Cover Image
close this bookAfrica's Valuable Assets - A Reader in Natural Resource Management (WRI, 1998, 464 pages)
close this folder2. Institutionalizing Environmental Management in Africa
View the document(introduction...)
Open this folder and view contentsInstitutional Choices
Open this folder and view contentsCoordination
Open this folder and view contentsPolitical Support
Open this folder and view contentsLocal and Subnational-Level Participation
Open this folder and view contentsDevelopment Assistance
Open this folder and view contentsCapacity Development
View the documentAn Agenda for Implementing Environmental Management Strategy Plans
View the documentSelected References

An Agenda for Implementing Environmental Management Strategy Plans

The preceding discussion of institutional mechanisms for environmental management in sub-Saharan Africa mainly reflects the experiences of the first (or formulation) phase of strategic planning. Although NEAPs were introduced in the late 1980s, only five African nations have begun implementing the related investment programs: Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Ghana, Madagascar, and Mauritius. (A few countries have ended planning with the completion of a planning document, putting a premium on the investment plan at the expense of the process.)

Box 3. Key constraints in Designing Institutional Mechanisms for Environmental Management in Africa

Although their manifestations often assume different forms, the six key issues of institutional arrangements identified in the case studies present eight common and prevalent constraints found in institutional structures throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

1. The institutional capacities of national governments for environmental policy formulation and management are inadequate.

2. To date, legal regulations have been used as the main tools of environmental management, and these are usually limited to single sectors, such as agriculture, industry, water resources, and urban sanitation. Since they are applied primarily to generate revenue, they often encourage corruption. Cross-sectoral environmental policy formulation and implementation is generally restricted to central government institutions, which typically lack implementation and enforcement capacities.

3. Central government institutions are generally insensitive to the perspectives and potential of subnational and local-level institutions and communities, including NGOs and informal groups.

4. Environmental problems have traditionally been handled on a piece-meal, reactive, or curative basis, using a sectoral approach.

5. Environmental awareness in general, and a understanding of national policies of environmental management in particular, are inordinately low owing to lack of information and the low level of formal education of the general public.

6. The inadequacies of institutional arrangements are exacerbated by serious shortages of skilled and experienced staff, an absence of adequate training facilities, insufficient staff incentives and low pay, and counterproductive government policies and legislation. Government policies often hamper institutional development by undermining morale and management capacities.

7. The policies of development assistance agencies inadvertently hinder or discourage local institutional development. Funds are provided to support specific sectoral projects over a limited time. Given this restriction, cross-fertilization among institutions working in other sectors is limited.

8. The role of technical assistance in bilateral and multilateral funding has also had adverse effects on institutional development. Expatriate "technical experts", around only for the duration of the project, cannot make any significant capacity-building contributions.

Several caveats and imperatives emerge from "first-generation" environmental strategies in Africa, as well as from implementation strategies designed for "green plans" elsewhere. First, it bears repeating that the success of an environmental management strategy ought to be judged by the improvements it makes in environmental quality and other targeted outputs. Far too many excellent development plans gather dust on office shelves because they could not attract the required funding. With the support of funding agencies, governments should therefore commit to implementing highly promising environmental management strategies and to addressing key implementation issues explicitly during strategy formulation.

Second, overly ambitious targets may not be achieved. Finding funds to cover a long shopping list of projects may prove impossible.

Third, much can be achieved without foreign funds, especially through realistic internal policies, resource allocation, and priority setting.

Fourth, successful implementation depends on the cooperation of other organizations (such as government ministries and departments, private-sector groups, NGOs, and local institutions). If the lead agency does not mobilize the cooperation of these partners, no action is likely.

Fifth, current political support for the planning process has resulted primarily from international pressure, especially from the 1992 Earth Summit and from World Bank conditionalities. This support may wane with the emergence of other more pressing national and international issues. In two pioneering NEAP countries, Ghana and Madagascar, political and economic changes have hindered implementation of the NEAPs.

An implementation agenda based on clearly defined priorities should be designed during the planning process. It should focus on providing support programs that enhance the environmental management program's prospects of success through capacity building and institutional development. Support programs should address cross-sectoral issues and highlight programs and projects that demand immediate action to ensure success early in the planning process. These include institutional and legal framework, capacity development, standard setting, and monitoring mechanisms. Six specific goals deserve emphasis:

1. Ensure that a credible central coordinating institution is in place. This institution should have a clearly identified legal basis, well-defined functions and responsibilities, conspicuous and broad-based political backing, and adequate human and financial resources.

2. Build bridges with other organizations. Key here are creating political support for the planning process, the decentralization of authority, NGO participation, and agency coordination in funding. Further, all stakeholders must be involved in the preparatory phase of the planning process.

3. Meet the training needs required for implementation. A training needs assessment for the lead agency as well as the collaborating institutions should be carried out as one of the first implementation activities. Certain key skills such as management, leadership, negotiation, and conflict resolution must be provided from the very start, and training programs - including short-term (one-day) briefing sessions for decision-makers, government ministers, and elected representatives, in local and foreign institutions - should be organized to show sectoral agencies how to incorporate environmental concerns into their planning and implementation processes. In general, human resources development should be linked to employee retention mechanisms within the public sector, perhaps through the civil service reform programs currently underway in most African countries.

4. Adopt innovative approaches in the use of policy instruments with which the NEAP process has been identified. The structural adjustment programs in most African countries have created suitable policy frameworks for implementing environmental management programs and projects, but generating financial support for these programs on a long-term basis remains a concern. Most African countries are signatories to international conventions on biodiversity, climate change, drought, and desertification, which provide their own mechanisms for funding. In The Gambia, Ghana, and Madagascar, these instruments have been used effectively to obtain access to funds from the Global Environment Facility. Other countries have used "debt-for-nature swaps." In theory, tax policies and other economic instruments are additional revenue generators in African countries, though they have not yet been applied widely or effectively to environmental management. Finally, besides international conventions, governments can use NEAPs to benefit from IDA credits.

5. Monitor the performance of the planning and implementation processes, including policies, programs, and individual projects. An effective information management system - one that is comprehensive but not excessively complex and is housed at the appropriate national institution - is vital, as is determining acceptable indicators against which data emerging from the implementation process can be compared. The general state of the environment should be assessed regularly, and State of the Environment Reports should be produced. The results of monitoring should be fed back into the planning process to improve implementation and ensure the quality of the project outputs.

6. Promote public awareness and education. Since the successful implementation of strategic plans will depend largely on the cooperation of the general public, several steps should be taken to ensure that the public is engaged from the onset and understands the implications of all policies and programs contained in the plan. Grassroots public awareness programs should be organized as part of the preparatory activities. Special briefing sessions must be organized for political leaders and other government decision-makers. Environmental sciences should be incorporated into school curricula, and teachers appropriately trained. Finally, the nonformal education sector should be strengthened to expose largely illiterate populations to ecological and environmental management principles. Such programs and activities should be built on traditional knowledge, beliefs, and practices.

These activities should guide plan implementation, though priorities will vary by country. Environmental planning processes and their associated institutional frameworks provide unique opportunities for coordinating national policies and actions with development assistance. As more countries begin implementing their environmental plans or strategies, coordination will be increasingly key to environmental management. The success of the planning process will largely determine the success of implementation. In other words, in this process the health, welfare, and well-being of millions of local-level resource users throughout sub-Saharan Africa are at stake.