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2016 Africa Environment and Wangari Maathai Day commemorated

By African Union Commission (AUC)
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The African Union (AU) in collaboration with UN Women, UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP) and the Green Belt Movement, today led the commemoration of the 2016 Africa Environment and Wangari Maathai Day at the African Union Commission headquarters.

The event was held this year under the theme,“Strengthening Women's Rights Over Natural Resources,” in line with the AU declared 2016 “African Year of Human Rights with particular focus on rights of Women.”

Officially opening the commemoration eventson behalf of the AUC Chairperson, H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, AUC Deputy Chairperson, H.E. Mr. Erastus Mwencha, said celebrating the day presented an opportunity to rededicate to the principles of environmental conservation and also to the principles of inclusive and equitable development for the continent.

He noted that the African continent continued to face environmental and sustainable development challenges due to climate change, depletion of biodiversity desertification, land degradation and irrational use of finite natural resources.

He challenged Africa to renew its collective resolve and ensure a better future for generations of Africans yet unborn, stressing that, “We need a holistic approach that not only addresses the environmental and economic aspects of development but also the issue of human rights.”

H.E Mwencha further eulogized the late Professor Maathai, who was also the founder of the Green Belt Movement for her extraordinary struggle to protect the environment and advocacy for democracy. The Deputy Chairperson also made reference to first ten year implementation plan of Africa's Agenda 2063 which, aspires for An Africa of Good Governance, Democracy, Respect for Human Rights, Justice and the Rule of Law. (For the full speech please go to www.au.int).

During the opening ceremony,H.E Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, AUC Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture said, “The Commemoration of Africa Environment and Wangari Maathai Day serves as stock-taking, for us to examine our individual and collective responsibility to ensure sound environmental stewardship to safeguard the development trajectory of Africa.”

And also speaking at the opening ceremony, Ms. Letty Chiwara, United Nations Women Representative to Ethiopia, the AU and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) quoted the late Prof.Maathai stating, “Human rights are not things you put on the table. These are things you fight for and then you protect; it is the little things citizens do that makes a difference, my little thing is planting trees.”

Ms. Chiwara reiterated that environment sustainability; gender equality and women's empowerment are closely intertwined as women are involved with activities that are strongly linked to the environment including, their role in agriculture production.

“This close connection of women to the environment means that women have an understanding of the importance of environmental sustainability and resource management.” She said. “However women's involvement in policy making, environmental planning and management remains insignificant and should be enhanced.”

The Africa Environment Day was designated in 2002 by the then Organization of the African Unity Council of Ministers in their meeting in Durban, South Africa, based on the recognition of the numerous environmental challenges confronting the African continent.

The African Union further adopted a decision in 2012 calling for the joint celebrations of the African Environment Day and Wangari Maathai Day. The celebration of the Wangari Maathai Day glorifies and immortalizes the work and life of the late Prof. Wangari Maathai who dedicated her life to promoting environmental conservation.

The Celebration concluded with celebrants planting trees at the AUC compound.