During the meeting organised by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP Regional Office for Africa), in collaboration with the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), the first-ever roundtable meeting of Heads of Environmental Protection Agencies and Directors of Environment in Africa (EPAs) has elected Rwanda to chair the Platform for EPAs in Africa.
This meeting held in Kigali on 7-8 March 2023, Rwanda was elected chair of the Platform, Gabon as vice chair, Zambia as rapporteur, and Niger as a member of the bureau. Participants at the roundtable also adopted the blueprint for EPA Platform structure, mechanisms and operational modalities.
The inaugural roundtable discussions on the need for the Platform of Environmental Protection Agencies, organised by the Africa Office of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), was held virtually on 27 May 2022.
The roundtable provided an opportunity for the heads of EPAs, commissioners, and directors of environment departments to discuss a mechanism for cooperation.
The roundtable agreed to establish a platform where EPAs can discuss technical matters and strengthen their technical collaboration with UNEP. It was further agreed that a physical meeting should be held to develop a blueprint and formally endorse and launch the platform.
This decision was endorsed by the resumed eighteenth ordinary session of the Africa Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) in Decision 18/1 which called for the establishment of a forum that brings together heads of environment protection agencies in Africa.
“We are glad that the EPA roundtable has been a success. The resolutions taken at the meeting will help us to work together to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste. We extend our gratitude to all the participants and the UNEP Africa Office for organising the meeting and making it a success,” said Juliet Kabera, Director General, Rwanda Environment Management Authority.
The forum aims to share experiences, knowledge exchange and best practices, enhance science to policy interface, mobilise partnerships, and address technical and operational challenges. In addition, the decision urges Member States to support environmental protection agencies in implementing decisions and resolutions adopted at regional and global levels.
Despite the existence of Environmental Protection Agencies in all African countries, there has not been any formal platform to facilitate their collaboration, including in the form of sharing country-to-country environmental sustainability experiences, knowledge exchange, environmental best practices and implementing Multilateral Environmental Agreements.
The lack of collaboration has resulted in missed opportunities for EPAs to participate in the regional and global environmental discourse and benefit from the sharing of good practices in addressing common and continental environmental challenges.