The very first Africa Environment Outlook report is a significant milestone in the collaboration between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN). It should serve as a roadmap, supporting the environmental component, on Africa's journey to sustainable development. It is clear that poverty is inextricably linked to the environment and action to protect and care for the environment must be taken. Otherwise the poison of poverty will continue to plague the continent.
Africa faces a number of critical challenges. The environment continues to deteriorate; social and economic inequality is increasing; globalization is sweeping across the world, largely leaving Africa behind. Rapid changes in the global economy, in consumption patterns and in population and demographics are having a negative impact on the environment.
Without sustainable development we cannot solve the problems. It is not enough to simply say we have a conservation plan for nature, and natural resources. We have also to look at the impact of environmental change on people. The people who are struggling to survive are most vulnerable to environmental change, and suffer most from its effects. We must give these people a chance to live a better life.
Extensive consultations with African experts and collaborating institutions in the AEO process have concluded that the challenges Africa faces require new thinking and vision. There is an urgent need for all stakeholders within Africa, and globally, to act coherently in order to meet the challenges.
The AEO is a unique tool, providing an analysis of the state of the environment over the past 30 years, the driving forces behind environmental change, and the consequences for social and economic development. These consequences are presented both in terms of impacts on ecosystems, and vulnerability of human populations to floods, droughts, earthquakes, pests and diseases. The links between environmental change and poverty are explored, and appropriate intervention points identified. The AEO assessment methodology is modelled on UNEP's Global Environment Outlook process. It builds on sound data, information and science, and input from all stakeholders to identify priority issues.
Africa is a continent of great natural riches, biodiversity and vast unspoiled landscapes. These assets must be valued and preserved, in order to bring benefits to all. The decisions taken today, and tomorrow will define the kind of environment this, and future generations will enjoy. Building on the analysis of the past, AEO outlines a series of policy approaches for the future, leading to different outcomes over the next 30 years. Africa Environment Outlook concludes with recommendations on the road that Africa should take.
The AEO report is therefore a substantive tool for African policy makers to use in their assessment of the pressing environmental issues facing the region. The information in the report can serve as a firm foundation for discussions at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. I trust that many of you will find it a useful aid in preparing for the summit and beyond. I hope that it will inspire you, and all its readers to increase your commitment to care for the environment, especially in Africa.
United Nations Under-Secretary General and
Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme