Governance in Africa: Building Capacity and Raising Awareness

Building the Capacity of African Professionals and Community Activists to Use Environmental Advocacy Tools

ELI’s work to develop advocacy tools in Africa seeks to improve the voice of civil society in protecting the environment and human health as well as in development decisions that affect people’s livelihoods. To achieve these goals, ELI and partners throughout the continent surveyed, assessed, and disseminated information on various advocacy tools. A handbook, A Toolkit for Environmental Advocacy in Africa, has been designed to be accessible to citizen activists and emerging community organizations that may lack advocacy experience as well as to public interest environmental lawyers. ELI is continuing to disseminate the manual through our wide network of African partners and through the various African fora in which ELI staff regularly participate (see Strengthening Environmental Law and Advocacy in Morocco). We also hope to develop a guidebook accessible to laypeople of average education in Africa that can be used to increase community-based activism and public participation.

As part of this initiative, ELI participated in a workshop on “Environmental Advocacy Strategies in East and Southern Africa,” which was held in Maputo, Mozambique on September 11-14, 2001. For this workshop, which included environmental lawyers from throughout East and Southern Africa, ELI delivered a presentation on “Public Participation in Regional and International Instruments." The presentation focused on specific ways in which African regional and subregional agreements and declarations, as well as other international instruments, can be invoked to enhance the ability of advocates to obtain access to courts for the protection of environmental rights.

ELI also convened two workshops for pastoral communities in Kenya in November 2001. Partnering with the Resources Conflict Institute (RECONCILE), ELI staff discussed with pastoral community leaders and activists the advocacy tools that can be used to protect community health and natural resources.

From February 26 to March 1, 2002, ELI attended the FRAME Contact Group meeting in Cape Town, South Africa. The FRAME Contact Group, of which ELI’s Carl Bruch is a member, is an informal network of partners representing a broad range of disciplines related to Africa’s environment and natural resources. During a Contact Exchange Session in Cape Town, ELI, together with former ELI Visiting Scholar Jane Dwasi, gave a presentation on “Equipping Communities for Environmental Advocacy: A Toolbox for Citizen Action." Participants in the session offered suggestions for further improving ELI’s advocacy toolkit.

During the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa, ELI co-sponsored two public events on the topic of environmental advocacy. The first event, a workshop entitled “Environmental Advocacy: A Discussion of Tools and Experiences,” was held on August 29, 2002 at Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education. Partnering with the Potchefstroom Faculty of Law, ELI convened two expert panel discussions on environmental advocacy in South Africa and beyond. The workshop drew approximately 25 participants, including law professors and students, NGO representatives, local government officials, and people from the private sector. The second advocacy event, “Innovative Approaches to Environmental Advocacy in Africa,” was held during the WSSD and took place on September 3, 2002. Co-sponsored by the Network for Environment and Sustainable Development in Africa (NESDA), this WSSD side event featured a panel discussion by two well-known activists in Central and West Africa: Samuel Nguiffo of the Centre for Environment and Development (CED) in Cameroon, and Deeka Menegbon of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) in Nigeria. Over 70 people, many representing civil society organizations from across the continent, attended.

As part of this effort, ELI gathered case studies of African environmental activism from nine African advocates. These case studies discuss various approaches to advocacy ranging from local attempts to block unhealthy forestry practices to using theatre as a way to communicate a conservation message. The case studies are available on the web at, and excerpts from each case study appear in the Toolkit.

Strengthening Environmental Law and Advocacy in Morocco

In 2005, the United States and Morocco concluded a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (USMFTA). The USMFTA underscored the importance of linking environmental protection with free trade in order to promote sustainable development in Morocco. This understanding was expanded upon in a Joint Statement on Environmental Cooperation that specifically committed the two countries to work cooperatively to build human and institutional capacity for environmental protection in Morocco.

In recent years, Morocco has undergone a broad process of political, social, and economic reform. Constitutional amendments aimed at increasing accountability and political representation signify important steps in the country’s democratization. In this context, civil society has expanded, and environmental non-governmental and community-based organizations (CBOs) are playing an increasingly important role in shaping Moroccan public policy. New environmental laws have been drafted and institutional reforms instituted to further the country’s sustainable development goals. Despite this deep commitment to improving the legal and institutional frameworks for environmental protection, Morocco still faces serious environmental challenges.

In 2005, as part of a broader partnership initiative between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Moroccan Ministry of Environment to implement the Joint Statement to the USMFTA, ELI was asked to conduct a study tour on environmental law, policy, and management for Moroccan governmental officials and to convene a workshop to strengthen the capacity of environmental and sustainable development civil society organizations.

In April of 2006, ELI hosted four Moroccan environmental officials from the Moroccan Ministries of Environment and Interior and the Director of Al Akhawayn University’s Centre for Environmental Issues and Regional Development (CEIRD) for a two-week Study Tour in Washington, DC and Phoenix, Arizona. As a result of planning meetings with EPA and the Moroccan Ministry, the Tour was tailored to provide a broad overview on U.S. and comparative environmental law, policy, and management topics with a substantive focus on water management issues. There were also several sessions that provided opportunities for the participants to meet, listen to and interact with individuals from the government at the federal, state and local levels and from a variety of offices, NGO representatives, environmental law professors from leading universities, and individuals from the private sector. Each session was led by individuals or panels of leading experts in their fields. Participants were also able to develop relationships with a diverse array of experts in the fields of environmental law, policy and management.

The second part of the Tour took place in Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona, where the group was hosted by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (AZ DEQ). This portion of the Tour was designed to introduce participants to the role of the states and of local governments in environmental governance in the U.S. Phoenix provided an ideal location, as many of the natural resource issues being faced there (particularly with respect to water scarcity) are similar to those being faced by the participants and their colleagues in Morocco. While in Phoenix and Tempe, participants visited with the directors of several departments within the AZ DEQ, as well as with NGOs working with communities on water-related issues and three site visits to a rehabilitated urban park, a recycling facility, and a reconstructed wetland.

In May of 2006, ELI and CEIRD convened a 3-day training workshop at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco for 30 environmental and sustainable development civil society organizations representing all regions of the country. The workshop included a mixture of lectures, case study presentations, role-playing exercises, and interactive discussion sessions on environmental law, public participation, environmental enforcement, and advocacy tools (see Building the Capacity of African Professionals and Community Activists to Use Environmental Advocacy Tools). The Workshop also provided the first opportunity for these organizations to meet and learn about each others’ strengths and activities. Upon the motion of the participants, the Workshop concluded with the signing of an agreement to form a permanent network of the organizations represented to facilitate ongoing cooperation and collaboration.

Implementing Constitutional Environmental Protections in Africa

Constitutions frequently offer a strong basis for environmental protection. While most African constitutions include environmental protections, only a few African nations have applied or judicially interpreted the provisions. At the request of numerous African environmental NGOs, ELI analyzed the text and application of provisions of African constitutions that provide environmental rights and identified ways that African advocates can utilize these protections to create real, enforceable rights.

To illustrate opportunities for innovative environmental lawyering and implementation of constitutionally provided rights, the research highlighted instances where African lawyers and judges have successfully argued for novel legal interpretations and implementation of constitutional environmental law. Given the dearth of constitutional environmental experience in Africa, the project also surveyed constitutional decisions from civil and common law jurisdictions outside Africa that might assist in interpreting African constitutional provisions. For example, in some common law jurisdictions, such as India and Nepal, courts have interpreted a constitutional right to life, which is recognized in almost all African constitutions, to include a right to a healthy environment. The research assessed ongoing trends of constitutional reform and the possibilities presented for addressing issues of environmental and participation rights through such reform. The project also investigated methods and procedural rights that are necessary to give force to environmental rights, such as provisions in African constitutions enshrining the public’s right to participate in the administrative and legislative processes, access to information, and access to justice, including “standing to sue.”

A summary of the work appeared in 1999 in the African environmental law and policy journal Innovation. The complete analysis was published as an ELI research report on “Constitutional Environmental Law: Giving Force to Fundamental Principles in Africa” as well as in the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law and the South African Journal of Environmental Law and Policy. It was reprinted in excerpted form as a World Resources Institute policy brief. ELI also presented the material at a WRI workshop on Environmental Governance in Central Africa on April 26-27, 1999, at an ELI seminar on “Implementing Constitutional Environmental Protections in Africa” on November 4, 1999, and at the East African Workshop on Improving Access to Environmental Justice, co-hosted by ELI, on June 18-21, 2000. To keep this work current, ELI and UNEP collaborated on an updated version of this research and developed a compendium of African constitutional environmental provisions to be published by UNEP in 2007.

African constitutions also have provisions that recognize or can be useful in protecting customary laws and institutions. In Africa, customary law represents a large body of potentially powerful, but as-yet underutilized, legal norms to protect the environment and ensure equitable distribution of natural resources. Customary law is the body of law that represents the actual norms and practices of local African communities before the colonial era, and it continues to exert significant influence over the day-to-day activities of most Africans. In many African countries, the national laws conflict with the customary tribal laws, and this conflict often impedes the effective implementation of the national laws.

African Visiting Scholars at ELI

ELI’s African Visiting Scholar program builds upon a long tradition of Visiting Scholars at the Institute. This program strengthens capacity in several ways: it involves African environmental professionals in a broad range of domestic and international work at ELI; it links the Scholars with U.S. public and private environmental professionals; and it builds a network of ELI Visiting Scholar alumni to which past and present scholars can turn for ideas and contacts. ELI’s African Visiting Scholars Program creates opportunities for future collaboration and helps to develop lasting relationships between the Institute and African environmental professionals. ELI has hosted a number of African Visiting Scholars: Patrice Talla from Cameroon; Anne Angwenyi, Jane Dwasi, Charles Okidi, and Nixon Sifuna from Kenya; Paul Jarvan from Liberia; Lalaina Rakotoson from Madagascar; Abani Ibrahim from Niger; Ali Ahmad and Wole Coker from Nigeria; Papa Meissa Dieng, and Aboubacar Fall from Senegal; and Christine Nanyonjo and Michael Kakaire from Uganda.

The Scholars have worked on research projects addressing an array of topics. For example, Anne’s work examined the links between poverty and environmental law in East Africa. Mr. Sifuna conducted research on human-wildlife conflict in Kenya, focusing on ways to improve the compensation process. As described above, Mr. Fall researched and authored a chapter of a book addressing public involvement in African Development Bank operations. Mr. Ahmad co-authored a paper on “Maintaining Mizan: Protecting Biodiversity in Muslim Communities in Africa” with Carl Bruch, which was published in the Environmental Law Reporter. M s. Dwasi worked with ELI staff to research ways that pastoral communities in Kenya may use constitutional, statutory, and common law provisions to protect their natural resources. She also researched the many non-legal advocacy tools that pastoral communities may utilize. Ms. Nayanjo’s work addressed the public trust doctrine. Mr. Coker considered issues of constitutional environmental law. Mr. Ibrahim explored environmental governance in Niger. Mr. Dieng examined the implementation of environmental impact assessment laws in Senegal. Mr. Talla researched the functioning of law-making in international environmental law. At the conclusion of their stay at ELI, many of these Visiting Scholars, including, for example, Mr. Sifuna, Mr. Fall., Mr. Talla, and Mr. Dieng, have delivered public presentations on their research and continue to collaborate with ELI in various ways.

In October 2003, the Africa Program was proud to host Professor Charles Okidi from the University of Nairobi as the first Futrell Visiting Scholar at ELI. Professor Okidi worked with ELI to draft an action plan for the creation of centers for advanced studies in environmental law and policy at African universities, starting with Nairobi. Professor Okidi and ELI researchers collaborated on issues of curriculum design, funding, and exchange of expertise both between the United States and Africa and among African universities. As part of this process, Professor Okidi made a presentation at ELI on the “Challenges of Inter-Institutional Collaboration for Capacity Building in Environmental Law and Policy,” which was attended by ELI staff and representatives of the academic, development, and NGOs communities in Washington.

Through the African Visiting Scholars program, ELI also hosts African partners for short-term visits to the Washington, DC area. From February 4-20, 2001, ELI hosted Ngay (“Guy”) Kalasi, an environmental lawyer from the Democratic Republic of Congo. While at ELI, Mr. Kalasi gave a presentation on “The Environment and Political Unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo” and attended the ELI-ALI/ABA course on environmental law. From September 30 to October 4, 2002, ELI hosted Maurice Odhiambo Makoloo, co-founder and co-Director of the Institute for Environmental Law and Governance (ILEG) in Nairobi. During his stay, Mr. Makoloo gave a brown-bag lunch presentation to discuss one of his current cases, which challenges the government’s efforts to excise Kenyan forests.

Protecting the Environment through Islamic Law

In West and North Africa, Islamic law plays a dominant role in the lives of most people. If environmental laws, practices, and institutions could be characterized in terms that are familiar, for example, by drawing upon textual provisions in the Qur’an and Sunnah, people would be more likely to protect the environment. Yet, relatively little research has been conducted on the subject. To further these efforts, ELI helped arrange a preparatory conference in Kuwait City in January 2004 that explored how Islamic law relates to and protects the environment.

This project builds upon an ELI review of Islamic literature for relevant norms that could be invoked in protecting biodiversity, which was conducted with ELI Visiting Scholar Ali Ahmad, an environmental law professor at Bayero University Kano (Nigeria). This research became an Environmental Law Reporter article entitled “Maintaining Mizan: Protecting Biodiversity in Muslim Communities in Africa.”

Nigerian Study Tour on Environmental Law, Enforcement, and the Petroleum Industry

Working with the Development Initiatives Network (DIN), a Nigerian NGO based in Lagos, ELI coordinated the U.S. portion of a Study Tour of seven Nigerian environmental lawyers who advise community groups, NGOs, and oil companies. The tour sought to build the capacity of these professionals to improve the implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, particularly relating to the petroleum industry. From October 16-20, 2000, ELI provided an overview of U.S. environmental laws, institutions, and practices. The discussions covered developments in international law, including their incorporation at the national level; legal regimes governing civil liability for environmental damage; economic methods of valuing natural resource damages; mechanisms for distributing compensation monies, including community trust funds; improving public access to information and public participation; alternative tools to litigation; and building a framework for protecting the environment at the local level.

Facilitating Roundtable Discussion for African Environmental Law Professors

In partnership with the Mandela Institute of the University of the Witwatersrand School of Law, ELI co-sponsored a roundtable discussion for environmental law professors in Johannesburg, South Africa on September 3, 2002. This event provided a forum for professors from universities in South Africa and elsewhere on the continent to share ideas on topics such as information exchange, development of environmental law curricula, and the inter-university exchange of law professors and law students. ELI developed and distributed background materials illustrating comprehensive environmental law programs and related resources at several U.S. law schools. This event coincided with the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Distributing Legal Reference Materials and Computers to African Environmental Advocates and Professionals

Over the last four years, ELI has donated over 7000 environmental law treatises, reference books, and other texts to public interest environmental lawyers, judges, and government institutions in Cameroon, the DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. ELI has sent copies of various environmental articles, laws, and resources to environmental advocates throughout Africa. To date, ELI has also donated over 20 computers to its NGO partners in Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Zambia. ELI has also facilitated the donation of computers and books by U.S. universities, government agencies, and NGOs to African universities by gathering the materials and arranging for their transportation. At the end of 2003, ELI sent an ocean container full of books and computers to Kenya to aid in the establishment of the Centre for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy.

Disseminating African Environmental Law Resources via the Internet

As access to the Internet grows throughout Africa, web-based resources take on an increased importance. To assist citizens and organizations seeking support in the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental law and policy throughout Africa, ELI established and continues to update a web site that serves as an Internet portal for people seeking information on environmental law and policy in Africa. The site includes original reports and analysis by ELI and its partners on emerging trends and issues in African environmental law and policy. The site also serves as a gateway, providing links to other materials in an understandable and useful manner. Users can link to an assortment of resources, such as environmental laws and policies from various African nations, important court cases with precedential value, and environmental organizations.