African civil society groups began a three-day meeting on Wednesday in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, to forge a common agenda for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). The summit is to be held from 26 August to 4 September in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The Abidjan meeting is also aimed at working out a joint vision of sustainable development in Africa. Organised under the auspices of the African Development Bank, the Network for Environment and Sustainable Development in Africa, and the African Civil Society Steering Committee for WSSD, it plans to examine key themes identified during previous preparatory meetings and conferences.
These include ending poverty - considered the greatest challenge facing African governments and worsened by the emergence of HIV/AIDS, the need for African civil society to make inputs into the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), governance, the management of natural resources, financing sustainable development, and the relationship between Africa and globalisation.
Ivorian Minister for Environment Gilbert Bleu-Laine, who declared the conference open, urged participants to look beyond the immediate objectives and seek "strategies that will help develop other sectors in Africa" in addition to the environment.