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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
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by Clement Dorm-Adzobu

The euphoria that accompanied political independence across Africa in the 1960s has mostly disappeared. In its place, a number of African nations are being haunted by the three-headed specter of political, economic, and ecological collapse. Some countries are being eviscerated as a result of bad government while others have become the victims of ethnic violence. Pictures of Rwandan refugee camps in eastern Zaire and the destruction of reserved forests and game parks in Uganda and Liberia as a result of "bush wars" and the near-total collapse of basic infrastructural services testify to the chaos that prevails in many African countries. Although the human cost of these tragedies has received substantial international attention, the staggering environmental degradation remains unquantified.

Science and technology can do little about the human determinants of these disasters. But just as people choose to inflict chaos and destruction on themselves and their environment, so too can they choose to protect that environment. What is needed is a realistic, demand-driven approach to natural resource management and the political will to make it happen.

The international community - spearheaded by the United Nations, lending and donor agencies, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) - has sensitized African governments to the importance of international conventions, conditionalities on credits and grants, and strategic plans. As a result, most African governments have now embarked on strategic planning in one form or another.

These developments are new, however, and commitment to environment and natural resources management as a national policy is relatively weak. While many national policies originate in constitutional provisions, references to environmental policy in the constitutions of African countries are rare, and, where they do exist, undefined. The new constitutions of Ghana, Uganda, and Kenya provide rare examples of references to environment, natural resources, and sustainable development.

Most of the integrated planning for social and economic development undertaken in Africa in the past four decades has been undertaken in connection with international donor support programs. For example, integrated rural development plans promoted by the World Bank in the 1960s became the focus of planning in many newly independent countries. Other countries prepared elaborate 5- or 7-year development plans emphasizing public-sector activities. All promoted economic "growth poles" in selected centers to encourage overall social and economic development.

In addition to these integrated planning activities, many African governments participated in numerous projects designed to solve problems in agriculture, forestry, and other sectors. Some of these plans were linked to international conventions that the countries had signed partly to attract international funding for plan implementation.

Generally speaking, these early initiatives strongly emphasized public-sector leadership and direction, and relied heavily on external funding for implementing programs and projects. Environmental considerations were not usually explicit in program and project activities, though some agricultural and forestry projects included environmental management components. As international concern rose in the 1980s, African governments began to put in place institutional, economic, political, and technical conditions to meet the challenge of sustainable development - meeting today's needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The primary strategic planning processes adopted in many African countries in recent years are National Conservation Strategies (NCSs), National Environmental Action Plans (NEAPs), Tropical Forestry Action Plans, and Plans of Action to Combat Desertification. One major imperative addressed by all these processes (and by NEAPs in particular) is the need for institutional mechanisms - governmental and non-governmental organizational structures - at national and subnational levels, with responsibility for general planning.

In 1993-94, the World Resources Institute (WRI) joined with the Natural Resources Policy Consultative Group for Africa (PCG) and the Network for Environment and Sustainable Development in Africa (NESDA) in a study of the status of the environmental management process in various African countries. The main goal of the study was to determine the extent to which long-term strategic planning processes have addressed the short-term problems resulting from the lack of a coherent national and subnational institutional framework and the absence of an implementable agenda on complex, cross-cutting environmental issues.

The term "institutional framework" is used here to refer to formal and informal organizational structures that existed in each country before the strategic planning process was introduced and to the structures that were recommended, created, or reconstituted to formulate and execute approved plans and strategies.

In this study, institutional issues were identified as a major constraint in preparing and implementing national strategic plans. In many instances, the institutions responsible for environmental management before the strategic planning process began were essentially sector-based. They had a broad mandate to lead and coordinate cross-sectoral plan preparation and implementation. Only in a few countries. The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda, did national institutions provide the leadership required in planning.

Since the mid-1980s, it has become increasingly evident that the efficient implementation of development projects depends on the availability and strength of institutional structures and arrangements (Baum and Tolbert, 1987). Many funding agencies have, therefore, increased contributions to institutional development as part of aid packages. Strategic planning processes create opportunities to move from a sectoral to a cross-sectoral approach in planning and implementation, a goal that is achieved through the design of an effective institutional framework for coordinated, cross-sectoral environmental management. However, since traditional government structures based on sectoral ministries and departments are well entrenched in Africa, no model of this exists.

That said, building an effective environmental policy framework requires effective environmental institutions. They formulate and implement policy; carry out legislative reform; propose environmental programs and projects; advise and support political decision-making processes; set standards; collect data; evaluate the environmental consequences of policies, decisions, and projects; educate the public; and coordinate and support the work of government institutions, NGOs, and civil society. In light of the crucial role that institutions play in natural resource management, many African countries have become genuinely concerned with overcoming existing institutional capacity constraints and are increasingly addressing them when dealing with such cross-sectoral issues as environmental management.

Nine country case studies were undertaken as part of this work. The key issues identified in the studies are discussed in this chapter. Although every issue was noted in each study, the relevance varies with each country's perceptions and priorities. As a result, issues are not discussed in any particular order, nor are they mutually exclusive: close relationships can be discerned among several.