The Revised African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
Context and Background
The 1968 African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (ACCNNR) was revised in 2003 by the African Union and boosts the commitment by African governments to protecting the environment and the sustainable use of natural resources and a collective approach to biodiversity conservation in Africa. The revised Convention is a comprehensive and modern regional treaty on environment and natural resources conservation, the first to deal with a wide spectrum of sustainable development issues, including land and soil, water, and biological diversity conservation and sustainable use. The original convention entered into force 16 June 1969 and currently has 31 ratifications from African countries. The revised convention will enter into force once it has been ratified by 15 African states. Currently 8 countries have ratified it.
The fundamental principle of both conventions is to undertake measures necessary to ensure conservation, utilization and development of soil, water, flora and faunal resources in accordance with scientific principles and with due regard to the best interests of African people. The objectives of the revised Convention include enhancing environmental protection, fostering conversation and sustainable use of natural resources and to harmonize and coordinate policies in these areas with a view to achieve ecologically rational, economically sound and socially acceptable development policies and programmes. The right of all peoples to a satisfactory environment favourable to their development guides the revised Convention. It also emphasizes the duties of African states, individually and collectively to ensure the enjoyment of the right to development and to ensure that development and environmental needs are met in a sustainable, fair and equitable manner.
Through these two conventions African states agree to use resources wisely, to manage populations and habitats, to control hunting, capture and fishing, and to prohibit the use of poisons, explosives and automatic weapons in hunting. They also agree to prevent and control water pollution, establish conservation areas and consider ecological factors in development plans. The updates to the ACCNNR strengthens Africa’s commitment to biodiversity conservation and is further reinforced by the Africa Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Ministerial Declaration of October 2003, which recognizes that the biodiversity of Africa’s forest ecosystems is essential for the livelihoods of the African people. The declaration highlights problems of illegal logging, a move that should pave the way for strong legislation supportive of sustainable forest management, fair profit-sharing and poverty alleviation.
The revised Convention also addresses processes and activities, which affect the environment and natural resources, as well as their relationship with sustainable development. The convention provides for procedural rights (to information, participation and access to justice), borrowing from the 1992 Rio Declaration. It encourages cooperation among parties to implement the convention, and whenever trans-boundary effects are likely to occur, and provides mechanisms including an independent secretariat.
- African governments have a fundamental obligation to implement all measures necessary to achieve the objectives of the conventions, in particular through preventative measures and the application of the precautionary principle and with due regard to ethical and traditional values as well as scientific knowledge in the interest of present and future generations.
- African governments commit to prevent any act that may harm or disturb flora and fauna reserves or national parks, which includes introductions, whether indigenous, domesticated or alien
- States shall develop and implement land tenure policies that facilitate the implementation of the conventions and take into account the rights of local communities.
- States must take appropriate measures to combat land degradation by developing long-term integrated strategies for the conservation and sustainable management of land resources including soil, vegetation and related hydrological processes.
- States will ensure the protection, conservation and rehabilitation of vegetation cover.
- African governments will manage their water sources in order to maintain the highest possible quantitative and qualitative levels and prevent damage that could affect human health or natural resources and also prevent excessive extraction to the detriment of downstream communities and states.
- African governments commit to maintain and enhance species and genetic diversity of plants and animals and implement policies for the conservation and sustainable use of such resources and the conservations of these species’ habitats.
- States will treat all conservation and management of natural resources as an integral part of national development plans and in formulating all development plans they shall take full consideration of ecological, economic, cultural and social factors in promoting sustainable development.
- African governments will adopt legislative and regulatory measures to ensure timely and appropriate dissemination of environmental information and access of the public to environmental information.
- States commit to the participation of the public in decision-making affecting environmental impact and ensure access to justice in matters related to protection and environment and natural resources.
- African governments will enact laws and develop other measures to ensure traditional rights and intellectual property rights of local communities including farmers’ rights in accordance to this convention
- States shall require that access to indigenous knowledge and its use is subject to the prior informed consent of the concerned communities and that those communities rights are recognized and their appropriate economic value.
- African states commit to cooperate and coordinate in their measures to implement the provisions of these conventions including holding regular meetings to share information, develop trans-national strategies and polices and to resolve disputes under the ambit of the AU.
- African governments commit to enable active participation by all local communities in the process of planning and management of cultural resources upon which such communities depend.