Five years after the OAU was established, African countries adopted the African
Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, in Algiers in
September 1968. The main objective of the Algiers Convention was to encourage
individual and joint action for the conservation, utilization and development
of soil, water, flora and fauna, for the present and future welfare of humankind.
The main principle of the Algiers Convention states: 'The contracting states
shall undertake to adopt the measures necessary to ensure conservation, utilization
and development of soil, water, floral and faunal resources in accordance with
scientific principles and with due regard to the best interests of the people.'
The Algiers Convention also demands that parties undertake to:
- adopt effective measures to conserve and improve the soil; and to control
erosion and land use;
- establish policies to conserve, utilize and develop water resources; to
prevent pollution; and to control water use;
- protect flora and ensure its best utilization; ensure good management of
forests; and control burning, land clearance and overgrazing;
- conserve fauna resources and use them wisely; manage populations and habitats;
control hunting, capture and fishing; and prohibit the use of poisons, explosives
and automatic weapons in hunting;
- tightly control traffic in trophies, in order to prevent trade in illegally
killed and illegally obtained trophies; and
- reconcile customary rights with the convention.
Well after the Algiers Convention, the modern environmental agenda-which was
first set at the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment- also shaped
environmental policies and programmes in the region. For example, African governments
have responded positively through policy implementation to global, regional
and sub-regional environmental problems and challenges, although the success
of policy implementation has varied from one sub-region to another. At the national
level, the Stockholm Conference influenced the establishment of the first environment
ministry in 1975 in what was then Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo).
More environment ministries have been established in other African countries
over the past three decades. At the global level, the Stockholm Conference led
to the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), with
its headquarters in Nairobi.
The global environmental, political, economic and social issues of the 1960s
and early 1970s influenced the preparations for, and the final decisions of,
the 1972 Stockholm Conference. For Africa, the Stockholm Declaration on the
Human Environment stands out as the defining document in terms of 'soft law'
on environment and development issues. The Stockholm Declaration laid the foundation
in terms of:
- Environmental rights.
- Environmental education.
- The sovereign rights of states to 'exploit their own resources', in terms
of their own environmental policies and their responsibility to ensure that
activities in their territory do not harm the environment of other states.
- Calling for the 'elimination and complete destruction' of nuclear weapons
and 'all other means of mass destruction'.
- Speaking strongly against 'apartheid, racial segregation, discrimination,
colonial and other forms of oppression and foreign domination'.
- Highlighting nature conservation, including wildlife, as important in planning
for economic development.
- The sustainable utilization of non-renewable resources, to ensure that they
benefit all humankind.
- Recognizing the importance of 'substantial quantities of financial and technological
assistance' to developing countries, in order to tackle environmental deficiencies
caused by underdevelopment and natural disasters.
- The need for environmental policies of all countries to enhance, and not
to adversely affect, the present or future development potential of developing
- Rational planning to reconcile any conflict between the needs of development
and the need to protect and improve the environment.
- Appropriate demographic policies 'which are without prejudice to basic human
- The application of science and technology to identify, avoid and control
|Box 1.2 Opening a new window in global environmental
'One of our prominent responsibilities in this conference is to
issue an international declaration on the human environment; a document
with no binding legislative imperatives, but-we hope-with moral
authority, that inspire in the hearts of men, the desire to live
in harmony with each other, and with their environment.'
|Professor Mostafa K. Tolba,
President of the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology, and
head of the Egyptian delegation at the 1972 Stockholm Conference on
the Human Environment
The 1972 Stockholm Conference rekindled the African spirit
of living in harmony with each other and with the environment, as was stated
by Professor Mostafa K. Tolba (who later became the second UNEP executive director)
at that conference (see Box 1.2).
In addition to the Algiers Convention, African countries are party to some
of the following international agreements, which were adopted in the 1970s:
- The 1971 Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as
Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar).
- The 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and
Natural Heritage (World Heritage).
- The 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild
Fauna and Flora (CITES).
- The 1979 Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals