this juncture, I wish to remark that we should all be clear about one unassailable fact; that there cannot be a sustainable development without sustainable peace. On this note, I wish to proceed to highlight the environmental issues that are of special interest to the Southern African region.
2 - Key Environmental Issues in the SADC Region
In particular, much of Southern Africa is generally arid or semi-arid, with variable and often unreliable rainfall due to drought. In the region, fresh water resources are estimated to annual average 650 billion cubic meters distributed in the rivers, lakes and ground-water bodies. Groundwater is very important in this region during the dry season and year-round in the arid zones. It is the main source of fresh water for many rural populations in the region, catering for about 80% of the human and animal population in Botswana and at least 40% in Namibia. In the Pangani Basin of Tanzania, there is a significant amount of groundwater abstracted for irrigation, with high yielding boreholes.
In the SADC region, a big fraction of the potentially available water is needed for nature conservation and ecological purposes. This is the water that is used by wildlife and in lakes, swamps and estuaries that support the region’s ecology. In South Africa, for example, the quantity of water required for environmental management is projected to reach 2,954 million cubic meters by the 2000. This would be about 13% of total water demand in that country.
The demand for both surface and groundwater is increasing rapidly and anxieties are beginning to develop over access to this resource. A number of countries in the SADC region face inadequate fresh water supplies and these include Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia. The demand for water in this region is projected to rise by at least three per cent annually. Increasing water demand is of importance to the sub-region because of the increasing human population and associated demand for resources, especially food.
One of the key issues relating to surface water quality, which deserve urgent attention in Africa, include eutrophication, pollution and proliferation of the water hyacinth weed. This noxious weed continues to spread in Africa’s water bodies, does negatively affecting water transport, water supply to urban areas, the fisheries industry and power generation.
Estuaries are widely distributed along the entire coast of the SADC region and the major estuaries in the mouths of Zambezi, Rufinji, Orange Cuanza and Congo Rivers. Estuaries are among the richest and most productive parts of the Southern Africa marine environment. However, there is a growing problem of saltwater intrusion, which restricts the availability of fresh water for irrigation, industrial and public consumption. The country most affected by saltwater intrusion in the SADC region is Mozambique, which has nine international river basins.
Another important issue relates to the integrated management and equitable utilization of shared water resources by the riparian countries. About 70% of the land area of the Southern Africa development Community is occupied by watercourse systems that are shared by two or more member states. The waters of these systems, although renewable, are increasingly causing competition among the riparian countries through which the rivers flow. Since these international watercourse systems are common resources that are shared by riparian countries, their development and utilization should be governed by the principles of international law where each of these states has a right to an equitable and reasonable share in the conservation, protection, management, allocation and utilization of these international water resources. This is in accordance with the Helsinki and other international conventions relating to watercourses.
Such conventions promote the establishment of regional cooperation among the riparian countries to facilitate the application and implementation of rules and shared water systems. The protection and management of international water system in Southern Africa require good coordination and cooperation among the riparian countries and their stakeholder communities.
3 - Potential Sources of Conflicts
The causes of conflicts vary from one place to the other. Generally however, one could point at the general sources of conflicts are revolving around the following factors;
- Historical legacies, in the context of old wounds which continue to fester;
- Internal factors such as lack of adequate resources or misallocation of them;
- External factors in terms of inter-States conflict over natural resources or other things;
- Other economic and political motives, and
- Some special situations such as misunderstandings or undue competition.
It is also important to appreciate the role of factors such as;
- Rapid population growth which can manifest in stress and social disharmony;
- Increasing demand for scarce natural resources due to increase in consumption;
- Competition over land ownership at local level, and
- Increasing competition and misunderstanding over shared natural resources.
Severe environmental degradation and depletion of environmental resources have also tended to uproot people from traditional habitats, which no longer are able to support them. This is manifested in the growing number of environmental refugees in the world, particularly in Africa where the refugee population is estimated, as earlier noted, at 8 million. The refugee problem has greatly disrupted the ecology as well as social harmony in several parts of Africa. Apart from this, the refugees have no longer suffered the economic losses but their whole social fabric has been disrupted. Also the movement of millions of environmental refugees has created both internal and interstate tensions. At this point, one should underscore the fact that impact of refugees on the environment is overwhelming. For instance, it is being estimated that each refugee costs at least one tree per month in his/her host location!
4 - Role of Parliamentarian
Security is an overriding priority at national, sub-regional and regional levels in Africa. As we all know, security consists of political, economic and social dimensions integrated in sustainable development. On the whole, it will be desirable that parliamentarians work on how to strengthen good governance, ensuring better dialogue between stakeholders, promotion of democratisation, transparency and improvement of the capacity of public administration.
5 - UNEP Action
In order to deal with the various contemporary problems of the environment, UNEP is currently concentrating on the various activities, around which I shall make some oral remarks with attending examples:
- Emergency response capacity and strengthening of the early warning and assessment functions of UNEP;
- Co-ordination and development of environmental policy instruments;
- Freshwater;
- Industry and technology transfer, and
- Support to Africa
Ladies and Gentlemen, you will agree with me that environmental management is an issue in which everybody has one role or the other to play, in order to ensure good results. This approach ideally starts at the community level, through the line up to the level of government. All these have strong repercussion at international level. As our planet is a global village, it is incumbent on us to make it a useful legacy for the future generation.