By David N. Munene
Right after the opening of the 17th Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), which is taking place at the Olive Convention Centre in Durban, South Africa, the African Civil Society Group held a meeting with the Director of Governing Affairs at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Mr. Jorge Laguna-Celis. The Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA) was represented in the meeting by the Programs Manager, David N. Munene.
In his opening remarks, UNEP’s Head of Communications and Outreach at the Africa Office, Mr. Mohamed Atani who also coordinates the African Major Groups and Stakeholders (MGS) and the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) under UNEP gave a snapshot briefing on the outcomes of the CSOs’ regional consultation meeting. The coordinator of the African MGS accredited to the UNEP, Fazal Issa, briefed Mr. Jorge on the joint statement that the African CSOs had consultatively worked to develop on 9th and 10th November in their regional pre-AMCEN meeting. During the meeting with Jorge, the role of the African MGS and the need to institutionalize the African MGS within the AMCEN framework and programme was reiterated. The leader of the MGS Facilitating Committee, Dr. Mohamed Abdel Raouf, gave a brief about the proceedings of the African CSO meeting linking it to the ongoing work on the UNEA5.
On his part, Jorge urged the CSOs to take their rightful place within the rules of procedure to raise substantive issues. He also described the African CSO meeting as successful with the participation of over 57 people representing different organizations. He also advised that the African MGS work to appreciate the continued participation of major groups and ensure that AMCEN remains open as UNEP continues to facilitate it through the AMCEN Secretariat and within other avenues provided for by both institutions. He underscored the significance of the MGS in helping the AMCEN to transcend from a negotiating forum exclusively and take shape into becoming an implementing arm, which implicates the need for including numerous stakeholders. He also encouraged the African MGS to play their role in making AMCEN more effective and invited them to borrow leaf from the organization of the Science-Policy-Business Forum (SPBF) on how to integrate a multi-stakeholder platform for the changemakers into the decision-making processes of the AMCEN and the UNEA at large with the vision to make it a central component of the UNEA5.
On another issue related to the UNEA5, Jorge also encouraged the African MGS to address pertinent issues with the president of the UNEA5 who will be at the current AMCEN. He also underscored that the annual subcommittee of UNEA is a substantive platform where the programme of work of UNEP is also considered with increased attention. He expressed eagerness to dialogue with the CSOs on the areas in which to engage. During the meeting, CYNESA’s Programs Manager, raised the issue of ensuring that there is need for MGS to be heard and not just given the platform to speak. While commending the growing space for the Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) through the Faith for Earth Initiative, David also called for the enlargement of the pool of stakeholders to integrate faith-based organizations especially in the African MGS space as a critical approach to enhance the engagement of a greater pool of individuals. Concerning the theme of the UNEA5, Jorge noted, as did the President of the UNEA5, the inclination towards nature-based solutions by member states. UNEA5’s President is also encouraging input especially from the MGS on the theme of the UNEA5.
While thanking Mr. Jorge for making time to interact with the African MGS, Mr. Atani advised the members present to ensure that they engage meaningfully in the AMCEN processes and the high-level forums in accordance with the rules of procedure. The 17th session of the AMCEN is running under the theme, “Taking action for Environment Sustainability and Prosperity in Africa” and has special focus on implementation of previous AMCEN decisions.