Making trade and environment policies work for Africa

9 November 2015

In just over a month WTO members will gather in Nairobi, Kenya for the global trade body’s Tenth Ministerial Conference (MC10). The meeting will follow hot on the heels of a bid by UN members to ink a new, multilateral climate change regime in Paris, France to come into effect at the end of the decade. The deal should be capable of keeping the planet below a two degree Celsius rise from pre-industrial levels, in other words, countries will need to craft a comprehensive international cooperative architecture to ensure continued climate action across a range of policy areas.

With these milestone events ahead, the international community faces a busy end to the year, and many tricky issues to navigate. The outcomes for the Nairobi meet remain unclear at the time of writing – as WTO members seek to pin down specific deliverables and address systemic questions related to the Doha Round trade talks – while the climate negotiations must navigate a complex bracketed text and implementing decisions.

As far as trade is concerned, African economies account for around just two percent of world trade, and continue to face a host of challenges in linking to markets both regionally and globally. On the climate front, Sub-Saharan Africa has been identified by climate scientists as among the most vulnerable regions, in part due to dependence of its agriculture on rainfall.  

Acknowledging the breadth of the topic at hand, and the rich discussion on both African trade and environment policy respectively, the articles in this BioRes edition address just a few specific areas at this nexus. Our lead article looks at potential policy synergies around the Aid for Trade initiative, fisheries, and food security, with a particular eye on African economies where nearly 220 million people remain undernourished. Additionally, a second article presents case studies of successful efforts by certain African countries to pursue sustainable growth through green economic strategies and outlines key lessons learned, while other authors demonstrate how mainstreaming gender concerns into trade policy can deliver more inclusive outcomes in the fisheries sector in The Gambia.

More generally, and continuing our coverage of the now-adopted UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, one article looks at possible tools for monitoring the trade targets contained therein. As suggested by the authors, the Sustainable Development Goals will not directly change policy, but a good review process might. UN members have, moreover, agreed that disaggregated data and reviews will be important for ensuring that the 2030 Agenda delivers for regions such as Africa as well as the world.

As we move into the final stage of what has been a pivotal year of international summitry, some final hurdles must yet be crossed, with much at stake. BioRes, along with ICTSD’s flagship publication Bridges, will provide reporting from both the UN climate talks and MC10. Make sure to subscribe to our email service for latest news delivered straight to your inbox. And be sure to also follow our social networking streams on Twitter and Facebook to keep up with our breaking trade and environment updates.

The BioRes Team

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