More protected areas, respect for indigenous populations, the sharing of benefits and greater care for forests were all features of a broad sustainability action plan outlined last week by African nations.
Ten African leaders, over 100 delegates from Congo Basin countries and beyond, NGOs and multilateral agencies were attending the 6th World Forum for Sustainable Development in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo.
The action plan was designed to confront the effects of globalization, the food crisis and the current financial crisis in the face of increasing climate change.
A statement from WWF said: “WWF salutes the resolve of African countries to create more national and trans-national protected areas; to respect traditions and cultures as well as the integration of indigenous populations in the management of natural resources; to ensure equitable sharing of benefits derived from natural resources exploitation; and to promote the creation of community forests and sustainable exploitation of non-timber forest products.”
WWF also called for the adoption of measurable targets and timelines on issues identified in the action plan. This includes giving specific attention to the issue of illegal logging, wanton mining and the ever-increasing trade in bushmeat and ivory, all drivers of poor economic returns, extensive loss of natural resources and a menace to global climate.
“The call for the creation of an African Sustainable Development Fund by African leaders at the forum is a good one,” said Andre Kamdem, Head of the WWF Green Heart of Africa Initiative.
“The Congo Basin, at this critical time in its history, needs concrete agreement and action in order to preserve its biodiversity and reap full benefits therefrom.”
Delegates at the meeting pushed for significant progress on opportunities for infrastructure financing as a basis for sustainable development; economic valuation of natural resources; more equal access to scientific and technological solutions; best practices in agriculture; and the reform of governance. The forum also focused on proposing ways to shield sub-Saharan African countries from the world economic crisis.
WWF issued a statement at the beginning of the forum calling on African nations to turn the demand for their natural resources currently driving deforestation and other destruction into a force for higher returns from sustainable development.
“WWF welcomes the resolve of the forum to support ongoing initiatives such as giving more impetus to the convergence plan of the Commission for Central African Forests (COMIFAC) and the integration of environmental considerations into poverty reduction strategies,” said Kamdem.
“We are also pleased with the action plan of regional cooperation in environmental management as well as the commitment to support sustainable forest management, certification and the FLEGT [Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade] process.”