The forthcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in August is being viewed as a multi-stakeholder high-level forum that will shape the environment agenda through the regional and international multi-stakeholder dialogues.
It is at this summit where individual governments, companies, international organisations, civil society and other stakeholders will take specific positions in relation to poverty, environment, and sustainable development issues in Africa and the whole world.
Considering this summit is taking place in southern Africa, IUCN-the World Conservation Union-has seen it imperative to ensure that the civil society in southern Africa meaningfully contributes to both the preparations for and the deliberations at the Summit.
Participation of civil society groups is sometimes constrained by a limited capacity and lack of information. IUCN has therefore supported the participation of the region's civil society in key Preparatory Committee Meetings (PrepCom) for the Summit.
"There was a clear recognition that civil society contribution to the summit's preparatory process was constrained," said Dr Yemi Katerere, the regional director for IUCN in southern Africa.
"IUCN is therefore ensuring effective contribution by existing civil society networks in the summit's preparatory processes in order to raise Africa's position on conservation, poverty and sustainable development both at the PrepComs and the summit." Katerere pointed out that given the importance of the summit in determining the direction for sustainable development, IUCN realised the need to mobilise civil society in the region ahead of the fourth and final preparatory committee meeting.
First, IUCN took some representatives from the civil society in southern Africa to a meeting in Dakar, Senegal in May. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the main issues of the summit with about 50 Anglophone and Francophone experts from Africa on the basis of some expert papers that were produced by IUCN.
Fannie Mutepfa, the Programme Co-ordinator from Zimbabwe Regional Environment Organisation (Zero), an IUCN member, stressed the role of civil society as she saw it during the Dakar meeting. "We assist in translating the global agreements and strategies into local action, and ensure that the voices and needs of local and grassroots communities are heard and taken into account when drafting global agenda for action." Mutepfa noted that it is important that civil society documents and brings to the attention of leaders the experiences from the field. "This is critical in informing the agenda for the future.
"It is up to us-in consultation with national governments-to create the awareness on WSSD at local levels and consult the grassroots communities on their vision for Sustainable Development."