Addis Ababa - United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw met with top African leaders in Addis Ababa on the margins of the twenty-second African Union Summit, where he reiterated UNEP's commitment to support the integration of the environmental pillar of sustainable development and the inclusive Green Economy in development planning as the AU prepares to launch the Common African Position on the Post-2015 development agenda.
In his discussions with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is also Chair of the African Union's High-Level Committee on the Post-2015 Agenda, Mr. Thiaw spotlighted UNEP's efforts to embed environmental sustainability into the post-2015 development agenda and into the rapidly developing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
President Sirleaf agreed that the environmental pillar will be a critical component of the SDGs, and affirmed that it would also be prominently reflected in the Common African Position.
Mr. Thiaw and President Sirleaf further agreed that UNEP will send a scoping mission to Liberia by April 2014, with the aim of agreeing on a formal cooperation agreement between UNEP and the West African nation.
Similarly, Mr. Thiaw's meeting with Ethiopian Environment and Forest Minister Belete Tafere centered around a UNEP proposal to develop a cooperation framework to support Ethiopia's Climate Resilient and Green Economy Strategy, which was introduced in 2011 to build Ethiopia's green economy.
Through the proposed cooperation framework, UNEP would further bolster these efforts and help bring inclusive, green strategies to the forefront of Ethiopia's economic development.
Mr. Thiaw also had the opportunity to meet with United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Executive Secretary Carlos Lopes; African Union Commission Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy Elham M.A. Ibrahim; African Union Commission Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture Rhoda Peace Tumusiime; Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Babatunde Osotimehin; Chief Executive Officer of NEPAD Ibrahim Assane Mayaki; and Ambassador of Mauritania to Ethiopia Hamadi Meimou.
Mr. Lopes of the UNECA stressed that, if nothing was done to modernize Africa's agricultural sector, agriculture would not contribute more than 1.26 per cent of the continent's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2063.
Mr. Thiaw agreed that there is a need to industrialize differently and build on green economy through sustainable consumption and production models in Africa.
Other discussions that emerged centred around youth unemployment which was highlighted in several of Mr. Thiaw's high-level meetings as an all-pervasive challenge and one which must be linked to a modernized agricultural sector as well as the importance of energy and infrastructure.
The sectors would be crucial drivers of Africa's economic transformation, said Mr. Thiaw.
Outlining his vision for new and exciting development opportunities that would emerge from green investments, he proposed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between UNEP and the African Union Commission on sustainable energy, among other collaborative efforts.