UNECA Holds Sustainable Development Workshop in Preparation for Rio 2012

9 March 2011: The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) convened a three-day workshop on Institutional and Strategic Frameworks for Sustainable Development, from 7-9 March 2011, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The workshop was part of a series of preparatory meetings ahead of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio 2012).

The objective of the workshop was to enable the African region to reach a consensus on its key sustainable development concerns and priorities, effectively articulate them and ensure that they are reflected in the UNCSD outcomes. Josué Dioné, Director of UNECA's Food Security and Sustainable Development Division, stressed that “given the daunting challenges confronting Africa in achieving sustainable development and the direct relevance of Rio+20 themes to Africa's concerns and priorities, Africa cannot afford to be ill-prepared to participate in the Conference.”

The Workshop sought to: examine and define the institutional framework for sustainable development in Africa, taking into account existing institutions at regional and sub-regional levels; examine institutions, policies and strategies for sustainable development at the national level; and provide an opportunity for UNECA to discuss its findings from studies on the functioning of National Councils for Sustainable Development (NCSDs) and the development and implementation of National Strategies for Sustainable Development (NSSDs). In conformity with the UNCSD, one of the central themes of the workshop was on institutional innovation for transition towards a green economy in Africa.

The workshop considered various issues relating to institutional and strategic frameworks for sustainable development and provided some key recommendations. On international environmental governance (IEG), one of the key issues from the workshop was that consensus on the institutional architecture and the institutions needed to follow up on outcomes of the UNCSD and to foster sustainable development should address or consider: Africa's strategic priorities and concerns for sustainable development, including poverty reduction; emerging issues, including climate change; the need for institutional reforms and a concrete framework promoting the transition to a green economy; Africa's regional integration process, including the existing institutional arrangements at regional and sub-regional levels; and the need for effective institutions to enhance coherence, coordination and implementation of concrete programmes and activities at national, sub-national and local, including village levels.

Other recommendations and issues considered included: the role of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and UNECA'S Committee on Food Security and Sustainable Development in advancing the global sustainable development agenda, and linkages with regional and national-level processes; Multilateral Environment Agreements (MEAs) and linkages with institutional and strategic frameworks for sustainable development; regional and sub-regional institutions in Africa and their role in advancing the region's sustainable development agenda; the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) as a framework for sustainable development in Africa; institutional innovation for transition towards a green economy; transboundary management of shared environmental resources; issues relating to National Councils for Sustainable Development in Africa, including the need for countries to establish and/or strengthen national coordinating bodies for sustainable development, taking into account the national development planning process and country specificities; and issues relating to National Strategies for Sustainable Development in Africa.

Participants also highlighted the need for regional preparations to integrate gender considerations and engage women in the process, given their contribution to sustainable development. UNECA was urged to leverage the technical expertise of its African Centre for Gender and Social Development and its networks to ensure that gender concerns are mainstreamed into the regional preparatory process.

The workshop's outcome will feed into the African Regional Preparatory Conference, which is aimed at adopting a consensus statement for the UNCSD, which will be presented for endorsement to the African Union (AU) Heads of State Summit in January 2012. [UNECA Press Release 14] [UNECA Press Release 15] [IISD RS Sources]