BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE
A new report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has proposed an integrated package of almost 90 projects and interventions, totaling US$147 million, to help Rwanda accelerate its sustainable development agenda.
The report, Rwanda: From Post-Conflict to Environmentally Sustainable Development, one of two to be released yesterday, November 16, 2011, was unveiled in the country’s capital, Kigali, by the Minister of Natural Resources, Hon. Stanislas Kamanzi, at the start of a regional meeting with East African senior policy makers exploring how to leverage support for a shift towards an environmentally sustainable, climate resilient, low-carbon, resource-efficient future.
Following a consultative process with the Government of Rwanda, the 380-page UNEP report, which urges the country to build on its rehabilitation efforts and seed more opportunities for a transition to a green economy, provides a critical analysis of the most pressing environmental issues facing the country.
In particular, it recommends the Rwandan government reinforces its policies and investments in key areas, including large-scale ecosystem rehabilitation; renewable energies, sustainable agriculture and agro forestry, environmental management capacity building and regional environmental cooperation, including participation in natural resource trade initiatives.
Commenting on the report, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, Mr. Achim Steiner, said the shared lessons from implementing its recommendations would help reverse declining environmental trends and showcase a real-life pathway to a green economy.
“Rwanda provides an exceptional case of a country’s willpower to overcome a traumatic conflict legacy, restore degraded ecosystems and lift people out of poverty and there is growing interest from development partners and other countries in Rwanda’s pioneering model,” Mr. Steiner said.
He added that “The ongoing metamorphosis of Rwanda’s economy offers a unique opportunity to catalyse green investments, to enhance sustainability, create green jobs and promote environmentally efficient technologies.”
Speaking at the launch of the report, Rwanda Natural Resources Minister, Stanislas Kamanzi, welcomed the scientific assessment, which he said underlines the intrinsic relationship between ecosystem services and the achievement of national development goals as outlined in Rwanda’s Vision 2020.
“We see the environment as the heart of our economy and need to ensure that it can sustain the economic growth achieved in recent years,” Mr. Kamanzi said.
“The damage to the Congo-Nile and Byumba highland ecosystems is highlighted not only as a threat to biodiversity but to livelihoods and Rwanda’s economic future because it must sustain hydropower, agriculture and drinking water supplies, as well as providing climate regulation and carbon sequestration services.
“For Rwanda and other countries in the region, the time has come to capitalise on green economy thinking and translate our policy targets into on-the-ground action to create jobs, combat poverty and accelerate sustainable development across the region,” the Minister added.
It is to further support Rwanda in its efforts to accelerate a sustainable growth path, that UNEP used the workshop to release another new report, Mainstreaming Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production in Policies and Strategies of Rwanda, a joint statement released by UNEP and the Rwandan Government announced.
The second report, which was prepared by UNEP in collaboration with Rwanda’s Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA), reviews existing policy and strategy frameworks of resource efficient and cleaner production (RECP) and identifies areas for mainstreaming RECP into the country’s national policies and strategies.
In particular, the report identifies strategic entry points for mainstreaming under the following four components of intervention: institutional and policy integration; economic and fiscal incentives; capacity building and support to small and medium-sized enterprises; and, information and public education.
The two-day workshop, organised by UNEP and REMA, is expected to take these findings on board as they examine how regulatory instruments can contribute to reducing poverty and promoting the transition to a green economy in East Africa.
More than 40 legal and technical experts from Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, as well as Rwanda, are attending the workshop, which is aiming to enhance capacity in East African countries to use the green economy as a driver for sustainable development and poverty reduction, and to identify actions, opportunities and challenges for integrating green economy in policies and legislations at national and regional levels.
It is envisaged that one of the enabling frameworks needed for the green economy is having effective laws and related governance structures to support it, hence strengthening the regulatory and governance frameworks will complement measures already being taken by governments and the private sector.
Earlier this year at the UN Forest Forum, Rwanda launched a landmark Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative aimed to reverse by 2035 the degradation of the entire country’s soil, water, land and forest resources.
Meanwhile, next week, an intensification of Rwanda’s tree planting programme is due to begin with the target of planting 68 million trees over the next 12 months to reach the government’s goal of raising forest cover to at least 30 percent of its land area by 2020.
Further, UNEP says it stands ready to assist the Government of Rwanda in mobilising resources to implement the post-conflict assessment’s recommendations and with broader ongoing environmental initiatives, as part of the One UN presence.
With over 10 million people in an area of 26,000 square kilometers, Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries striving to unlock a downward-cycle of natural resource over-exploitation. However, it has made remarkable progress following the aftermath of the 1994 genocide and is now considered an inspiration for African development.