South Africa host 17th Session of African Ministerial Conference of the Environment (AMCEN)

Event date: 
2019-11-11 00:15 to 2019-11-15 23:30

Introduction and background
Aims and objectives of NMW
Theme and messaging
Previous sessions of AMCEN



The African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) was established in Cairo, Egypt in 1985 following the adoption of the Cairo Programme for African Cooperation. For over 30 years, AMCEN has facilitated the broadening of the political and public policy debate regarding Africa’s environmental priorities and concerns. South Africa will host the 17th Ordinary Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) at the Olive Convention Centre, Durban in South Africa from 11 to 15 November 2019. The session will focus on a number of topical issues, namely the environmental contribution towards the green economy, advancing the circular economy in Africa, the environmental contribution to the development of oceans economy in Africa, biodiversity, land degradation, desertification and drought as well as climate change.

AMCEN will discuss the need for African countries to take practical actions, including implementation of policies, relevant regional and global frameworks, in order for the continent to attain environmental sustainability and prosperity and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa’s Agenda 2063. The five-day programme will consist of a meeting of the expert group from 11 to 13 November, and a ministerial segment, on 14 and 15 November. At this conference, South Africa will assume the Presidency of AMCEN from Gabon for the next two years and a new bureau for the conference will be elected.


Aims and objectives

As the permanent forum of Africa’s Environment Ministers, AMCEN aims to strengthen cooperation between African governments on economic, technical and scientific activities in order to address the degradation of Africa’s environment and promote the conservation and sustainable use of the Continent’s abundant natural resources. The AMCEN also takes decisions at a Ministerial level regarding Africa’s response to climate change issues and related programmes.

Within this context, AMCEN’s mandate is to provide information and advocacy for  environmental protection in Africa; ensure that basic human needs are met adequately and in a sustainable manner; ensure that socio-economic development is realised at all levels; and ensure that agricultural activities and practices meet food security needs of the region.

In addition, AMCEN also serves as a forum to:

  • provide continent-wide leadership by promoting awareness and consensus on global and regional environmental issues, especially those relating to international conventions on biodiversity, desertification and climate change;
  • develop common positions to guide African representatives in negotiations for legally binding international environmental agreements;
  • promote African participation in international dialogue on global issues of crucial importance to Africa;
  • review and monitor environmental programmes at the regional, sub-regional and national levels;
  • promote the ratification by African countries of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) relevant to the region; and
  • build African capacity in the field of environmental management.




The theme for the AMCEN 17th Ordinary Session is Taking Action for Environmental Sustainability and Prosperity in Africa, which builds on the themes of previous AMCEN sessions. The main theme for the AMCEN 17th Ordinary Session essentially focuses on advancing the Green Economy in Africa, which is underpinned by inter-related sub-themes, namely, advancing the Circular Economy; promoting the Biodiversity Economy and Natural Capital Accounting; environmental contribution to the development of Oceans Economy; and Climate Change. These are elaborated upon further below.

In order to achieve the environmental aspirations espoused in Agenda 2063, it is recognised that scaled up implementation of previous commitments, resolutions and decisions are now required globally and on the African Continent. These should take the form of Climate Action for Continent, a focused approach on SDG17 on the Means of Implementation, and concrete actions in promoting environmentally-sound waste management, conservation of the Continent’s rich biodiversity and enhancing the value and management of protected areas, combatting wildlife crime, improving the governance of the coastal areas and oceans.


It is recommended that the AMCEN 17th Ordinary Session explores and adopts concrete mechanisms, programmes and partnerships for Africa to give effect to the theme of the session. This should include mobilizing financial resources through the African Development Bank and other Development Finance Institutions (DFIs), advocating for the value of addressing environmental sustainability in other fora such as WEF-Africa, African Ministers of Finance meetings and other fora of the African Union, and providing a voice for the environment in infrastructure development programmes on the Continent.


Synopsis of AMCEN meetings previously held


15th Ordinary Session of AMCEN

The AMCEN 15th Ordinary Session, held in Cairo, Egypt 2-6 March 2015, was held under the theme "Managing Africa’s Natural Capital for Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication".  The meeting provided a platform for African Environment Ministers to deliberate on the means of harnessing Africa’s natural capital more effectively. In essence, the meeting focused on Africa’s abundant natural resources, including the region’s diverse biodiversity and ecosystems as well as the blue economy and how these could contribute towards achieving sustainable development, create jobs for the increasing youth population and contribute to the eradication of poverty.


16th Ordinary Session of AMCEN

The Sixteenth Ordinary Session of AMCEN took place from 12 – 16 June 2017 in Libreville, Gabon under the theme: "Investing in Innovative Environmental Solutions to accelerate implementation of Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063 in Africa". At this Session, the Minister of Environment of the Arab Republic of Egypt handed over the Presidency of AMCEN to Minister of Environment of the Republic of Gabon. The session provided an opportunity for ministers and experts to discuss preparations for the 13th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD-COP13) which took place in September 2017 in China, as well as the 23rd session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC-COP23) which was held in Bonn, Germany in November 2017. In addition, the 16th AMCEN Ordinary Session considered key issues for the Third United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-3) of the UN Environment Programme, whose theme is “Towards a Pollution Free Planet” and Africa’s approach for engagement in the Assembly which took place 4 -6 December 2017 in Nairobi, Kenya.

The 16th AMCEN Ordinary Session covered other pertinent issues, initiatives and processes related to the environment and sustainable development for the African Continent including Ocean Governance, chemicals management, implementation of the African Common Strategy to Combat the Illegal Exploitation of Wildlife in as well as Egypt’s hosting of the 14th Conference of the Parties for Biodiversity, deliberations on the outcomes of the Chemicals Conventions (Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm), as well as the environment and youth engagement.  

7th Special Session of AMCEN

The 7th Special Session of AMCEN theme, which took place in Nairobi, Kenya, 17-19 September 2018, namely, “Turning Environmental Policies into Action through Innovative Solutions". This session emphasised that innovative environmental solutions for sustainable wealth creation is environmental action as a source not only of environmental benefits, but social, economic and financial dividends as well. Such environmental action would provide incentives for country-led, market-driven efforts for achieving a low emissions development pathway, representing a longer-term and more sustainable approach as opposed to actions driven by regulations as at present. The Session also emphasised the need for scaled up implementation of environmental policies and resolutions in Africa.

One of the key outcomes of the Seventh Special of AMCEN in September 2018 was the first meeting and inaugural launch of the 1st Africa Environment Partnership Platform with was convened with an objective to promote sustainable environment management in Africa through enhanced partnership, coordination and harmonization of activities. This was a ground-breaking innovative initiative for the region since it tracked ‘50 years of Environmental Governance and Sustainability in Africa’. Through the partnership platform, the region will enhance coordination of environmental management among stakeholders at all levels; mobilize sufficient resources for the implementation of Africa’s priority environmental programmes and projects; enhance linkages between Africa’s environment and key productive socioeconomic sectors such as trade, infrastructure and the extractive industry; enhance knowledge sharing and capacity development initiatives on the environment; and facilitate the monitoring and evaluation of environmental priority programmes and projects at regional and continental levels.

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