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African leaders to develop common plan for stopping wildlife crime
Brazzaville, 27 April 2015 – African Heads of State, government representatives and experts are gathering at the International Conference on Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora in Africa where they will develop a common roadmap to end wildlife trafficking on the continent. The Conference will seek to advance the first-ever Africa-wide strategy and action plan to tackle the illegal trade in wild fauna and flora, to be further considered at the next African Union Heads of State Summit later this year. The four-day event is organised under the leadership of the Republic of Congo, in partnership with the African Union Commission (AUC), and with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the African Development Bank, the Lusaka Agreement Task Force and the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), among others. "Forests and wildlife are part of our common African heritage but are disappearing at an alarming pace," said His Excellency Denis Sassou Nguesso, the President of the Republic of Congo. “We have a duty to work together, as a continent, to safeguard our unique biodiversity for present and future generations and to craft strong collective solutions to address this calamity.” The value of wildlife crime, comprising fauna and flora, and including logging, poaching and trafficking of a wide range of animals, amounts to many hundreds of billions of US dollars a year, according to estimates of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNEP and INTERPOL. Wildlife trafficking destroys biodiversity and ecosystems, undermining development and eroding livelihoods for millions of African citizens. It also creates insecurity, fuelling conflicts and corruption, depriving countries of their assets, compromising the rule of law and dividing societies. “By the end of this event, we envisage to have a clear roadmap toward a strategy that is strong, Africa-owned and Africa-led,” noted Her Excellency Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, the AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture. “The document will aim to galvanize collective action across borders and it will offer practical, home-grown solutions towards decisively eliminating poaching and illegal wildlife trade.” Following the Brazzaville conference, the draft strategy and associated action plan will be further developed in consultation with all African Member States, and progress on the strategy will be reviewed when the continent’s leaders gather at their bi-annual meeting, this June, in South Africa. “An African strategy developed by the African Union and its Member States, and focused on the needs of the continent is an extremely important step forward,” said Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of UNEP. “Its development will require full engagement of Member States, and its implementation will require enhanced and sustained international support, strong information networks, better public advocacy and accountability, as well as adequate laws and mechanisms to fully address the problem." The International Conference on Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora in Africa builds on the momentum and outcomes of the 2014 London and 2015 Kasane High Level Conferences on Illegal Wildlife Trade, and comes on the heels of the 23rd African Union Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, which urged African nations to apply zero tolerance approaches, to take action to strengthen laws and policies, and to engage communities to combat illegal wildlife trafficking and related criminal activities. “Trafficking in wildlife and forest products poses serious security, environmental, and development challenges”, said Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator. “Addressing rural poverty, strengthening governance and the rule of law, and eradicating illicit trade in wildlife are key to addressing these threats and are essential for achieving Africa’s vision for sustainable development.”

Organized Crime in Wildlife, Gold and Timber, Worth Over One Billion USD, Further Fuels Conflict in Eastern DR Congo - UN Report

Nairobi, 16 April 2015 -Organized crime and the illegal trade in natural resources continues to increasingly fuel the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) , according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners.

The Government of DRC, supported by the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) - the largest UN peacekeeping mission with 20,000 uniformed personnel - is confronting not only a political insurgency but an increasing number of illegal operations conducted by militarized criminal groups with transnational links involved in large-scale smuggling and laundering of natural resources.

Every year gold, minerals, timber, charcoal and wildlife products such as ivory, valued between US$ 0.7-1.3 billion annually, are exploited and smuggled illegally out of the conflict zone and surrounding areas in eastern DRC.

Experts estimate that 10-30 per cent of this illegal trade (around US$ 72-426 million per annum) goes to transnational organized criminal networks based outside eastern DRC. Around 98 percent of the net profit from illegal natural resource exploitation - particularly gold, charcoal and timber - goes to transnational organized criminal networks operating in and outside DRC.

In contrast, DRC based armed groups retain only around two percent - equivalent to US$ 13.2 million per annum - of the net profits from illegal smuggling. This income represents the basic subsistence cost for at least 8,000 armed fighters per year, and enables defeated or disarmed groups to continuously resurface and destabilize the region.

There is evidence that revenues from such operations finance at least 25 armed groups that continue to destabilize the peace and security of eastern DRC.

The report, jointly produced by UNEP-MONUSCO-OSESG (Office of Special Envoy for Great Lakes Region), relies on inputs from a high number of experts, including the UN Office for Drugs and Crime, INTERPOL, the UN Group of Experts on the DRC, DRC government agencies and NGOs.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP, said: "There is no room for doubt: wildlife and forest crime is serious and calls for an equally serious response. In addition to the breach of the international rule of law and the impact on peace and security, environmental crime robs countries of revenues that could have been spent on sustainable development and the eradication of poverty."

"In order to strengthen the environmental rule of law, we need to implement existing international, regional and national commitments, which requires, among other things, updating and strengthening national legislation, building capacity, strengthening enforcement, building consumer awareness and enhancing international cooperation and intelligence gathering across the supply chain to track and disrupt illegal operations," he added.

Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MONUSCO, said, "These resources lost to criminal gangs and fuelling the conflict could have been used to build schools, roads, hospitals and a future for the Congolese people."

"Imagine if we could spend hundreds of millions of dollars of the lost revenues stolen by criminal gangs in eastern DRC instead to pay teachers, doctors and promote business opportunities and tourism. We must turn gold into taxes and taxes to development for a prosperous future, " he added.

The UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Great Lakes, Said Djinnit underscores in his Roadmap (2015-2017), the need to undercut the economic lifeline of armed groups. "The illegal exploitation of natural resources is sustaining negative forces, perpetuating the instability and conflict in eastern DRC," stated Said Djinnit.

"Yet, these natural resources should be drivers of inclusive sustainable development and the transformation of the DRC and Great Lakes region at large. Efforts to address these transnational organized criminal groups' activities require a regional approach including forward-looking solutions of gradual replacement of the illegal charcoal trade, livelihood solutions to miners and farmers, harmonization of tax systems and transparent sharing of revenues," added Special Envoy Djinnit.

The conflict in eastern DRC, which has cost the lives of several million people, has continued for nearly two decades. The region also holds some of the richest natural resources and wildlife, including the critically endangered mountain gorillas,targeted by criminal groups as retaliation for park rangers interfering with the illegal charcoal trade inside the Virunga National Park.

The report warns that transnational organized criminal networks "divide and rule" armed groups in eastern DRC to prevent any single armed group from achieving a dominant role and potentially interfering with illegal exploitation run by transnational criminal networks.

The report points to an increased awareness of, and response to, the growing threat of the involvement of organized crime and calls for further concerted action, and makes recommendations aimed at strengthening action against the organized criminal networks profiting from the trade, including on MONUSCO's mandate.

Other recommendations from the report:

  • The experts recommend that MONUSCO strengthens its information and analysis capacity, with a view to undercutting the lifelines of armed groups with links to transnational criminal networks benefiting from illicit natural resource exploitation in eastern DRC;
  • Strengthen, in a targeted manner, the capacity of the Congolese national police and the justice system to investigate and prosecute environmental crime;
  • Strengthen the existing cooperation between MONUSCO and national authorities, particularly the Congolese Wildlife Authority (ICCN), to safeguard protected areas and World Heritage Sites from illegal natural resources exploitation and their use as 'safe havens' by armed groups;
  • Strengthen regional cooperation on transnational organized crime through information sharing and joint plans with the UN Police (UNPOL), INTERPOL, UNODC, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the OSESG for the Great Lakes Region, the UN Group of Experts on the DRC, and prosecutors;
  • Continued advocacy for legal and fiscal reforms to further formalize natural resources exploitation, particularly of artisanal gold mining, artisanal timber logging and charcoal production, in coordination with bilateral and multilateral development partners;

Responses So Far

Some of the findings from the report were presented in the United Nations Security Council on 19 March this year. On 26 March 2015,the Security Council passed resolution S/RES/2211 renewing for 12 months the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the DRC, and endorsing recommendations made in the Secretary-General's report on the strategic review of the mission.

The Security Council demanded that,"the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the Lord Resistance Army (LRA), and all other armed groups cease immediately all forms of violence and other destabilizing activities, including the exploitation of natural resources and that their members immediately and permanently disband, lay down their arms and release children from their ranks."

The UN Security Council furthermore authorized MONUSCO to carry out targeted offensive operations, either unilaterally or jointly, with the Congolese Armed Forces(FARDC).

Significantly, this enables the Mission to use the necessary force to prevent criminal armed groups from benefitting from any exploitation of natural resources, and hence, address the root causes of the conflict.

For more information, please contact:

Shereen Zorba, Head of News and Media, UNEP

+254 788 526000, Shereen.Zorba@unep.org

Charles Bambara, Director, Public Information Division, MONUSCO (Kinshasa, DRC)

Tel +243 81 890 5202 or +243 99 706 8876, bambara@un.org

Penangnini Toure, Public Information Officer, O/SESG

+254 715 703 417, tourep@un.org

African Ministers Call for Strong Paris Agreement, Climate Finance Flows

Marrakech, 16 April 2015 - Ministers from governments across Africa have renewed their call for a strong and universal climate change agreement with increased flows of funds, including through market and finance opportunities, sufficient to fulfill Africa's development aspirations.

With countries set to approve a new climate change agreement under the UN in Paris in December, African ministers stressed the region's readiness and requirement for accelerated private and public financing of low-carbon development. Africa, with its vulnerable populations and vast potential, has perhaps the most to lose from climate change and the most to gain from an effective climate change agreement.

"I agree with Ministers that the last 10 years in the implementation of the Clean Development Mechanism is a very valuable asset and that market mechanisms can play a significant role in raising the level of ambition, and supporting climate action," said Ms. Hakima El Haite, Delegate Minister in charge of Environment of Morocco.

"In these last eight months before Paris, the focus must shift from restating negotiating positions to finding common ground solutions," said UNFCCC Deputy Executive Secretary Richard Kinley at a day-long ministerial segment at the Africa Carbon Forum 2015 hosted by the Kingdom of Morocco. "All countries have something to gain from the Paris agreement and it is in everyone's interests to reach a strong conclusion as soon as possible this year. If Heads of State come to Paris, it must be to adopt an agreement that is robust and ready for them."

Clean Energy to Unlock African Sustainable Development Potential

The African Carbon Forum 2015 focused on programmes to unleash private sector finance, such as through the Clean Development Mechanism, and scale up other forms of climate finance to strengthen the sustainable development of African countries.

According to the International Energy Agency Africa Energy Outlook 2014, 625 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa, about two-thirds of the population, are without secure access to electricity. Some 730 million people in the region still rely on cooking mostly with wood, harming health and destroying vital forest cover.

"The coming months provide African countries with a significant opportunity to align their contributions to the Paris climate agreement with their own long-term sustainable development priorities," said Mr. Kinley.

Countries are busy detailing their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which they will submit as their contribution to climate action under the Paris agreement. INDCs for 35 countries have been submitted to date. On April 1, Gabon became the first African country to submit an INDC.

Climate Finance and a Strong CDM Are Key to Success

Two clear messages emerged from participants at the African Carbon Forum. First, linking climate finance to results is essential to stimulate greater funding for both mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Second, developing countries, including Africa, need tools like the Clean Development Mechanism if they are to successfully shift to a low-carbon emitting development path. Paris provides the continent with a unique opportunity to anchor carbon markets in the long-term climate agenda in line with scaling up climate action and sustainable development based on their national priorities.

A consistent theme during the Forum was the need to preserve and improve the CDM beyond 2020 as a tool for providing continued climate finance and technology to developing countries, especially in Africa. This would capitalize on the capacity and infrastructure already built up by countries and stakeholders. It is widely expected that this will be one of the issues to be resolved in Paris.

Participants particularly highlighted the usefulness of the CDM's established rules in measuring, reporting and verifying results and its possible role to help define and clarify the content of INDCs. The workshop also concluded that African countries could look at how best to link and leverage finance through the Green Climate Fund at the same time as increasing use of the CDM.

The Forum noted that the INDCs provide Africa with an ideal vehicle through which public policy developments can be transparently displayed by countries to shift toward a low-carbon and sustainable development path.

What the Forum Organizers said about Climate Change and Development in Africa

"Throughout this African Carbon Forum, I have sensed the extraordinary will of the continent to act, and to use the tools that are functioning and at their disposal now, such as the Clean Development Mechanism. I share the sentiment expressed by many participants here, that it is time to support Africa's dynamism in particular by exploring how the GCF can channel climate finance for the implementation of CDM projects in Africa, and finally unleash the continent's mitigation potential. With the Paris agreement in mind, I trust that African countries will reflect this reality in their INDCs."

John Kilani, Director, Sustainable Development Mechanisms programme, UNFCCC

"The African Carbon Forum 2015 has clearly demonstrated the engagement and commitment by countries in the region to contribute to a balanced and fair outcome at the COP in Paris. Countries are preparing their INDCs, and presentations at the Forum indicate that these will have both ambition and at the same time send clear signals of the need to balance adaptation and mitigation aspects within a broader green economy development framework."

John Christensen, Director, United Nations Environment Programme DTU Partnership

"Here's what participants at the Forum are saying: a clear and fair global climate architecture, which can protect the more vulnerable regions, such as Africa, needs to be a part of the Paris narrative. Participants are demonstrating a very high level of commitment to helping the Paris process hear Africa's voice in getting climate policies right."

Neeraj Prasad, Manager, Climate Change Group, World Bank Group

"As we move towards the goal of a global climate change agreement in Paris in December, the 7th Africa Carbon Forum reinforced the need to have adequate, predictable, sustainable climate finance resources to address Africa's challenges in transitioning to low carbon development, smart agriculture, and sustainable urban development ¬ key topics at this year's ACF. These areas should be at the core of Africa's development priorities and how they are integrated into the countries' INDCs will help determine the successful implementation of INDCs beyond Paris. We all know current climate financial flows are currently insufficient to meet all of Africa's climate change challenges, but it will be critical for African countries to demonstrate the ability to effectively deploy those resources that are available to help contribute to the global climate change goals."

Kurt Lonsway, Manager, Environment and Climate Change Division, African Development Bank

"As we've heard over the past couple of days, there is a great opportunity for the private sector to invest in a low carbon future for Africa, using market forces to bring innovative technologies so that the continent can develop in a sustainable way. The Paris agreement can help facilitate this by setting the right parameters for business to invest, including agreeing rules and guidelines for carbon markets."

Dirk Forrister, President and CEO of International Emissions Trading Association

This year's Africa Carbon Forum attracted over 600 participants of 53 countries, including 23 ministers or senior officials, policymakers, project developers and investors, and built on the success of last year's forum in Windhoek, Namibia. Discussions centered on international and national policies and operational issues related to carbon markets, mechanisms and finance.

The Forum is organized under the umbrella of the Nairobi Framework by the UNFCCC, United Nations Environment Programme along with the UNEP-DTU Partnership, World Bank, African Development Bank and the International Emissions Trading Association.

The Nairobi Framework was launched in 2006 by then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to assist developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, to improve their level of participation in the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism.

Read more about the Africa Carbon Forum 2015

For further information please contact:

Judith Adrien, Communications Officer, UNFCCC at:

CDM-Press(at)unfccc.int, +49 (0) 228-815-1355




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