Africa faces numerous environmental challenges such as air and water pollution, improper waste disposal, toxic chemicals and hazardous waste contamination, loss of biodiversity, illegal logging, desertification, land degradation and climate change. Whereas most African countries have policies, laws and institutions aimed at responding to these challenges, it is apparent that most of the challenges are growing in magnitude and their impact on the environment and human health is increasing.
With limited financial and human resources at their disposal, environmental regulatory agencies in the continent are struggling to control the growing industrial, agricultural and other human activities that degrade the environment. In yet other instances, there is apparent complacency and lack of will by regulators to rein in on those individuals and companies that violate environmental laws and regulations. Increasingly, this trend is infringing on the right of citizens to a clean and healthy environment.
It is now a well-established principle that citizen participation is an important complement to good environmental governance. More often than not, development policies, plans, programmes and projects affect citizens and their environments in one way or another. Good governance requires that such citizens are involved in decision making processes regarding such policies, plans, programmes and projects, and where possible, granted an opportunity to influence such deciosns for their good and for the good of the environment.
In addition, despite the fact that citizens tend to know their country’s land and natural attributes more intimately than any government agency can ever do, an examination of the situation in many African countries shows that citizens are often overlooked as one of the greatest resources for enforcing environmental laws and regulations.
ECI’s Citizen Participation Program is designed to promote and enhance citizen participation in environmental decision making and enforcement of environmental requirements. The Program’s work streams are:
- Awareness creation and capacity building for citizens in order to equip them with requisite knowledge and skills to effectively participate in environmental decision-making processes relating to policies, plans, programs and projects that may impact them or the environment.
- Advocacy and activism for better management of the environment and sustainable use of natural resources.
- Public interest litigation: working with citizens to build and prosecute, before courts of law, cases in public interest for the protection of the environment and human health.