(1) Avoiding the mistakes of the 1992 UN's Rio earth summit in Copenhagen
Africa's score card in Rio de Janeiro as reported was referred to as a pyrrhic victory. The desert convention will remain the only Rio's most tangible legacy for Africa. The continent suffered marginalization within the world body because of its failure to prepare and organise effectively for the summit.
Over all funding for the Agenda 21, an 800 page action plan based on the Rio declaration for sustainable development was slashed from US$70bn that UNCED has called for down to just US$6bn. Little of the Agenda 21 funds would go to Africa; only one per cent of the funds estimated necessary in Agenda 21 were earmarked for drought and desertification. Issues of particular importance to Africa such as the clumping of toxic wastes, debt, and commodity prices were given scant consideration. Thus although the continent secured commitment in getting the UN's General Assembly to establish an international convention to combat drought and desertification by June 1994 it proved a pyrrhic victory.
The United States (US) had its reservations on the climate convention and to counter balance its reservations pushed for a convention on forests. The argument was that forests absorb or act as "sinks" for carbon dioxide and therefore more forests in developing regions would help counteract pollution from industries, and the internal combustion engine. Countries such as Brazil, India and Malaysia which were more organized immediately assumed a tougher bargaining position on the basis that controls over their forests were enabling rich countries to continue with air polluting activities.
Again Africa did not maximize its bargaining position in this area although the combined forestry resources of West and Central Africa were second in extent only to the Amazon. In contrast to the Latin Americans and Asians, the Africans emerged as supplicants rather than negotiating partners.
Drought and desertification were the dominant issues for Africa at the summit, as Southern Africa faced its worst food production crises for a century combined with the shocking advance of the Sahara and Kalahari deserts. But it was not until the second of four preparatory conferences for the summit that drought and desertification were raised.
Africa was also to be blamed for relying too heavily on the UN as a traditional sanctuary and failed to push its own cause in a conference where it faced some of the world's most sophisticated and experienced lobbyists.
The United States held a press conference every day. Asia, Latin American Countries and others held several but African Countries held none.
South Africa was not invited to the regional caucus yet was the only African Country with representation on the Business Council for sustainable Development.
The combative relationship between many African governments and NGOs, which in other delegations played a key publicity role, further inhibited the region from arguing a more coherent case.
To be continued