|State of Environment Report for Uganda 1998 (National Environment Management Authority, 1998, 264 p.)|
|PART 3 - THE HUMAN ENVIRONMENT|
|20. LEGAL, POLICY, INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK AND ENVIRONMENT INFORMATION|
|20.2 CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS|
The 1962 Independence constitution together with the 1967 constitution of the Republic of Uganda did not specifically address environmental issues in their provisions. The 1995 constitution, however, made fundamental innovations by incorporating provisions on environmental issues in the national and constitutional objectives of state policy. Sustainable development, exploitation and utilization of the country's natural resources and the environment generally has been made a mandatory obligation for all, under the 1995 constitution.
Under the national objectives and directives of state policy, the role of the people in formulation and implementation of development plans and programmes that will affect them is emphasized. The State is further enjoined to encourage private initiative, and self-reliance in terms of development. To achieve these goals, the State is obligated to adopt an integrated and co-ordinated approach in the protection of the country's natural resources.
The current Government's policy of modernization has been specifically catered for in the 1995 constitution, which requires the State to stimulate agricultural, industrial, technological and scientific development by adopting appropriate policies and legislation. Accordingly, the State has the statutory mandate to protect the country's natural resources; namely land, water, wetlands, minerals, oil, fauna and flora on behalf of all the people of Uganda in a sustainable manner.
The State is further enjoined to institute an effective machinery for dealing with any hazard or disaster arising out of natural calamities. The potential disasters include famine which is a direct consequence of climatic changes. Adverse climatic changes unfavourable for agricultural activities which form the backbone of Uganda's economy may be direct consequences of environmental degradation, which the constitution seeks to prevent.
The 1995 constitution, previous constitutions, observes the right to a decent environment as a right of all and attempts to guarantee the same by providing a conducive atmosphere for the participation of everybody in the management of natural resources. Hitherto, gender issues were overlooked. The 1995 constitution observes and guarantees gender balance and ensures a fair representation of the marginalized groups, notable of which are women, in the management of the country's environmental issues, both at a national and local level.
Other salient innovations in the 1995 constitution include; conservation of biodiversity, preservation of the environment from abuse, pollution and degradation. The constitution, further mandates the President or any other person authorized by him to enter into any bilateral or multi-lateral agreement in respect of any matter, including the environment and natural resource management. Parliament has complied with the constitutional obligation and enacted the Ratification of Treaties Act, 1998. This Act enables Uganda to ratify treaties, which it considers necessary in any field, including the environment. Some of the treaties so far ratified by Uganda are discussed in Section 20.4.
Other novel reforms under the constitution include; empowering district and local councils to handle environmental issues which initially were centralized and vested in the Government and its agencies. District and local councils may be permitted on request to handle technical environmental issues in accordance with the constitution and the National Environment Statute, 1995, and the Local Governments Act, 1997. Most districts and even local councils have local environment committees and actually participate in the management of their own local environment. All in all, the 1995 constitution backs environmental management more strongly than the previous ones, and most of its provisions are currently being implemented, albeit with some difficulties. The prominent hurdles towards the realization of the constitutional provisions is lack of adequate finances to fund environment-oriented projects and lack of adequate public awareness of environmental issues. The Government of Uganda is, however, in close co-operation with international organizations like the World Bank, IUCN, USAID and UNDP attempting, through the relevant state organs including NEMA, and both local and international NGOs to remove these bottlenecks.
Policy, legal and institutional frameworks have also been put in place to streamline environmental management and some of these have already been highlighted in the various sections, for example the national policy for conservation and management of wetlands, the water policy, the wildlife policy, etc.