Implementing multilateral environmental agreements in Sub-Saharan Africa

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This paper examines how Sub-Saharan Africa has implemented its environmental commitments under international law. The first part of the paper examines the state of the environment in Sub-Saharan Africa. The second part, examines implementation of Multilateral Environmental Agreements generally by looking at some of the factors that influence implementation, and theories of implementation. The third part examines Multilateral Environmental Agreements that have been ratified in Sub-Saharan Africa and policies that have been adopted to implement them. Finally, the paper examines some of the obstacles to implementation in Sub-Saharan Africa and suggests recommendations for overcoming the obstacles.

Sub-Saharan Africa is a diverse region and this is reflected in its various peoples, cultures, ecological settings, historical experiences, and political and socio-economic geographies. The Sub- region has also been marked and transformed by certain dominant trends, patterns and influences, including indigenous civilizations, slavery, colonialism, imperialism, decolonization and neocolonialism, cold war politics, and post-colonial patrimonial states. However, to understand the context of how Multilateral Environmental Agreements are implemented, we have to start with the ‘dehomogenization’ of Africa, i.e. the appreciation that we are not talking about a single, monolithic, homogenous and static socio-cultural, political, economic, and ecological region. The continent’s environmental diversity for example includes grasslands, wetlands, mountains, deserts, rainforests and marine areas which are home to thousands of species of plants and animals. Therefore, environmental degradation and its mitigation may differ across regions, and countries.

African countries have been actively involved in the development of norms, and some normative principles. Their involvement has reinforced and strengthened international norms development at the international level. One of the leading areas in this regard has been the development of norms pertinent to environmental protection. Legislations on the environment predate the 1972 Stockholm Conference; however these legislations were not adequate because they were sectoral in nature and therefore limited in scope. The most important factor that influenced recent environmental legislation in Sub-Saharan Africa was the 1992 Rio Conference. The Brundtland Report, the Rio declaration on Environment and Development and Agenda 21 contributed immensely to the enactment and amendment of several legislations to promote environmental quality. As a result several legislations were enacted to address environmental problems in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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