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Gillespie, Alexander --- "The conservation of wildlife in Africa: basic steps for the 21st century" [2009] NZJlEnvLaw 6; (2009) 13 NZJEL 161

Last Updated: 31 January 2023


The Conservation of Wildlife in Africa: Basic Steps for the 21st Century

Alexander Gillespie*

Despite making economic progress on a par with other developing countries, Africa remains a land of problems, paradoxes and pos- sibilities, with the continent facing environmental stresses at relatively higher levels compared to many other regions of the world. Serious concerns are becoming apparent not only with the management of many protected areas, with Africa possessing 13 of the overall global total of 31 sites on the official World Heritage Danger List, but with disproportionately high rates of deforestation, fresh water distribution difficulties, air pollution problems attendant on uncontrolled urbani- sation, and oceanic degradation. At the beginning of the 21st century, the continent is at a cross-road with regard to social, economic, and environmental sustainability. The change of approach required with regard to conservation cannot be dealt with in isolation but placed within that trilogy of concerns. The core of its strategy to confront these unique difficulties is the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (“NEPAD”), the primary objectives of which are to reduce poverty, achieve sustainable growth and development, halt the marginalisation of Africa in the globalisation process, and accelerate the empowerment of women. Guidance on how to apply the NEPAD principles to conservation concerns emerged from the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. In the context of environmental thinking at the international level, local communities which surround, and often interact with, the environment or species that are to be protected should be, as much as possible, fully integrated with its management and benefit

*Alexander Gillespie, LLB, LLM (Hons) (Auckland), PhD (Nottingham), Professor of Law, University of Waikato, New Zealand. Dr Gillespie is the recipient of fellowships from the Rotary, Fulbright, Rockefeller and New Zealand Law Foundations.

162 New Zealand Journal of Environmental Law

from its conservation. Basic steps towards successful conservation policy in one of the most difficult, yet potential-rich, areas on the planet will be met if conservation goals are built within supportive social and economic frameworks, and the goals understand the importance of sustainable use, popular participation and equitable sharing, financial assistance and capacity building.


Africa is a land of problems, paradoxes and possibilities. Early in the 21st century, the continent is making economic progress on par with other developing countries. Moreover, 16 African countries have sustained annual GDP growth rates in excess of 4.5% since the mid-1990s. By 2007, the average growth rate was 5.7% (compared to a global average of 3.5%). In addition, inflation on the continent is down to historic lows, most exchange rate distortions have been eliminated, and fiscal deficits are dropping.

Such generic figures disguise the fact that whilst some countries are making remarkable progress, some are stagnating, and others are falling behind. Nevertheless, in 2006, only Zimbabwe recorded negative growth. In addition to problem cases like Zimbabwe, the continent, which received a mere 1.6% of global foreign direct investments (US$10.1 billion), is home to six of the ten countries which are deemed the most difficult environment for starting a business, anywhere in the world. African firms still struggle to enter the global marketplace, hampered by inadequate roads, inefficient ports, and power outages. In addition, some countries remain largely “off the grid”. For example, although Mauritius may have 100% access to electricity, in Chad, only 3% of the population can claim this privilege. Moreover, the economic growth that is currently being achieved in Africa is being built on the back of a few oil- exporting countries (which made up 57% of the continent’s growth in 2006).

Africa is the only region of the world where the number of poor people continues to rise. Poverty is particularly severe in many regions. For example, less than 15% of Morocco’s population live on less than US$2 per day, compared to Mali, where 91% live on less than US$2 per day. Between 1981 and 2001, the number of people living on less than US$1 per day in sub-Saharan Africa doubled from 164 million to 313 million. Maternal health in Africa remains a regional and international scandal, with the odds that a sub-Saharan African woman will die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth during her life at 1 in 16, compared to 1 in 3,800 in the developed world.

Nevertheless, life expectancies are, on average, increasing. The life expec- tancies range from a high of 73 years in Mauritius, to a low of 35 years in

The Conservation of Wildlife in Africa: Basic Steps for the 21st Century 163

Botswana (36 years in Lesotho, and 37 years in Zimbabwe). The country that has made the greatest gains in life expectancy in the past decade is Rwanda from 31 to 44 years, between 1990 and 2004. This is followed by Comoros from 56 to 63 years over the same period. Despite such increases, parts of Africa also suffer from staggering rates of HIV/AIDS. Although this is manageable in some countries, such as Madagascar where only 0.5% of the population have the HIV virus, in other areas it is of pandemic proportions. For example, in Swaziland, one out of every three adults has contracted the virus (33.4%) in the 15 to 49 age group, and in Botswana the figure is 24.1%. Accordingly, with such statistics it is not surprising that few African countries are positioned to meet the Millennium Development Goals.1

Over the last century, the population growth in many African countries has been exponential. That is, human numbers have expanded from 118 million in 1900, to 798 million (13.6% of the global population) in the year 2000. By 2020, the projection is that Africa will have 1,166 million people. In a region like West Africa, the growth will go from 132 million in 1980, to 344 million within the space of 40 years. Such growth is, in part, due to the unique demographics of some African countries. For example, in Uganda and Niger, nearly half the population is under the age of 15. Conversely, these two countries, in addition to Angola, Eritrea and Liberia, have less than 2% of their population over 65. Despite such growth rates, in the last two decades, fertility rates have dropped in every African country. The greatest drop in fertility is found in Namibia from

1 Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. The target for goal one is to halve the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day and those who suffer from hunger. Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education. The target for goal two is that all boys and girls complete primary school.

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women. The target for goal three is to eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015.

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality. The target for goal four is to reduce by two-thirds the mortality rate among children under five.

Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health. The target for goal five is to reduce by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio.

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. The targets for goal six are to begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS; and to halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability. The targets for goal seven are to integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources; reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water; and achieve significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020.

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development. See < millenniumgoals/> .



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5.9% to 3.8% between 1990 and 2004, followed by Rwanda which fell from 7.4% to 5.5% over the same period.2


Africa has a remarkably rich base of fauna and flora. It contains six of the world’s 25 hotspots. It holds approximately 25% of the world’s diversity in mammals (about 4,700 species), and just one hotspot — the Guinean — is home to half of Africa’s known mammalian species. Although plant richness at species, genus and family level is lower than other tropical regions, it still has very large amounts of diversity. In total, the region has more than 50,000 known plant species. The African mainland is estimated to have between 40,000 and 60,000 species. South Africa has an estimated 20,000 plant species, Kenya at least 8,000, and Cameroon more than 15,000. The biological diversity found in any one area or country varies depending on physical size, local climatic conditions, topography and vegetation and soil types. The African coastal region is equally diverse, with more than 4,000 species of fish. Marine and coastal ecosystems contribute significantly to the economies of its countries. It is estimated that 40% of Africa’s population derive their livelihoods from coastal and marine ecosystems and resources. With Namibia, the fisheries sector alone contributes more than 35% of its GDP, whilst in Morocco the figure is 25%. Coastal zones also generate revenue for the economies by attracting tourists. Kenya, Morocco, the Seychelles and Tanzania are all heavily dependent on this market.3 This pattern, of a heavy dependence upon the natural base, is replicated with most other ecosystems, such as the land, forests, fresh water, wildlife and wetlands. Over 70% of Africa’s population is rural and depends directly on the natural environment for its livelihood and well-being.4

  1. UNDP (2007), Economic Report on Africa: Accelerating Africa’s Development Through Diversification (UNDP, Geneva) 1–7; World Bank (2006), African Development Indicators (World Bank, Washington); UNEP (2006), Africa Environment Outlook 2: Our Environment, Our Wealth (UNEP, Nairobi) 4–5; United Nations (2007), Africa and the Millennium Development Goals: The 2007 Update (United Nations, New York) 3–7.
  2. Sections of information in this paragraph are taken from GEF (2000), Country Capacity Development, Needs and Priorities: Regional Report for Africa (GEF, Washington) 6–7.
  3. UNEP (2006), supra note 2, at 2–5.



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Recent assessments have shown that Africa is facing environmental stresses at relatively higher levels compared to many other regions of the world.5 Indeed, as the World Summit on Sustainable Development noted, “sustainable development has remained elusive for many African countries”.6 This claim is justified because of a multitude of environmental difficulties such as disproportionately high rates of deforestation,7 fresh water distribution difficulties (only 42% of rural people in Africa had access to clean water in 2007),8 and (in places) air pollution difficulties comparable with many of the worst cities anywhere in the world.9 Moreover, up to 38% of the African coastline, including 68% of marine protected areas, is considered to be under a high degree of threat. Uncontrolled urbanisation, oceanic pollution (often linked to offshore oil exploration, in addition to land-based sources of pollution) of the coastal zone is a cause of serious degradation in many areas.10 In certain regions, such as with West Africa, coastal concerns are becoming increasingly heightened. For example, in recent years, some fish stocks off West Africa have crashed by over 80%.11

Serious concerns are now, also, becoming apparent with the management of many protected areas in Africa. These concerns are despite the fact that 9% of Africa (over 3,000 protected areas encompassing 240 million hectares)12 is, in theory, protected. However, this figure disguises the fact that certain regions, and key species, are often without protection.13 For example, although there is a large number of important bird areas in Africa (about 2,444 in 32 countries), only about half of them have a protected status.14 In addition, certain regions, such as West Africa, are underrepresented in the amount of protected areas they possess. Their regional average of 4% is, in part, due to the fact that some

  1. See Commission for Africa (2005), Our Common Interest (Commission for Africa) 78–81; UNEP (2003), Global Environmental Outlook 3 (Earthscan, London).
  2. Para 56, WSSD, Plan of Implementation.
  3. See FAO (2005), State of the World’s Forests (FAO, Rome).
  4. See UNESCO (2006), Water For People, Water for Life (UNESCO, Paris).
  5. See A Gillespie (2006), Climate Change, Ozone Depletion and Air Pollution (Brill, Netherlands) chapter 5.
  6. UNEP (2006), supra note 2; UNEP (2003), The Action Plan of the Environment Initiative of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) (UNEP, Nairobi) 4–5, 25.
  7. D MacKenzie (2002), “African Fisheries on Brink”, New Scientist, 13 July, 7; F Pearce (2001), “Breaking the Banc”, New Scientist, 23 June, 32–35.
  8. UNEP (2003), supra note 10, at 36.
  9. For example, although Africa has, Northern Africa, the drier parts of South Africa, and the most heavily deforested parts of Western and Eastern Africa are very underrepresented with protected areas. UNEP (2006), supra note 2, at 230.
  10. Anon (1996), “Important Bird Areas in Africa”, World Birdwatch 18(4): 8–12.



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countries in the region, such as Liberia, have an absolute minimal amount of protected areas.15

Even with the African sites that are protected, it is a common theme in a number of areas that they, more than any other region in the world, are considered to be in danger. For example, as of 2007, with regard to World Heritage sites, despite representing only (a minority of ) 65 sites on a total list of 851 World Heritage sites, Africa possesses 13 of the overall global total of 31 sites on the official World Heritage Danger List.16 This is a particular problem, as, if the “jewels” in the crown of protected areas cannot be protected, little hope can be granted to the “lesser” sites.

In some instances, African World Heritage sites are facing critical problems. Although a number of these problems are due to difficulties such as uncontrolled tourism, or unregulated mineral extraction,17 more often than not the sites in Africa are threatened by rapid population declines of key species. This problem was well shown with the Air and Tenere Nature Reserves in Niger, where by 2001 ostrich had totally disappeared from the site and gazelle were rarely seen.18 In terms of chronology, the first site to experience such problems was the Garamba in the mid-1980s, which was inscribed on the Danger List due to poaching taking the white rhino population down to less than 15 individuals.19 After this situation stabilised and the population more than doubled (to 32) in the early 1990s, it was removed from the Danger List, before being reinscribed as the site became embroiled in civil war in the Congo, and the rhino population began to fall again, with only between 17 and 22 individuals alive in 2004, and the northern white rhino “threaten[ed] with extinction”.20 In 2007, no white rhino could be confirmed in the site, although there was evidence that some may still exist.21 It was also noted elephants had fallen from 15,000 to 4,000 and the Congo giraffe from 200 to less than 60.22 A similar situation, with a site being inscribed as in Danger due to poaching, occurred with Mana Pools in Zimbabwe, where its ten remaining rhinos were moved from the park to an

  1. UNEP (2006), supra note 2, at 250, 252; J Blanc et al (2007), African Elephant Status

Report 2007 (IUCN, Geneva) 21.

  1. UNESCO (2002), Periodic Report for Africa (World Heritage Reports Number 3) 50.
  2. See A Gillespie (2007), Protected Areas and International Environmental Law (Brill, Netherlands) chapter 7.
  3. UNESCO (1992), 16th Session of the WHC, WHC-92/CONF.002/12, 14 December 1992,

24; UNESCO (1993), 17th Session of the WHC, WHC-93/CONF.002/14, 4 February 1993, 16; UNESCO (2001), 25th Session of the WHC, WHC-01/CONF.208/24, Paris, 8 February 2002, 40–41.

  1. UNESCO (1984), Eighth Session of the WHC, SC/84/CONF.004/9, 2 November 1984, 12. 20 Decision 29 COM 7A.4, Rev. See also, Anon (2004), “Surge in Poaching”, New Scientist,

14 August, 5; Anon (2005), “Congo Risks Ejection”, New Scientist, 23 July, 5.

  1. See Decision 31 COM 7A.6.
  2. Decision 29 COM 7A.4, Rev.



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intensive protection zone.23 A similar dire prognosis has also been evident with the Virunga National Park and the (trans-boundary) poaching with Manovo- Gounda in the Central African Republic where heavy poaching accounted for up to 80% of the park’s wildlife.24 Within Virunga, the hippo population fell from 20,000 in 1990 to about 1,300 in 2003. In Kahuzi-Beiga, the gorilla population of 8,000 in the late 1970s has fallen by over 50%.25

Such extreme problems are not restricted to protected areas or individual ecosystems such as coastal zones or forests. Unsustainable practices, encompassing general patterns of extraction, such as that related to “bushmeat”, are also a clear and prominent concern. “Bushmeat” is the meat of the bush. The term is usually understood to refer to the meat, used for food, of any terrestrial wild animal. The meat may come from any animal, ranging from the smallest to the largest, without discrimination in terms of their conservation status. Although relatively high levels of take are possible for some species, a number of other species are genuinely threatened by overhunting. This problem is most notable on the mega fauna, such as primates. Aside from some species carrying certain health risks for those who consume them,26 in many instances, but not all,27 the extraction rates may be many times above what the harvested species can sustain.28 Accordingly, the commercial bushmeat trade is possibly, if not probably, the biggest threat to some wildlife in Africa.29 The current scale of extraction, driven by population growth, increased demand for bushmeat, and the opening up of previously inaccessible habitats (due to multiple concerns from logging to civil war), is unprecedented. Earlier studies suggested that 1.2 million metric tonnes of bushmeat (excluding elephants) were harvested in just one month in Nigeria alone. Later studies suggested five million tonnes of wild animal meat is taken, each year, from the Congo basin.30 With particular regard to primates, although Africa does not have the highest overall percentage of

  1. UNESCO (1995), 18th Session of the WHC, WHC-94/CONF.003/16, 31 January 1995,

22; UNESCO (1986), 10th Session of the WHC, CC-86/CONF.003/10, 5 December 1986,
9; UNESCO (1987), 11th Session of the WHC, CC-87/CONF.005/9, 20 January 1988, 11;

UNESCO (1987), 11th Session of the WHC, CC-87/CONF.005/9, 20 January 1988, 11.

  1. See Decision 31, COM &A.1.
  2. J Huart (2004), “Survival of the Major Natural Sites of the Democratic Republic of the Congo”, 37 World Heritage, 4–24.
  3. A Avasthi (2004), “Bush Meat Trade Breeds New HIV”, New Scientist, 7 August, 8. 27 Anon (2007), “Happy Hunting”, New Scientist, 25 August, 5.
  4. G Davies (2002), “Bushmeat and International Development”, Conservation Biology 16(3): 587–589; M Rowcliffe (2002), “Bushmeat and the Biology of Conservation”, Oryx 36(4): 331; S Ling (2002), “No New Recipes for Bushmeat”, Oryx 36(4): 330; E Bennett (2002), “Hunting the World’s Wildlife to Extinction”, Oryx 36(4): 328–329; D Draulans (1999), “Last Stand”, New Scientist, 5 June, 18.
  5. CITES (2004), Conference Resolution 13.11, Bush-meat, Preamble; FAO (2002), “Bushmeat: A Resource At Risk”, Press Release, 18 February.
  6. F Pearce (2002), “Death In the Jungle”, New Scientist, 9 March, 14.



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threatened primates, 31% of Africa’s primates are either vulnerable, endangered or threatened with extinction.31 Some African primate species are in a very precarious position. For example, in late 2007, the western lowland gorilla was moved to critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (“IUCN”) Red List due to the fact that its population had fallen 60% over the past 25 years.32

In addition to being a threat to the survival of a number of species, uncon- trolled bushmeat trade may also jeopardise the food (and in part, economic) security of a number of food-deficit local communities who depend upon the source of protein.33 However, as with many aspects of sustainability in Africa, it is important to realise that solutions do not sit nicely within domestic legislative packages, as the problems are directly tied into international frameworks. The implications of this are that in addition to the local consumption a large amount of bushmeat is also exported to developed countries.34 In 2007, with regard to just seven cities in Europe and the United States, an estimated 6,000 kilograms of bushmeat, much of it from primates, was estimated to be arriving every month.35

A very similar domestic–international context can be seen with elephants. Centuries ago, the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) inhabited, in very large numbers, most of the African continent. By the 21st century, although still occurring in 37 Range States in sub-Saharan Africa, the populations were often becoming fragmented, and small remnants and subsets of originally much bigger herds. West African elephant populations are extremely vulnerable. An estimated 90 per cent of their range has been destroyed. The detrimental impact of the loss of habitat is in addition to the illegal killing of elephants. The latter problem, most prominently manifested in the illegal trade in ivory, has continued despite over 20 years of substantive international attention. Indeed, in 2006, a WWF/TRAFFIC report stated that more than 1.5 tonnes of worked ivory products, representing the tusks of some 300 elephants, passed through Angola’s markets in the month of June in 2005.36 The extent of such illegal trade is often underestimated. Thus, DNA analysis from a cache of 532 tusks seized in Singapore in 2002 revealed that not only did they come from a different country than they assumed (Zambia) but also the killing of elephants was 30 times higher than Zambia estimated.37 Such figures appear to support the estimate

  1. R Mittermeier et al (2005), Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2004–2006 (IUCN et al, Gland).
  2. P Aldhous (2007), “Innovate or Watch Them Die”, New Scientist, 15 September, 6–8. 33 CITES (2004), Conference Resolution 13.11, Bushmeat, Preamble.
  3. S Brown (2006), “West Develops a Taste for Primates”, New Scientist, 8 July, 8.
  4. See S Begley (2007), “A Deathly Silence in the Jungle”, New Zealand Herald, B16. 36 Anon (2006), “Africa’s Back Door for Ivory”, New Scientist, 15 April, 6.

37 Anon (2007), “Tracing Poachers”, New Scientist, 3 March, 7.



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that, collectively, the illegal unregulated demand from both Asia and Africa for elephant tusks needs the tusks of about 4,000 elephants per year.38


While it is well known that Africa has many problems, it is very important to note that the region has begun to experience some major improvements of late. Its economic growth rates have already been noted. There is a downturn in civil conflicts, and export receipts have improved current account balances in many countries. Debt relief has also began to make positive impacts with a number of the poorest countries of the region. Also, many governments in the region have become more transparent, less corrupt and more democratic.

There are also some optimistic scenarios with regard to biodiversity and conservation in Africa, and it is a mistake to suggest it is all “doom and gloom”. Indeed, unlike most other parts of the world, such as Europe, North America and Southeast Asia, on the whole, via a comparative analysis, Africa’s biodiversity is still in relatively good condition.39 In addition, many areas are well managed, and in some instances, species that were once thought on the fast track to extinction are now showing signs of recovery. For example, despite the ongoing illegal trade in ivory, overall, the number of elephants in Africa has increased considerably since the early 1990s. Such growth has meant that in the period of 2002 to 2007 alone, the population of elephants increased by 66,302 (to a grand total of over 500,000).40 Likewise, although precarious in numbers, some subpopulations of mountain gorillas, when linked to strong conservation practices, have actually increased from 400 to 700 individuals.41

  1. IUCN (2006), Elephant Range States Meeting: Kuala Lumpur (IUCN/Gland) 6–7; Anon (2004), “Ivory Crackdown”, New Scientist, 27 March, 4.
  2. UNEP (2006), supra note 2, at 230.
  3. In the first objective statistical analysis of changes in elephant populations ever conducted on such a large scale, researchers went over sites that were surveyed in the late 1990s and 2002. The result was that the estimated number of elephants in Southern and Eastern Africa increased from around 283,000 to nearly 355,000. This translates to an overall growth rate of increase of about 4.5% per year. This information was fed into the African Elephant Database, which greatly contributed to the 2007 assessment, which was the fourth, of the African Elephant Specialist Group of the IUCN. This assessment suggested that, for Africa as a whole, the population had increased by 66,302 since 2002, to a total of 472,269 “definites”, 82,704 “probables”, 84,334 “possibles” and 50,364 “speculatives”. J Blanc et al (2007), African Elephant Status Report 2007 (IUCN, Geneva) 23; Anon (2005), “Elephants Beware”, New Scientist, 1 October, 5; Anon (2005), “Substantial Increases in Major Southern and Eastern Africa Savannah Elephant Populations”, SPECIES 44: 29.
  4. Anon (2004), “Apes’ Ray of Hope”, New Scientist, 17 January, 9; Anon (2004), “Settlers In Their Midst”, New Scientist, 10 July, 4.



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The one thing there is no shortage of in Africa is regional and international laws and policies designed to manage the natural environment. Africa has one of the oldest, and currently, most comprehensive, regional legal regimes for environmental protection, and typically, quite unified views (courtesy of the long-standing African Ministerial Conference on the Environment)42 of their distinctive position and needs in international environmental law.43 It is a noticeable trait about African conservation policies, that their international efforts are often complemented by distinctive regional instruments. This approach ranges from the trade in toxic waste44 right through to instruments which are international in range, but clearly focused upon the particular needs of Africa, such as with desertification.45

This trend of apparently comprehensive coverage is also evident with the conservation of biological resources. With regard to protected areas, in addition to being long-established signatories to the World Heritage Convention46 and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance,47 African countries possess a sequence of regional treaties for the creation and enhancement of protected areas which date back to 1900.48 Likewise, many countries in the region, such as Ethiopia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania, have been implementing species conservation policies for well over 50 years.49

The original Convention Designed to Ensure the Conservation of Various Species of Wild Animals in Africa of 1900 was renegotiated in 1933, and then again in 195050 when the IUCN argued there was a need for new international

  1. UNEP (2006), History of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment: 1985– 2005 (UNEP, Nairobi).
  2. IUCN (1984), Resolution 7, Support for Conservation in Africa (16th General Assembly, Madrid).
  3. See the Bamako Convention On The Ban Of The Import Into Africa and the Control of Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within Africa (1991) BH984.txt.
  4. United Nations Convention To Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought And/Or Desertification, Particularly In Africa, A/AC.241/27, 12 September 1994.
  5. Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972) BH605. txt.
  6. The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (1971) 996 UNTS 245; 11 ILM

(1972) 963.

  1. 1900 Convention Designed to Ensure the Conservation of Various Species of Wild Animals in Africa, IPE, IV, 1605.
  2. See UNDP (2000), Capacity Development Initiative: Regional Report for Africa (UNDP, Geneva) 10.
  3. IUCN, Resolution Number 58, Africa, Second General Assembly, 1950, Brussels.



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agreements for nature conservation in Africa. Revamped treaties followed with the 1968 African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources,51 and again in 2003 with a successor (not yet in force) treaty to the 1968 Convention.52 In addition, some regions of Africa, such as that in the East, have developed specific protocols concerning protected areas.53

Africa is also relatively well endowed with laws and policies designed to protect its regional seas. In particular, building on UNEP’s Regional Seas Programme,54 Africa possesses regimes for the North, 55 East,56 and West Africa. The last regime is encapsulated in the 1981 Convention for Co-operation of the West and Central Africa Region (“the Abidjan Convention”).57

With regard to wildlife conservation and international law, most African countries are Party to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity,58 and the 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (“CITES”).59 In addition to having a strong representation within CITES, the Parties to the convention have also created a series of work programmes which are largely (but not exclusively) directed at Africa. The best examples of this are the Monitoring of the Illegal Killing of Elephants (“MIKE”) and the Elephant Trade Information System (“ETIS”).60 In addition, to help with the compliance of CITES and related problems with regard to the illegal trade in wildlife, Africa has produced the 1994 Lusaka Agreement on Co- Operative Enforcement Operations Directed at Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora, and the 1999 Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement.61 African countries are also relatively well entrenched62 in the 1979 Convention

51 (1968) 1001 UNTS 3.

  1. The 2003 African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. This was signed in Maputo, 11 July 2003.
  2. Protocol Concerning Protected Areas of Wild Fauna and Flora in the Eastern African Region. Reprinted in A Austen (ed), Basic Legal Documents on International Animal Welfare and Wildlife Conservation (Kluwer, London) 186.
  3. UNEP (1999), Second Global Meeting of Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans, The Hague, 5–8 July, paras 118–119. Available from the UNEP Regional Seas Programme.
  4. Kuwait Regional Convention for Co-operation on the Protection of the Marine Environment from Pollution, in UNEP (1983), Selected Multilateral Treaties in the Field of the Environment (ed A Kiss, UNEP, Nairobi) 144.
  5. The 1985 Convention for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Eastern African Region (Nairobi Convention), in UNEP (1991), ibid, at 32.
  6. 1981 Convention for Co-operation in the Protection and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the West and Central African Region, in UNEP (1991), ibid, at 118.
  7. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (1992), 31 ILM (1992) 818.

59 TIAS, No 8249; 12 ILM 1085.

  1. Conf 10.10 (Rev CoP12), Trade in elephant specimens.
  2. This is a protocol to the 1992 Southern African Development Community Treaty.
  3. Only eight countries are non-signatories to the CMS. These include Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Malawai, Ethiopia, Gabon and Sierra Leone.



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on Migratory Species (“CMS”).63 In addition to being signatories to the CMS, a number of them64 are also signatories to the subsidiary CMS arrangements which are applicable to the region, such as the 1995 African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (“AEWA”).65 The CMS is also currently exploring the possibilities of further arrangements for gorillas, as well as cetaceans and their habitats for West Africa.


As the above pages have hoped to show, the situation in Africa is unique. It faces challenges unlike anywhere else on the planet. From combating poverty and achieving sustainability, right through to a myriad of international and regional laws and policies, the continent is at a cross-road. This means that Africa has had to develop its own strategy to confront the unique difficulties it faces. The core of this strategy is the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (“NEPAD”).66 The NEPAD, which was built on the work of five prominent Heads of State in Africa, was adopted at the 37th Summit of the Organisation of African Unity in 2001. Since this point, the NEPAD has been formally supported by the Commission for Africa,67 the World Summit on Sustainable Development (“WSSD”),68 and the Global Environment Facility (“GEF”).69 In addition, individual conservation agreements, such as the new CMS Agreement on the conservation of the elephant in West Africa, aim to be in accordance with the NEPAD.70

The primary objectives of the NEPAD are to reduce poverty, achieve sustainable growth and development, halt the marginalisation of Africa in the globalisation process, and accelerate the empowerment of women. The principles behind the objectives are good governance (especially in terms of peace, democracy, and anti-corruption), African ownership, partnership and

  1. Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, 19 ILM (1980) 15, BH752.txt.
  2. Algeria, Benin, Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia and Uganda.
  3. The African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement is reprinted in A Austen (ed), Basic Legal Documents on International Animal Welfare and Wildlife Conservation (Kluwer, London) 617.
  4. See <> .
  5. Commission for Africa (2005), supra note 5, at 3. 68 Para 56, WSSD, Plan of Implementation.
  6. GEF (2006), GEF in Africa (GEF, Washington); GEF (2007), Sub Regional Workshop for GEF Focal Points in West and Central Africa (GEF, Washington) 1.
  7. Preamble of the West African Elephants MoU.



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leadership (as well as broad and deep participation by all sectors of society), and linkage to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals and other agreed development goals and targets which are Africa-specific. These principles have been applied to a large variety of areas, from trade to technology, and “the environment” is only a small subset within this African setting. Nevertheless, the environmental initiative, with its eight sub-themes,71 represents a broad, overall strategy designed to address the region’s environmental challenges, while at the same time combating poverty and promoting socio-economic development. This point is very important, as it is essential to realise that Africa has vast problems to overcome and challenges to rise up to, and environmental protection is often deemed only one of the lesser priorities. Moreover, when environmental protection is engaged with, the emphases within conservation to Africa are often very different to the way that conservation is interpreted and applied in other parts of the world.

Guidance on how to apply the NEPAD principles to conservation concerns, and place them in their appropriate context, appeared at the 2002 WSSD. Due to the multitude of issues that have to be traversed for Africa to achieve a sustainable future, the WSSD produced a large amount of recommendations on topics which range from health care and affordable medicines, through to conflict resolution, afforestation, climate change, land tenure, and marine coastal habitats.72 This meant that important topics such as the conservation of biodiversity were restricted to relatively small space. Nevertheless, paragraph 59(e) stipulated that all countries would:

Support the conservation of Africa’s biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources, in accordance with commitments that countries have under biodiversity-related agreements to which they are parties, including such agreements as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, as well as regional biodiversity agreements.

  1. Combating desertification, wetland conservation, combating invasive alien species, sustain- able coastal management, adaptation to global warming, the facilitation of more cross- border conservation areas, enhanced environmental governance, and a carefully structured and fair system for financing is required.
  2. With regard to coastal regions, in para 56(i) the signatories to the Plan agreed to: “Develop projects, programmes and partnerships with relevant stakeholders and mobilize resources for the effective implementation of the outcome of the African Process for the Protection and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment.”



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There are three key parts to this paragraph:

  1. African biodiversity is for sustainable use.
  2. The benefits received are to be fairly and equitably shared. In this con- text, access and benefit sharing is closely linked to poverty reduction.
  3. Africa is committed to international processes, but these shall be sup- plemented by regional agreements.

In addition to these three points, two further generic considerations are apparent from the WSSD, and these also need to be factored into any conservation strategies in Africa. The first of these is with regard to the importance of financial assistance. The second is with regard to capacity building.73


The term “sustainable use” is one of the most fought-over terms within international environmental law. Within international laws on wildlife, the term can be traced to the IUCN in the early 1990s, from which, over successive years,74 the idea, which has been under close examination of numerous international environmental treaties — such as the CITES, CMS and the Seed Treaty75 — became one of the thematic areas of the Convention on Biological Diversity (“CBD”). According to the CBD, “sustainable use” means the use of components76 of biological diversity in a way and at a rate that does not lead to the long-term77 decline78 of biological diversity, thereby maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of present and future generations.79 Notably, within the CBD, “use” is understood to be both consumptive and non-consumptive, with no presumption over which, if any, is better. Rather, there is the recognition that both types of use, if badly regulated, may lead to

  1. Para 56(h), WSSD, Plan of Implementation.
  2. IUCN (1990), Resolution 24, Conservation of Wildlife Through Wise Use as a Natural Resource (18th General Assembly, Perth); J Hutton (2004), “Sustainable Use”, SPECIES 42: 114.
  3. See Art 6 of the Seed Treaty.
  4. “Components” covers genetic material, populations, species, communities, ecosystems and habitats.
  5. “Long-term decline” refers to a time period linked to the life history of the biodiversity concerned. Given that future generations have to be considered, the guidelines suggested that for management purposes, long terms means up to five human generations or 100 years.
  6. “Decline”, in any of the components, refers to a measurable reduction of the component in question.
  7. CBD, Art 1, Definitions.



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unsustainable conclusions. To achieve the goal of sustainable use, Article 10 of the CBD stipulates that each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate:

(a) Integrate consideration of the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources into national decision-making;

(b) Adopt measures relating to the use of biological resources to avoid or minimize adverse impacts on biological diversity;

(c) Protect and encourage customary use of biological resources in accordance with traditional cultural practices that are compatible with conservation or sustainable use requirements;

(d) Support local populations to develop and implement remedial action in degraded areas where biological diversity has been reduced; and

(e) Encourage cooperation between its governmental authorities and its private sector in developing methods for sustainable use of biological resources.

The Parties to the CBD have supplemented this obligation with some elaborated principles. These were synthesised in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) in 2003, and are now known as the Addis Ababa Sustainable Use Principles.80 All of the 14 principles81 are particularly applicable to the African context.

  1. Recommendation VII/4, Progress Report in the Development of Practical Principles, Operational Guidance and Associated Instruments on Sustainable Use, UNEP/CBD/ COP/6/4, 32.
  2. The fourteen principles, which I have elaborated below with the help of the official supporting explanations, are as follows:
    1. Supportive policies, laws, and institutions are in place at all levels of governance and there are effective (and supportive) linkages (especially between the local, national and international levels) between these levels.
    2. Recognising the need for a governing framework consistent with international/national laws, whereby local users (including indigenous peoples) of biodiversity components are sufficiently empowered and supported by rights to be responsible and accountable for use of the resources concerned (because sustainability is generally enhanced if governments recognise and respect the “rights” or “stewardship” authority, responsibility and accountability to the people who use and manage the resource).
    3. International and national policies, laws and regulations that distort markets which contribute to habitat degradation or otherwise generate perverse incentives (such as subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and to overcapacity) that lead to market distortions and undermine conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, should be identified and removed or mitigated.
    4. Adaptive management, whereby policies and management can change to achieve sustainability, as needed, should be practised, based on:
      (a) Science and traditional and local knowledge;

      (b) Iterative, timely and transparent feedback derived from monitoring the use, environmental, socio-economic impacts, and the status of the resource being used; and



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However, one, above all others, is worthy of particular examination. This is the issue of consumptive, or non-consumptive, use of biodiversity. Although

(c) Adjusting management based on timely feedback from the monitoring procedures.

  1. Sustainable use (consumptive or non-consumptive) management goals and practices should avoid or minimize adverse impacts on ecosystem services, structure and functions as well as other components of ecosystems. Thus, with any resource there is a need to take into account the functions that resource may fulfil within the ecosystem (both individually and cumulatively) in which it occurs before it is substantively disturbed (such as with the problem of bycatch and fisheries). The goal is that any use does not impair the long-term sustainability of an associated resource by negatively impacting the ecosystem and species on which the use depends. This goal is to be done, in conjunction with the precautionary approach, as set down in Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration.
  2. Interdisciplinary research, based on the best information (including indigenous) available, into all aspects of the sustainable (consumptive and non-consumptive) use and conservation of biological diversity should be promoted and supported.
  3. The spatial and temporal scale of management should be compatible with the ecological and socio-economic (including public participation) and legal scales of the use and its impact.
  4. There should be arrangements for international co-operation where multinational decision-making and co-ordination are needed, for biodiversity considerations of a transboundary nature.
  5. An interdisciplinary, participatory approach, including indigenous and local com- munities and other relevant stakeholders, as well as the private sector, should be applied at the appropriate levels of management and governance related to the use.
  6. International and national policies should take into account, current and potential values (total economic values, and, inter alia, full ecological values) derived from the use of biological diversity; intrinsic and other non-economic values of biological diversity and market forces (which may not always be effective in achieving sustainability) affecting the values and use.
  7. Users of biodiversity components should seek to minimize waste and adverse environmental impact and optimize benefits from uses. Thus, efficiencies should be pursued, along with the establishment of agreed industry and third-party quality standards of biodiversity component processing and management at the international and national levels. Finally, Parties should promote more efficient, ethical and humane use of components of biodiversity, within local and national contexts, and reduce collateral damage to biodiversity.
  8. The needs of indigenous and local communities who live with and are affected by the use and conservation of biological diversity, along with their contributions to its conservation and sustainable use, should be reflected in the equitable distribution of the benefits (both monetary and non-monetary) from the use of those resources.
  9. The costs of management and conservation of biological diversity should be internalized (and this should be encouraged) within the area of management and reflected in the distribution of the benefits from the use. Such benefits should, where possible, be utilized at the area where the benefits were created.
  10. Education and public awareness programmes on conservation and sustainable use should be implemented and more effective methods of communications should be developed between and among stakeholders and managers.



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the CBD principles, like the IUCN guidelines before them, are clear that there is no preference of whether a use of wildlife should be consumptive or non- consumptive, in Africa, there is, aside from a few selective countries on a few specific issues (such as Kenya and elephant conservation) — as a generalisation

— a tendency towards the acceptability of (sustainable) consumptive use. Indeed, with all but the most extreme cases of bushmeat, the primary quest is for sustainability, not preservation.82 Likewise, with the AEWA, the guiding principle (aside the Addis Ababa Guidelines)83 is that, “any taking of migratory waterbirds must be conducted on a sustainable basis, taking into account the conservation status of the species concerned over their entire range as well as their biological characteristics”.84 Thus, consumptive use of the migratory waterbirds is only disapproved of when they do not have a favourable conservation status, and especially so if they have a threatened status.85


Economic poverty is commonly recognised as one of the driving reasons for the destruction of local ecosystems. Accordingly, it is a well accepted principle in international law in general, and international environmental law in particular, that extreme poverty must be combated if any form of meaningful sustainable development is to be achieved.86 This need to combat poverty, so as to achieve sustainable development, is well recognised within the current initiatives which aim to achieve sustainability for Africa.87

Due to the fact that it is not possible to instantaneously end poverty, it becomes necessary to prioritise particular groups through which the highest results can be achieved. In the context of environmental thinking at the international level, this means that local communities which surround, and often interact with, the environment or species that are to be protected should be, as much as possible, fully integrated with its management and benefit from its conservation. Such benefits may be through access and benefit sharing, or through equitable distribution of the fruits of conservation. In the context

  1. S Raven (2002), Assessment of the solution-orientated research needed to promote a more sustainable bushmeat trade in Central and West Africa (DEFRA, London).
  2. Resolution 3.19, Implementing the Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines (MOP 3, 2005, AEWA).
  3. AEWA, Preamble.
  4. AEWA, Art III.1.
  5. A Gillespie (2001), The Illusion of Progress: Unsustainable Development in International Law (Earthscan, London) chapter 1.
  6. UNEP (2006), supra note 2, at 185; GEF (2000), supra note 3, at 8; Commission for Africa

(2005), supra note 5, at 18.



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of conservation, it is more a question of equitable distribution, rather than access and benefit sharing which, despite being of great concern in Africa,88 is increasingly viewed with regard to the discovery via traditional knowledge of benefits of natural products or processes which can be patented and sold.89

“Popular participation”, in addition to a number of adjunct consid- erations such as education and communication about conservation issues,90 as a necessary ingredient of sustainable development was first clearly iterated in a number of important international documents leading up to the 1992 Earth Summit,91 and then at Rio itself, where Principle 10 of the Declaration emphasised that “environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant levels”.92 This type of perspective was reinforced by international commissions93 during the 1990s before the 2002 WSSD which noted that, “good governance within each country and at the international level is essential for sustainable development”.94 Popular participation is the foundation of good governance.

In addition to the theme of popular participation, an equally notable prin- ciple, if the goal is to conserve biodiversity, is the preservation of knowledge, innovations, and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. This principle was iterated at the WSSD,95 following the adoption of it in the CBD,96 and its subsequent thematic work.97

  1. For example, Hoodia gordonii is a cactus plant found in Southern Africa, of long usage of the San people of the Kalahari to stave off hunger during long hunting trips. The South African Council on Scientific and Industrial Research identified the P57 substance in the plant, a group of steroidal glycosides, which is an active appetite suppressant. This was patented in Europe in 2005. After protracted negotiations, spanning more than three years, a benefit sharing agreement was reached in 2004 between the research institute and the San people. The research institute will pay the San 8% of milestone payments made by its licensee during the drug’s clinical development. When it is marketed, the San will earn 6% of all royalties. UNEP (2006), supra note 2, at 40; GEF (2000), supra note 3, at 10–11.
  2. See A Gillespie (forthcoming), Biodiversity and Wildlife in International Law. 90 See Art 13 of the CBD.
  3. See for example IUCN, World Conservation Strategy for the 1990s (IUCN, Gland, 1990) 137, 138, 156–157.
  4. The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992), UNCED Doc A, CONF.151/5/Rev/1. See also Chapters 3, 11 & 14 of Agenda 21 (1992), UNCED Doc A, CONF.151/4.
  5. See the Commission on Global Governance, Our Global Neighbourhood (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1995) 35–37, 65–67.
  6. Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002), A/ CONF.199/L.1, para 4.
  7. See the WSSD Plan of Implementation, para 44, ss J, L & H. 96 CBD, Art 8( j); see also 10(c).

97 For some of the primary decisions in this area, see Decision III/14, Implementation of Art 8( j), UNEP/CBD/COP/3/38, 90; Decision IV/9, Implementation of Art 8( j), UNEP/CBD/



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The ideals of meaningful popular participation, and the active involvement of indigenous and/or local peoples, and the conservation of biodiversity all coincide with the creation and management of protected areas and/or species management.98 Although the linkages between local people, biodiversity, and protected areas are multifarious, the core idea is that protected areas or species conservation, created or attempted in isolation of local populations in terms of their values, participation, or sharing of benefits, risks failure. Thus, as the former Director of the World Heritage Convention stated:99

[W]ithout the understanding and support of the public at large, without the respect and daily care of the local communities, which are the true custodians of World Heritage, no amount of funds or army of experts will suffice in protecting the sites.

The justification for this is not merely philanthropic. It is also self-interested, in that one of the most important (but by no means definitive) factors for the long-term success of a conservation policy is having the buy-in of affected indigenous/traditional and/or local populations.100

Other examples of failure include when the local/traditional and/or indigenous peoples have been excluded from the protected site or benefiting from the conservation of species, or the site or the protected species ends up creating costs for the local communities. Instances of such costs involve, inter alia, damage caused by non-human species within the protected area to their crops or livelihoods, and/or threats to them or their families, and/or not sharing

COP/4/27, 111; Decision V/16, Art 8( j) and Related Provisions, UNEP/CBD/COP/5/23, 139; Decision VI/10, Art 8( j) and Related Provisions, UNEP/CBD/COP/6/20, 151; Decision VII/16, Art 8( j) and Related Provisions, UNEP/CBD/COP/7/WG2/CRP3, 25.

  1. See G Borrini-Feyerabend (2004), Indigenous and Local Communities and Protected Areas (IUCN, Gland).
  2. UNESCO (1999), 12th General Assembly of the World Heritage Convention, WHC-99/ CONF.206/7, 8 November 1999, 4. For further comments on this point, see also UNESCO (1998), 22nd Session of the WHC, WHC-98/CONF.203/18, 29 January 1999, 10; UNESCO

(1996), 19th Session of the WHC, WHC-95/CONF.203/16, 31 January 1996, 63; UNESCO

(1993), 17th Session of the WHC, WHC-93/CONF.002/14, 4 February 1993, 45; UNESCO (1999), Second World Heritage Global Strategy Meeting for the Pacific Islands Region, August 2000.

  1. IUCN (2004), Speaking A Common Language (IUCN, Gland) 133. It is important to note that local and community support is not a lone guarantor of conservation success for all protected areas. Indeed, a number of protected areas which have tried to blend conservation and development have failed from a conservation point of view. J Rangerson (2005), “Biodiversity Golden Rules Do Not Work”, New Scientist, 5 February, 11; J Hackel (1999), “Community Conservation and the Future of Africa’s Wildlife”, Conservation Biology 13: 726–734; G Robinson (2004), “Parks, People and Pipelines”, Conservation Biology 18(3): 607–608.



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equitably the benefits of the natural resource. All of these problems are well recorded in Africa.101

Due to such problems, it has been commonly iterated that indigenous and/or local populations should be directly, and meaningfully, included and “participate”102 in all important decisions and outcomes. This is especially so in terms of equitable sharing, related to protected areas and/or species conservation.103 This theme, which has become increasingly loud (especially on the indigenous peoples’ question), is a relatively new development. It is possible to suggest there has been a substantive change in this area, with the importance of local and/or indigenous values gaining a currency in the new century that was practically unthinkable in the earlier one. This is particularly so in Africa, where the earlier thinking on conservation was very much focused about excluding people from protected areas and threatened species. Thus, nature was to be kept “wild” with minimal human interference.104 Such changes are evidenced by the large differences on this question between the earlier African Conventions for protected areas and endangered species105 and then the paradigm shift with the 2003 Convention106 and additional regional protocols. For example, the East Africa Protocol provided that:107

The Contracting Parties shall, in promulgating protective measures, take into account the traditional activities of their local populations in the areas to be protected. To the fullest extent possible, no exemption which is allowed for this reason shall be such as,

(a) To endanger the maintenance of the ecosystem protected under the terms

  1. R Neumann (1998), Imposing Wilderness: Struggles Over Livelihood and Nature Preservation in Africa (University of California Press, Berkeley); W Adams (2001), “If Community Conservation is the Answer in Africa, What is the Question ?”, Oryx 35(3): 193–200.
  2. The spectrum of what is “participate” is wide. See IUCN (2003), Guidelines for Management Planning of Protected Areas (IUCN, Gland) 57–61.
  3. Secretariat of the CBD (2004), Biodiversity Issues for Consideration in the Planning, Establishment and Management of Protected Area Sites and Management (CBD Technical Series No 15) 94–111, 148–155.
  4. See A Gillespie (2007), supra note 17, at chapters 4, 5 & 6.
  5. The 1968 Convention placed an emphasis on the best interests of the people, whilst seeking to reconcile customary rights. African Convention (1968), Preamble, Arts II and XI.
  6. The 2003 African Convention emphasised the active participation by the local communities, protection, and authorised utilisation of indigenous and/or traditional knowledge, and access and benefit sharing for these peoples. 2003 African Convention, Art XVII(1) to (3); Art 9(2)(h) & ( j); and Art XII(3).
  7. Protocol Concerning Protected Areas of Wild Fauna and Flora in the Eastern African Region. Reprinted in A Austen (ed), Basic Legal Documents on International Animal Welfare and Wildlife Conservation (Kluwer, London) Art 12.



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of the present Protocol or the biological processes contributing to the maintenance of those ecosystems.

(b) To cause either the extinction of, or any substantial reduction in, the num- ber of individuals making up the species of animal and plant populations within the protected ecosystems, or any ecologically connected species or populations, particularly migratory, endemic, rare, depleted, threatened or endangered species.

The importance of active, and ecologically sustainable, participation of local, traditional, and/or indigenous peoples is now recognised in a multitude of international laws and policies dealing with protected areas and species management.108 For example, with the GEF, by 2005, US$6 million had been invested in participatory planning processes involving local and national stakeholders in more than 100 community-based protected area initiatives.109 The GEF also has 137 projects, focused on engaging the public (and NGO involvement in particular), covering 751 protected areas,110 as well as supporting the involvement of indigenous communities in protected areas, from traditional knowledge to modern management initiatives.111

The importance of popular participations is also evident with key regimes such as the World Heritage Convention,112 which had dealt with the topic a number of times when dealing with Africa, and the need for local communities to reap benefits from the conservation of natural resources.113 In some instances, such as with the Virunga in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Committee of the World Heritage Convention has urged, inter alia, that the State Party “develop a strategy to share any profits, such as from tourism related to gorillas, with the local communities, in order to improve relations”.114 In other instances, such as with the Masai in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania, the Committee emphasised the need for a management regime which shared tourist revenues, which will in turn ensure conservation of the natural environment and the welfare of the Masai people.115

  1. See A Gillespie (2007), supra note 17, at chapter 7; A Gillespie (2005), Whaling Diplomacy

(Edward Elgar, London) chapter 8.

  1. GEF (2005), Making a Visible Difference in Our World (GEF, Washington) 7; GEF (2005), People and Protected Areas (GEF, Washington) 1.
  2. GEF (2005), Making a Visible Difference in Our World (GEF, Washington) 17. 111 Ibid, at 18.
  3. See Proposal For A “Fifth C” to be Added to the Strategic Objectives, WHC-07/31.

COM/13B. Also, 31 COM 13B.

  1. UNESCO (2005), Assessment and Conclusion of the Kazan Meeting, WHC-05/29, COM/9, ss 19(g) & 20(c).
  2. See Decision 30 COM 7A.7.
  3. UNESCO (1995), 18th Session of the WHC, WHC-94/CONF.003/16, 31 January 1995, 21.



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The specific importance of international financial assistance to help solve environmental problems first appeared in international forums in 1970,116 and has been repeated consistently since this point by influential international groups such as the IUCN,117 and international meetings such as the 1992 Earth Summit118 and the 2002 WSSD. This need for additional financial assistance for conservation purposes is particularly heightened in Africa.119 The focus upon Africa is because of the axiomatic reason that Africa can often not financially support its own conservation goals. For example, over US$250 million is contributed each year, from external sources, to the running of a number of Africa’s protected areas.120 Such needs for external assistance are also mirrored with regard to general conservation objectives. Thus, assessments conducted in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania show that each of these countries has allocated and/or spends less than 2% of its annual expenditure directly on biodiversity management. Thus, more than 90% of funding for biodiversity projects comes from bilateral or multilateral donors.121

This pattern of external assistance from bilateral, multilateral and non- governmental organisations also replicated within some of the big conservation projects, such as those connected to the CITES, with regard to elephants (and the MIKE and ETIS projects) or the great apes. Although in these instances there is a constant worry about not having sufficient funding to fully carry out their objectives,122 on the whole, they receive what they need to function. However, when compared to the independently (African) funded Lusaka Agreement, or the newly created African Fund for World Heritage, the CITES examples are relatively successful. That is, with the Lusaka Agreement, despite intending to be self-funding,123 the Agreement has been fundamentally hamstrung by

  1. See points 7 & 8 of Development and Environment, UNGA Res 2849 (XXVI), 7 December


  1. IUCN (1981), Resolution 5, Development Assistance (15th General Assembly, Christchurch); IUCN (1984), Development Assistance, Institutions and Conservation (16th General Assembly, Madrid); IUCN (1988), Resolution 31, Development Assistance (17th General Assembly, Costa Rica); and Resolution 32, Development Aid and Conservation Programmes (17th General Assembly, Costa Rica).
  2. Principle 7 of the Rio Declaration 1992, UNCED, UN Doc A/CONF.151/5. 119 Commission for Africa (2005), supra note 5, at 18.
    1. UNESCO (2002), supra note 16, at 42; GEF (2005), Making a Visible Difference in Our

World (GEF, Washington) 29; UNEP (2006), supra note 2, at 240.

  1. See UNDP (2000), supra note 49, at 30.
  2. CITES (2004), Monitoring of Illegal Hunting of Elephants in Range States, CoP13, Doc

29.3. Also, CITES (2002), Conservation of Elephants and Trade in Elephant Specimens, CoP12, Doc 34.2.

  1. Decision I/4, Budget for the Task Force For Its First Year of Operation; Decision II/3, Budget for the Task Force and Contributions from the Parties; Decision III/4, Budget for the



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a lack of adequate financial resources due to non-payment of contributions. Indeed, between 1999 and 2004, it typically only received a third of its agreed budget, and it only survived because of outside contributions from UNEP and generous European governments.124 Even after its revitalisation in 2005, with its revitalised goal of establishing a sustainable funding basis for the regime,125 problems of non-payment have persisted.126 Likewise, with the recently created 2006 World Heritage for Africa, which is meant to enable Africa “to take a lead in resolving challenges facing the continent” with regard to heritage,127 despite some notable pledges from a number of non-African countries, the total pledged or contributed to date (US$4.7 million) is less than half of what is believed necessary for the fund to become operational.128

Part of the solution to such problems of finding the additional funding, and a mechanism through which to run it, is the GEF. Since 1991, the GEF has provided grants under its six thematic areas129 for more than 1,300 projects in 140 countries. Africa has been a primary recipient of this assistance, and as of 2007 the GEF had either completed, or has ongoing, a total of 550 projects in Africa receiving $1.49 billion in grants and $4.53 billion in co- financing.130 Although a certain amount of this assistance has gone to helping African countries meet their commitments under international environmental conventions,131 a very large amount is committed to “concrete” projects. For example, 37% of all of Africa’s protected areas receive GEF assistance.132 A number of individual countries are becoming quite skilled at accessing the GEF.133 For example, Namibia is currently implementing 8 GEF-supported

Task Force and Contributions from the Parties; Decision IV/3, Budget and Programme of Work; Decision V/1, Task Force Work Programme and Budget.

  1. Decision I/5, Extrabudgetary Resources; Decision II/7, Cooperation With the CITES; Decision I/3, Cooperation With the UNEP; Decision III/3, Collaboration With UNEP and Other Donors; Decision VI/3, Budget and Programme of Work; E Maruma (2006), “Fighting Wild Fauna and Flora Crime”, Environmental Policy and the Law 36(1): 35–41; Decision VII/1, Evaluation Report of the Lusaka Agreement.
  2. Lusaka Agreement (2005), Task Force: Strategic Plan, 2005–2015, Strategic Objective 2. 126 Decision VIII/3, Financial Strategy.
  3. African Heritage (2006), The African World Heritage Fund: Donors Conference and Launch (UNESCO, Paris) 3.
  4. UNESCO (2007), Progress Report on the African World Heritage Fund, WHC-07/31, COM/INF.5C.
  5. Biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants (“POPs”).
  6. GEF (2006), GEF in Africa (GEF, Washington).
  7. GEF (2007), West and Central Africa, supra note 69; Sub Regional Workshop for GEF Focal Points in East and Southern Africa (GEF, Washington) 4–5.
  8. GEF (2005), Making a Visible Difference in Our World (GEF, Washington) 3, 9. 133 GEF (2007), East and Southern Africa, supra note 131, at 6.



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projects.134 Whilst some of the GEF projects are purely domestic in focus, the majority are strongly linked into regional and global initiatives.135 For example, one project in West Africa, to the value of over US$30 million, involves 16 countries, focused on the conservation of the shared coastal region, within the context of the 1984 Abidjan Convention on Co-operation for the Protection and Development of the Marine and Coastal Zones of West and Central Africa.136


Capacity is the ability of an individual, institution, or society as a whole, to identify and solve problems. Capacity is about the skills and/or expertise required to solve a problem; the institutions that can facilitate that person to solve the problem; and the overall context of the institution and its aims, within the society that helps mobilise and facilitate the individuals and the institutions

  1. Ibid.
  2. For example, over the last decade, the countries in West Africa have acquired the following projects from the GEF. Angola, 1 single (domestic) project and 9 global and/or regional projects (to a total of 0.3 and 64.9 million); Benin, 13 national, 16 regional/global projects (22.3 and 227.7 million); Cameroon, 11 domestic, 20 regional/global projects (28.3 and

149.2 million); Congo, 9 single and 23 regional/global projects (15.5 and 117.1 million); Cote d’Ivoire, 12 domestic and 17 regional and global projects (26.7 and 115.3 million); Equatorial Guinea, 2 national, 4 regional projects (0.5 and 26.9 million); Gabon, 8 national, 6 global/regional projects (12.5 and 59.3 million); Ghana, 15 domestic, 25 regional/global projects (46.9 and 254.3 million); Guinea, 13 domestic, 41 regional/global projects (24.5 and 208.3 million); Liberia, 6 domestic and 2 regional projects (2.8 and 22.1 million); Mauritania, 12 domestic and 11 regional and global projects (12.9 and 189.0 million); Nigeria, 8 single, 18 regional and global projects (45.9 and 250.1 million); Senegal, 13 domestic and 23 regional and global projects (28.7 and 251.0 million); Sao Tome, 5 domestic, 1 regional, and 1 global projects (1.3 and 21.6 million); Sierra Leone, 6 domestic and four regional projects (6.7 and 38.2 million); Togo, 7 domestic and 8 regional/global projects (2.7 and 190.6 million). All of these figures are from the GEF website. See also, GEF (2007), West and Central Africa, supra note 69, at 11.

136 In 2003 the GEF approved a very large project to support 16 West African countries (Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, and Togo) in creating and implementing a programme to protect a shared natural resource. This is known as the Guinea Current Large Marine Ecosystem. The Guinea Current Large Marine Ecosystem is ranked among the world’s most productive coastal and offshore waters in the world, and represents a major source of food and other economic assets for West African coastal countries. The project is implemented by the UNDP, UNEP and UNIDO. The $21.45 million GEF grant has leveraged $33.87 million in co-financing from other sources, including each of the 16 developing countries involved in the project. See GEF (2003), News Release: GEF Grant Supports Plan to Protect West African Waters (GEF, Washington, 21 November).



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in a form of national capacity that is politically and socially supportive.137 This matrix of capacity can then be overlaid with the needs in any particular instance, and the capacity that each country needs can then be gauged. Unfortunately for Africa, the capacity gaps in many areas, including economic and social capacity, and not just environmental, are large. This weakness is so great that it has been identified as one of the key reasons why Africa has failed to perform in the past.138 Accordingly, capacity building is one of the overriding themes for sustainable development for Africa.139 With regard to the conservation of biodiversity and wildlife, though, there are a large number of areas where Africa lacks capacity.140 Two areas are particularly notable. These are with regards to basic science and compliance.

10.1 Basic Science

Arguably, the foremost issue for conservation in Africa is discovering clear knowledge and information of the status and trends of its biodiversity. In many African countries there is scarce information on the nature of the biodiversity that exists within its borders.141 Although most of the world’s large and big species were discovered before 1900 (although occasionally new ones, such as a lemur in Madagascar, were discovered in the 21st century), there are still large gaps with regards to plants, invertebrates, and smaller vertebrates. Even if it is known what species exist, their exact conservation status is often unknown. Although this problem is deeply entrenched in Africa, it is not unique to this region.142 Accordingly, the international community has, since 1968, been aware of the “taxonomic impediment” to the sound management of biodiversity.143 Nevertheless, it was not until 1992 that the need to address this gap became a key theme for the Earth Summit,144 the resultant CBD,145 and its subsequent

  1. See UNDP (2000), supra note 49, at 2–5.
  2. Commission for Africa (2005), supra note 5, at 14.
  3. UNEP (2003), supra note 10, Annex 1, A Strategic Plan to Build Africa’s Capacity to Implement Global and Regional Environmental Conventions, at 49–57; GEF (2003), Strategic Approach to Enhance Capacity Building (GEF, Washington); GEF (2007), West and Central Africa, supra note 69, at 6.
  4. See UNDP (2000), supra note 49, at 26–28.
  5. See UNDP (2000), ibid, at 10.
  6. B Holmes (1994), “Naming The World’s Species is Essential”, New Scientist, 5 March, 12. 143 UNESCO (1968), Use and Conservation of the Biosphere (UNESCO, Paris) 227.
  7. Anon (1992), “Britain Clashes With US Over Survival of the Species”, New Scientist, 20 June, 6.
  8. The Parties to the CBD committed themselves to “identify components of biological diversity important for its conservation and sustainable use having regard to ecosystems and habitats, species and communities which are threatened or of value, and genomes and genes of social, scientific or economic importance”. Moreover, this material should be maintained and organised. Art 7.



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(and ongoing) Global Taxonomy Initiative,146 which was, in turn, endorsed at the 2002 WSSD.147

In recognition of such needs, a number of regional agreements and arrangements for Africa have “gone back to basics” with regard to establishing fundamental baselines from which conservation objectives can be created and measured. This need is clearly recognised with the problem of bushmeat,148 and the conservation of migratory waterbirds through the AEWA. With the latter, the need for fundamental research on the status, location, and threats to the species under their purview, which is harmonised, co-operative, and shared, is a core of the Agreement.149

Although the bushmeat and AEWA projects are notable in this area, the most prominent examples in Africa are the MIKE and the ETIS. The information gathered from the MIKE is based on four regions, and 29 sites in Africa, from which “on the ground” observations are made and recorded.150 In addition, the ETIS records and analyses levels and trends in illegal trade (since 1989), rather than the illegal killing of elephants. Much of this “basic” work is the foundation stone for CITES decisions regarding the trade in ivory.

10.2 Compliance

In the same manner that a strong foundation of basic science is an inter- nationally recognised need for conservation, with particular resonance for Africa, so too is the need to develop national strategies, plans or programmes for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.151 One aspect of national strategies, plans or programmes which is particularly weak in Africa is with regard to compliance with the laws and policies which already exist. That is, whilst a number of African countries have suitable laws to recognise and confront conservation problems, many have gaps in their compliance networks that often make them unsuitable for the tasks at hand. From lack of stakeholder involvement, through to missing the political will to implement what laws do exist, the region is covered with inadequate, badly harmonised and poorly understood national laws. At national levels, environmental agencies often have to compete for staff and budgets, and/or have overlapping mandates. For example, Zimbabwe has more than 10 ministries which administer an estimated

  1. Decision VIII/3, Global Taxonomy Initiative: An In Depth Review of the Implementation of the Programme of Work for the Global Taxonomy Initiative, para 7.
  2. WSSD (2002), Plan of Implementation, para 42(s). 148 See CITES, CoP13, Decision 13.101.
    1. AEWA, Art III.2(h). Also, Resolution 3.11, International Implementation Priorities (Senegal, 2005).
    2. IUCN (2006), Elephant Range States Meeting: Kuala Lumpur (IUCN/Gland).
    3. See Art 6 — General Measures for Conservation and Sustainable Use — of the CBD.



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20 environment-related laws. Likewise, Kenya has at least six sectoral agencies whose responsibilities and authority for forest management have not been clarified.152

In addition, a number of countries even fail to have dedicated, let alone well funded, anti-poaching strategies.153 This problem is now becoming particularly pronounced with some high-level international campaigns, such as that relating to the ivory trade, where it has become apparent that often the difficulties are not only caused by external pressures, but by substantive non-compliance by domestic authorities in Africa. That is, in 2004, it appeared that unregulated ivory markets in Africa consumed a higher volume of ivory than those in Asia.154 This problem has become so pronounced that strong controls on the unregulated domestic sales of ivory (and enforcing existing and new legislation) was a core part of the “package” agreed at the 14th CoP in 2007.155

Difficulties with regard to lack of compliance have also been replicated with the Lusaka Agreement, where, despite some notable achievements,156 and its clear objectives to enforce regional and international environmental laws, as noted above, the Agreement has been fundamentally hamstrung by lack of resources. With such considerations in mind, it understandable how the GEF concluded that the absence of institutional capacities to implement environmental laws and agreements at national and regional levels was one of the underlying themes of why unsustainable practices continue in Africa.157


At the beginning of the 21st century, Africa is facing difficult problems with regard to social, economic, and environmental sustainability. With regard to the latter, the evidence suggests that Africa is not achieving sustainable development across a number of environmental sectors. Accordingly, a change of approach is

  1. See UNDP (2000), supra note 49, at 8–9.
  2. L Ibrahiuma (2003), Study on Wildlife Legislation and Policies in Central African Countries (IUNC/CITES BWG).
  3. IUCN (2006), Elephant Range States Meeting: Kuala Lumpur (IUCN/Gland) 6–7; Anon (2004), “Ivory Crackdown”, New Scientist, 27 March, 4.
  4. See CITES (2007), Decision 14.75, Elephant Conservation, and Annex II: An Action Plan for the Control in Trade in Elephant Ivory.
  5. Between 1999 and 2005, the Task Force carried out around 58 joint field operations in collaboration with National Bureaus, as well as five international crime investigations. These contributed to the arrest of 94 illegal traders in wildlife products, and the seizure of approximately 7 tonnes of ivory and 688 pieces, 12 kilograms of rhino horn and 500 kilograms of bushmeat, in addition to the seizure of 89 assorted big cat and reptile skins. See Maruma, supra note 124, at 35–41.
  6. GEF (2000), supra note 3, at 8; GEF (2007), West and Central Africa, supra note 69, at 5.



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required. The change of approach with regard to conservation cannot be dealt with in isolation. That is, although Africa has a long-standing commitment to conservation, and its countries are signatories to most of the international and regional instruments in this area, their responses to conservation have to be placed within the trilogy of concerns facing Africa. Thus, the conservation of the environment in general, and wildlife in particular, has to be placed in context. The African context, and the institutional responses to conservation, does not suggest that these topics are unimportant, but rather, solutions have to be built, in part within the frameworks of their social and economic goals, and in part within the particular conservation needs of Africa.

In regard to the particular environmental needs of Africa, four points need to be kept in mind when attempting to seek conservation goals. The first is that the language of sustainable use is particularly strong in this part of the world. Accordingly, ideals of species that cannot be used, or areas that cannot be entered into, typically do not receive great support. Second, people cannot be excluded from any solutions in this area. The linkage of local peoples and/ or indigenous communities to conservation in Africa is particularly important with regard to access to the resources, and equitable sharing of any benefits generated from them. The third point is that Africa is financially poor, and conservation objectives need to be supported by external sources. The most important financial source for conservation in Africa is the GEF, and its complementary approach to domestic, regional and international environmental initiatives means that it is a positive, yet dominating, influence in the region. The final concern that should be noted is that one of the biggest needs in Africa is capacity building. In terms of conservation policy, the two areas where capacity is weakest is with regard to basic science, and enforcement.

Collectively, if conservation goals are built within supportive social and economic frameworks, and the goals understand the importance of sustainable use, popular participation and equitable sharing, financial assistance and capacity building, then the basic steps towards successful conservation policy in one of the most difficult, yet potential-rich, areas on the planet will be met.

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