AfDB’s role in Africa’s evolving capacity in the UNFCCC Process

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By Timothy Afful-Koomson

It is widely acknowledged that while Africa is a minor contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, it bears a disproportionate amount of the adverse effects of climate change impacts. Being the continent with the greatest vulnerability to climate change, and lowest adaptive capacity, has provided the impetus for Africa’s commitment to chart a global response to climate change within the multilateral processes of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

As one of the multilateral environment agreements (MEAs), the UNFCCC has created a platform for negotiations on the global governance and response to climate change. African countries are legitimate stakeholders capable of influencing negotiation outcomes that align with their interests and positions. The continent’s capacity to play this proactive role has evolved considerably.

Gone are the days, when Africa was perceived as the most disorganized region at the UNFCCC meetings. Gone are the days, when ministers and delegations from African countries were ridiculed for lacking the capacity to understand and constructively engage in the negotiation processes. Gone are the days, when the interests and voices of African countries were divided and often conflicting by virtue of their alliances with other negotiation groups and coalitions such as the Group 77+China.

How did Africa get to effective regional collaboration? How did Africa build strong political leadership and clout at the UNFCCC negotiations? What platforms have been created to galvanize, mobilize and forge consensus on a common position?  

To address some of these questions, it is important to discuss how Africa’s capacity at the UNFCCC has evolved over recent years.

Concerns about African negotiator’s limited capacity and how they were disorganized and pulled in different directions during UNFCCC meetings led to a coordinated institutional framework including the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), African Group of Negotiators (AGN) and the Committee of African Heads of State on Climate Change (CAHOSCC).

AMCEN, created in 1985, assumed political leadership at ministerial level and provided the platform for advancing African countries’ common position towards effective multilateral environmental agreements including the UNFCCC. At its biannual Conference Sessions, Special Sessions, and Bureau meetings great efforts are made to ensure that Africa speaks with one voice. In addition, CAHOSCC was established in 2009 to provide the highest level of political leadership for Africa’s participation in the UNFCCC processes.

The African Group of Negotiators (AGN) is the key negotiating body and technical pillar for Africa. It frequently organizes preparatory meetings and provides technical inputs to support the development of Africa’s common interests (namely AMCEN consensus papers). It therefore contributes to enhance Africa’s voice ensuring that the continent’s interests are captured in the outcomes of the UNFCCC.

With the political and technical leadership provided by CAHOSCC, AMCEN and the AGN, Africa now has the capacity to influence the negotiation process; for example the push for a balanced allocation of finance to adaptation and mitigation by the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

What role does the African Development Bank (AfDB) play in improving Africa’s capacity in the UNFCCC arena? The AfDB continues to provide significant support to AMCEN, AGN, CAHOSCC and the African GCF board members, to help advance the interests of the region at UNFCCC meetings. For example, the AfDB spearheaded the development of a comprehensive work programme and provides technical and legal advisory services for the AGN.  Furthermore, the Bank has supported platforms for discussions and preparations for COP meetings. The Bank also produces and disseminates scientific papers on key topical issues at the request of the AGN.

The AfDB played an instrumental role in the design of the Green Climate Fund, ensuring that African issues were reflected in the governing instrument; specifically a senior staff member worked with the UNFCCC for almost one year.

The AfDB continues to participate in COP meetings and has hosted technical and high level events to support Africa during UNFCCC meetings. For example, at COP17 in Durban, the AfDB led the establishment of the Africa Pavilion in coordination with other key regional institutions (African Union and UN Economic Commission for Africa), providing a  platform to showcase African initiatives on climate change.

Overall, Africa has come a long way in the UNFCCC negotiation process. However, more can still be done to enhance the region’s capacity to voice African interests. With Paris COP-21 looming, AfDB is committed to support African aspirations for a meaningful and successful global climate agreement and its implementation.


adewale daniel omojowo - Nigeria 24/11/2015 13:03
Even though africa is not totally responsible for adverse effect of climate change. She is willing to adopt sustainable measures in other to mitigate climate. But then what africa lack the most is the means to adopt since africa have more pressing issues at hand. In the likes of poverty, civil wars, high level of corruption, inadequate food supply etc