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Development of national legal databases for capacity building to enhance access to environmental law information in Africa

Background:

From its inception UNEP was mandated to assist Member States of the United Nations by providing information on environmental laws in order to develop, facilitate and strengthen environmental laws and regulation and the institutional framework for environmental management. While this project is a new activity and does not supplement any existing project, it will build upon the work of UNEP in its joint work with IUCN and FAO on providing global access to environmental law also referred to as ECOLEX and on the framework of the global environmental information portal, UNEP.net.

Africa is lagging behind in locating environmental law information and making it accessible using information technology. The information is there but much of it is scattered in different institutions and is difficult to access, even for those whose profession it is to develop and implement national legal mechanisms in the field. Government officials, practitioners, environmental managers, non-profit institutions and academia lack easy access to environmental law information they need for developing the necessary legal tools to promote environmental management.

This project responds to UNEP GC Decision 21/23 of 2001, adopted the third Programme for the Development and Periodic Review of Environmental Law (Montevideo Programme III), which calls for action to improve the development, content, effectiveness and awareness of environmental law through the use of information technology. This project also contributes to the achievement of the Millennium Declaration Goals number 7 and 8. It also directly supports the principles of sustainable development, including those set out in Agenda 21, and the Rio Principle number 10, which relates to access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice.

Objective:

Enhance access to environmental law information by promoting methods for using information technology to enhance public awareness of environmental law and to build capacity of developing countries in Africa to access environmental law information for decision making, compliance and enforcement of environmental law, learning and research, as well as for environmental management for sustainable development

Expected accomplishments:

  • Accessibility of environmental law information by decision makers, researchers, lecturers and students to ensure research and learning as well as compliance and enforcement of environmental law at the national and international levels
  • Up-to-date environmental law information from Africa being accessible through the Internet
  • The contribution of national databases to the Environmental Law Information Service (ECOLEX), giving it a reliable source of information, and benefiting a wide range of users and potential users in the public and private sectors, at the international, national and local levels

Implementation status:

Overall there was enhanced capacity of thirteen project countries in the development of national web-based environmental law databases in 2006. However, the databases will be launched and become officially functional as websites in the year 2007. This is because the project design was re-organised to concentrate on collection of data and development of databases and websites as opposed to the original design of training and consultancy services. The actual impact of this project will be realised in 2007 after launching of websites.

For more information please go to the Ecolex website.