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MEA Bulletin

Guest Article

2 October 2006


By Alexandra Karekaho, UNEP Division of GEF Coordination

Full article

For the last decade, “Synergy” has been a frequently used catch word in the environmental protection and natural resources family. Synergy is seen as the way forward for effective environmental management. This is based on the “assumption that the global environment is naturally synergistic and that any approach to environmental problem solving would be more efficient and more effective if this factor were used to greater advantage.1 More so, most of the environmental-related conventions, agreements, and treaties, as well as major UN conferences such as the Rio Earth Summit and WSSD, call for  a more synergistic, integrated approach to environmental management if poverty reduction and sustainable development are to be attained. Many agencies have responded to this call and put in place measures and initiatives to this effect.

One example of such a project is UNEPs’ Division of Global Environment Facility’s (DGEF) efforts in four African countries to build capacity to implement the Rio multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), i.e. the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) and the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD). With funding from the Belgium Government, DGEF is assisting Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda in a pilot project for “Capacity Building to Alleviate Poverty through Synergistic Implementation of the Rio Multilateral Environment Agreements.” This project seeks to enhance the four countries’ capacity to undertake global environmental management by incorporating poverty alleviation strategies through the development and strengthening of institutional synergies with regard to the implementation of MEAs. This approach calls for a more integrated approach at the national level and strengthened national expertise in areas such as coordination, planning, management, and information and natural resources management.

The project focuses on targeted capacity-development initiatives that will enable the countries to address priority issues within the framework of the MEAs in an integrated manner and will promote the realization of the objectives of the NEPAD Environment Action Plan with regard to poverty alleviation.  The project seeks to achieve two main objectives: 1) Improve capacity in the four pilot countries to report, plan and implement the MEAs in an integrated manner and focus on poverty alleviation goals through training, access to information and sharing of lessons and best practices; and 2) Demonstrate the value added of implementing MEAs synergistically while benefiting local communities and ecosystems. The second objective is accomplished through a Micro-Grant Programme that provides up to US$25,000 for local governments, NGOs and CBOs to implement projects that demonstrate synergies and at the same time tackle poverty at the local level.

Five major outputs are anticipated from the project. The first is the establishment of an operational National Conventions Coordination Committee (NCCC) to provide a framework for individual and institutional collaboration for the synergistic implementation of MEAs and establishment of the MEA-Poverty linkages. Second, a Manual on Integrated Reporting and Coordinated Response to the Conventions will be developed. Third, convention focal points, environment practitioners and specialists will receive training on MEAs’ synergies, poverty-environment linkages, integrated reporting, and planning and implementation skills through workshops, seminars and targeted training. Fourth, a cross-cutting information site (website/portal) will be developed to disseminate lessons learned and best practices. And fifth, a Micro Grants Programme that demonstrates MEA synergies and the linkages between MEAs and poverty at the community level will be established.

While project implementation has been an uphill task because of the institutional fragmentation of the conventions and their operationalization, NCCCs established in each country are in the process of assuming coordination of MEA implementation, carrying out awareness/sensitization campaigns through countrywide training, and embarking on joint reporting, planning, implementation, and monitoring, among other activities. The NCCCs are using the Manual on Integrated Reporting and Coordinated Response to the Conventions as a guide, thus leading to better and more efficient coordination and resulting in synergistic implementation of the environmental agreements in the African region. This approach seeks to ensure that the poverty eradication provisions of the Rio MEAs are effectively and efficiently implemented within the context of poverty eradication action plans, poverty reduction strategy papers and the Action Plan of the Environment Initiative of NEPAD. The Synergies Website/portal is used by the NCCCs to access information needed to perform their tasks as well as to exchange information, lessons learned and best practices. With regard to demonstrating synergies and poverty linkages though the Micro-grant Programme, operational manuals for each country were prepared for the implementation and management of the micro-grants. So far, a total of 19 projects worth US$220,000 (ranging from Community Conservation Eco-tourism Projects to Use of Biogas to generate Domestic Electricity to Integrated Conservation and Food Security Projects) have been approved and 12 are currently being implemented. All of these projects are building the communities’ capacities and empowering them through training, sensitization to the MEAs and poverty, and providing technical assistance. Another US$380,000 remains for additional grants to communities.

The project started in 2004 and runs through to 2008 with a budget of US$1.6 million, shared equally among the four countries. The key stakeholders are the ministries of environment, natural resources, agriculture, energy, planning and the major national environmental management bodies/authorities, including academic institutions, NGOs/CBOs and local government structures. Lessons and best practices are being recorded through a series of activities such as workshops, sharing of experiences, case studies, and analytical reviews, project progress reports with a view to replicating and up-scaling this pilot project in other African countries.

For more information about the project contact Alexandra Karekaho (Alexandra.karekaho@unep.org) or visit the project website (http://mea-synergy.unep.org).

1 United Nations University (UNU). 1999. Inter-Linkages: Synergies and Co-ordination Between Multilateral Environmental Agreements. Tokyo, Japan.

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