Press releases

Thursday 31 Jan 2002

New Money From Ireland For Africa's Environment

Three million Euros over three years: Ireland Aid becomes Important new donor to UNEP.A recently launched project managed by UNEP's GRID Arendal centre in Norway will strengthen the capacity of African countries in environmental information management in support of national, regional and global environmental assessment.
Three million Euros over three years:
Ireland Aid becomes Important new donor to UNEP


DUBLIN, 31 January 2002 - The Government of Ireland is providing new money to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in order to help tackle some of Africa's most pressing environment problems, it was announced here today.

Ireland Aid, the government's official development cooperation programme, will give a minimum of three million Euros (equivalent to US $2,647,650) over three years to support the work of UNEP in Africa. The money will support activities focused in the areas of freshwater, access to environmental information, protection of the marine and coastal environment and the conservation of biological diversity.

Speaking to the press here in Dublin today, Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's Executive Director said, "300 million people in Africa have no access to clean water. Every day, 6000 people, many of them in Africa, die from diseases caused by sub-standard sanitation." Trying to put these figures into perspective, Toepfer said, "This is equivalent to the population of the nearby town of Maynooth. Put it another way, if we had this death rate here, in 200 days the entire population of Dublin would be wiped out!"

"Ireland Aid's funding will go towards helping these people," he said.

The new funding agreement, which established the Ireland Aid Multilateral Environmental Trust Fund for Africa, was signed here today by Klaus Toepfer and David Donoghue, Assistant Secretary, Ireland Aid, on behalf of Mrs Liz O'Donnell TD, Minister of State in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Welcoming the signing of the agreement, Mr Noel Dempsey TD, Ireland's Minister for the Environment and Local Government, said, "This 3 year aid package will help some of Africa's poorer countries to protect and enhance their environment. It is a strong demonstration of Ireland taking its rightful place as a prosperous nation in the world order and helping other nations which are not so well off."

Africa faces some of the world's most severe environmental challenges, yet has the most limited institutional and financial resources for dealing with them. Climate change, land degradation, the depletion of forests, widespread pollution and water resources of insufficient quantity and quality are just some of the issues confronting Africa's people. (See below for more information)

The new Ireland Trust Fund for Africa will cover the following four priority areas: Protection of freshwater resources; Access to environmental information for decision-making; Protection of coastal and marine environment (with an emphasis on coastal and marine fisheries management); and Conservation of biological diversity (with an emphasis on monitoring of land cover, protected areas, and indigenous vegetation change). In all areas, the work will focus on poverty alleviation and capacity building.

This is the first financial support from Ireland Aid to UNEP and establishes them as an important new donor. The news demonstrates growing support for UNEP's work. Last year, Ireland's Environment Ministry doubled its contribution to UNEP's Environment Fund and will increase it by a further 25 per cent in 2002.

UNEP is working hard to boost the number of nations contributing to its finances so as to improve cash flow and a wider sense of ownership among countries.

Strengthening UNEP to make it more potent in environmental protection, with its important impacts on poverty eradication, human health and sustainable development, will be discussed at the Global Ministerial Environment Forum in Cartagena, Colombia, next month.

In Cartagena, Mr. Toepfer will outline his goal to have 100 countries or just over half the world's nations contributing by the end of 2002, up from close to 80 now.

"A top priority for UNEP is to help alleviate the poverty of the majority of Africa's 600 million people," said Klaus Toepfer. But, he warned, "We can only play a decisive role in the effort to combat poverty and promote sustainable development if we get the necessary financial backing. This is especially important as we approach the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa."

"In this regard, I want to congratulate Ireland on their very welcome, very timely and very necessary investment in Africa's environmental future," he said.

Note to journalists: Klaus Toepfer will attend a signing ceremony and press conference at midday on Thursday 31 January at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Bishops Square, Dublin. For more information or to arrange interviews with Mr Toepfer contact Robert Bisset, UNEP press officer on mobile; 33 6 2272 5842, email: robert.bisset@unep.fr

Note to Editors

Environment Ministers meeting

The seventh special session of the UNEP Governing Council and third Global Ministerial Environment Forum will take place at the Centro de Convenciones y Exposiciones Cartagena de Indias, Cartagena, Colombia, from 13 to 15 February 2002, with parallel events beginning on 12 February 2002. See: http://www.unep.org/governingbodies/gc/specialsessions/gcss_vii/

UNEP's work in Africa - some issues, activities and resources
The UNEP focus on Africa is implemented through global programmes and, in particular, the activities of the Regional Office for Africa. For more information see http://www.unep.org/ROA/


Conservation of Bio-diversity
Africa has approximately 50,000 known plant species, 1000 mammal species and 1500 bird species. However, species and habitat are declining and being lost at an alarming rate. About 60 per cent of Africa's original forest, savanna and mangrove habitats have already disappeared and about 150,000 hectares continue to be lost every year.


UNEP is helping African countries to form positions on the Convention on Biological Diversity and Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. At the same time it is also working on the ground with projects like the Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP). Launched last year, this major new initiative is targeting key areas in Africa (and South East Asia) where humankind's closest relatives are teetering on the brink as a result of war, habitat destruction, capturing of live infants for sale and poaching for trophies, souvenirs and their meat. See http://www.unep.org/grasp


Water Resources
Over 300 million people lack reasonable access to safe water and even more lack access to sanitation. Water quality is affected by pollution from agriculture, mining and domestic waste. Industrial wastes are discharged untreated into lakes, rivers and the sea in most Africa countries.


UNEP has developed a water strategy to try and tackle some of these problems. As part of this strategy, a number of UNEP/Global Environment Facility projects are being developed in support of an integrated approach to water management in Africa. In Southern Africa a project is being developed to mitigate the impact of floods on the lower Limpopo River. It aims to develop land use planning and natural resource management strategies and so reduce habitat destruction and the erosion of biodiversity in the Basin (shared by Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe).

For information about freshwater issues go to http://freshwater.unep.net/

Marine and coastal resources
The marine resources of Africa, including fish, coral reefs and marine mammals are declining. The major causes are often unscrupulous fishing, tourism, coastal silting and pollution.

Africa's coastal zone supports a diversity of habitats and resources including mangroves, rocky shores, sandy beaches, deltas, estuaries and coastal wetlands, coral reefs and lagoons. These ecosystems are important for providing functions including the protection of coastal features, nutrient recycling, absorbing wastes and providing people and wildlife with habitat and resources, as well as maintaining biodiversity.

UNEP is the secretariat for the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities. Within this programme there are various African initiatives and related activities. See http://www.gpa.unep.org/


Access to environmental information
Access to environmental information is enshrined in national legislation in many African countries but practical mechanisms to facilitate access tend to be inadequate. Africa lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to access to new information technologies (IT) and, even, existing communication tools like telephones that are often taken for granted elsewhere. Access to and use of modern IT is increasingly seen as a sustainable development tool.

A recently launched project managed by UNEP's GRID Arendal centre in Norway will strengthen the capacity of African countries in environmental information management in support of national, regional and global environmental assessment. See http://www.grida.no

UNEP News Release: 2002/06

Thursday 31 Jan 2002
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