By Kimbowa Richard
The East African Community (EAC) organised a side event in Rio to show case progress towards sustainable development in the region. The event was attended by the Secretary General – Ambassador Richard Sezibera, Chairman Council of Ministers – Mr Musa Sirma, Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly – Rt. Hon Margret Zziwa, AU Chairman – Mr Jean Ping, Deputy Secretary General – Ms Jesca Eriyo and African Union Commissioners.
In his remark, Ambassador Sezibera noted that since 1992, East Africa has been implementing sustainable development commitments as per Agenda 21. He further noted the progress made in the integration process that has seen increase in Foreign Direct Investment, and intra-trade within the 5 EAC partner states. However, he noted that the EAC economies are heavily dependent on rain fed agriculture, which makes them vulnerable to climate change, changes in commodity prices, the global economic downturn among other challenges.
Ambassador Sezibera added that East African has numerous natural resources that support millions of livelihoods for example the Lake Victoria basin. Hence these resources have to be harnessed sustainably to secure long term survival. In this regard, the EAC has put in place a Protocol on Environment and Natural Resources that has given rise to institutions like the Lake Victoria Basin Commission; legislations related to management of transboundary ecosystems and the control of polythene materials.
He added that during the Conference EAC will sign a Contract with International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and later in September with UNEP on advancing sustainable development in the region. He also urged partners to support the newly created East African Climate Change Fund.
The Executive Secretary – Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC), Dr. Canisius Kanangire highlighted the potential and challenges of sustainable development in the Lake Victoria basin, and the work his organisation is doing to propel sustainable development. He also highlighted the current Lake Victoria Basin strategic plan. He concluded that sustainable development in the Lake Victoria region requires wider participation and stakeholder involvement.
The newly elected EALA Speaker – Rt. Hon. Margret Zziwa gave an overview of the provisions in the East African Community Treaty that put sustainable development in place. ‘I call upon fellow Speakers from the Assemblies of the five Partner States to ensure that legislative processes domesticate more sustainable development laws’, the EALA Speaker concluded.
In the plenary, an issue of East Africa’s fast urbanisation challenges was highlighted. In addition, the need to mobilize resources internally was brought up, arising from the Rio outcome document that does not make new clear commitments in relation to finance
The Guest of Honour – Ms Rhoda Tumusiime (AU Commissioner for rural economy and agriculture) applauded the EAC for coming up with a Consensus statement for Rio + 20 and the EAC Climate Change Fund and urged for more action to mobilise resources for sustainable development from within the region. She also urged the EAC to secure that action on climate change takes centre stage as part of the development interventions, as the region is increasingly vulnerable to its effects.
On use of the region’s water resources, Ms Rhoda Tumusiime urged the EAC to ensure that the people of East Africa are given priority rather than ‘individuals’.