Trade and Environment Capacity Building in West Africa

24 February 2011

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - ICTSD collaborated with the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on a capacity building workshop on trade and environment for the ECOWAS Commission and member States from 24 to 26 January 2011 in Accra, Ghana. More than 50 participants from ministries of trade, environment and commerce in the ECOWAS region took part in this workshop.

The main objective of the workshop was to increase awareness, knowledge and understanding, and build the capacity of policy makers to formulate and promote mutually supportive trade and environment policies, and to enhance cooperation in this area.

In order to meet this objective, the workshop took advantage of the body of knowledge acquired from a series of earlier studies and was designed to respond to the priorities identified by ECOWAS.

The workshop was divided into four main sessions:

1. General trade and environment linkages (especially Africa's shift to a green economy)

2. Trade Agreements and Multilateral Environmental  Agreements (MEAs): reform of fishery subsidies, negotiations on trade liberalisation in environmental goods and services, and the relationship between trade and selected MEAs such as the Basel Convention, the Bamako Convention, the Rotterdam Convention, the Stockholm Convention, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol; and how to ensure better coherence.

3. Case studies on trade and environment in selected areas (natural capital, natural resources exploitation, organic agriculture, and carbon markets)

4. Knowledge management and networking: the state of knowledge and knowledge sharing on trade and environment linkages in the region, and the establishment of a knowledge networking and peer-learning group on trade and environment linkages.

Delegates were particularly interested in the liberalisation in environmental goods and services (EGS). African countries have not submitted any formal proposal to the WTO on liberalising trade in environmental goods that are of interest to them, and have not yet identified how they envision technology transfer and capacity building in this field in detail. Now that the EGS negotiations at the WTO are accelerating, it might be a good moment for particularly the least developed countries to assess their interests when it comes to EGS and ICTSD will continue to support them in that effort.

The outcome of the workshop was renewed commitment to establishing trade and environment committees on trade and environment issues at regional and members States level. Some countries already have permanent committees on trade and environment that reach across ministries, but in most countries in the ECOWAS such committees do not convene on a regular basis and lack commitment from ministries other than environment and trade.

Delegates also promised to keep on establishing a subregional knowledge networking and peer learning group that builds on the work of trade and environment committees at regional and at the member States level. One issue such a regional network can look into is a regional initiative for renewable energy. During an on-site survey it turned out that the main import of most countries is oil and also that oil is responsible for most pollution, be it of the water, the soil or the air. Renewable energy has the potential to replace a major part of oil use and import.

Further cooperation in the ECOWAS region should also enhance the capacity of West African countries to articulate their (common) positions in international policy fora of relevance to the trade and environment interface, including at the World Trade Organization, negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) among others.

Last but not least, the workshop is expected to enhance the capacity of ECOWAS member states to integrate environment and trade consideration into their national policy.

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