. "2 Agenda 21 Implementation: Progress, Challenges, and the Role of Geographic Information." Down to Earth: Geographical Information for Sustainable Development in Africa. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2002.
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Down to Earth: Geographic Information for Sustainable Development in Africa
tional data on major Agenda 21 issues, such as natural resources inventories, climate change, and desertification. Thus, national-level reporting on these matters is uneven.
At the national level only South Africa has formally adopted a national Agenda 21 strategy (UN, 2002b). Although Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, and Ghana have not formalized national plans (NCSD, 2002), they have implemented national policies and laws that address issues related to sustainable development. For example, laws have been promulgated on environmental impact assessment; sustainable use of water, forests, and biodiversity; and management of solid wastes. In addition, over 95 percent of African countries have ratified the Rio conventions—the Convention on Biological Diversity, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification (UNEP, 2001). At the local level there are LA21 activities in 28 African countries (Table 2-4).
African leaders discussed the challenges of implementing Agenda 21 at three regional consultations of the Rio+5 Forum3: North Africa and the Middle East (1996), West and Central Africa (1996), and South and East Africa (1997). The following challenges were identified at the consultations (Dorm-Adzobu, 2002):
Inappropriate institutional frameworks in most countries, particularly a lack of coordination among ministries and across sectors;
Inadequate coordination between governments, NGOs, and the private sector;
Lack of appropriate legal frameworks;
Lack of national consultation prior to signing international agreements and the proliferation of those agreements, which results in signing conventions without full knowledge of the implications to the countries and without having the capacity to translate these agreements into action;
Poverty, illiteracy, and lack of awareness create problems in the development and implementation of sustainable development programs;
Increasing gap between population growth and national economic output;
Marginalization of women in the national development process; and
Lack of vision and commitment by leaders to implement sustainable development.
Several documents (NEPAD, 2001; UNEP, 1999, 2001) provide detailed information on such topics as living conditions, national debt, armed conflicts, human health, environ
TABLE 2-4 African Countries with Local Agenda 21 Activities
Number of LA21 Initiatives
Congo, Democratic Republic of
ment, and education, giving a broad sense of environmental and developmental challenges facing African countries.
In summary, most of the progress in African countries toward implementation of Agenda 21 has been at the normative rather than the operational level, with the emergence of coordinating organizations such as SADC. In addition, national policies and laws relating to environment and development have been agreed upon and international environmental treaties have been signed by the majority of African countries. Effective translation of these measures into operational programs will require increased use of geographic information in decision-making (ECA, 2001). The integrative nature of GIS lends itself to a unified approach as opposed to the traditional fragmented approach to sustainable development (UN, 2002a). Application of GIS exemplifies the reorientation of technology in responding to sustainability challenges (WCED, 1987).
THE ROLE OF GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION IN MEETING AGENDA 21 OBJECTIVES
The implementation of Agenda 21 has been slow (UN, 2002a) but the collection, analysis, and use of geographic information offers a starting point on the path to sustainable
Rio+5 was held March 13-19, 1997, as a follow-up to the UNCED in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. The purpose of the meeting was to review the progress of implementation of Agenda 21 and to move sustainable development from agenda to action.