The African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) was established in December 1985, following a conference of African ministers of environment held in Cairo, Egypt. Its mandate is to provide advocacy for environmental protection in Africa; to ensure that basic human needs are met adequately and in a sustainable manner; to ensure that social and economic development is realized at all levels; and to ensure that agricultural activities and practices meet the food security needs of the region.

The measures adopted by AMCEN in seeking solutions to environmental concerns in Africa have consistently been participatory and consultative since its inception. The existence of AMCEN has had an impact on the manner in which environmental issues are being handled in the region. AMCEN has also contributed to strengthening Africa’s participation and active involvement both in global negotiations and in international agreements on the environment.

AMCEN's role includes, among others:

  • Providing continent-wide leadership by promoting awareness and consensus on global and regional environmental issues;
  • Developing common positions to guide African representatives in negotiations for legally binding international environmental agreements;
  • Promoting African participation in international dialogue on global issues of importance to Africa;
  • Reviewing and monitoring environmental programmes at the regional, sub-regional and national levels;
  • Providing regional strategic and policy guidance to promote sound environmental management for sustainable development 
  • Promoting the ratification by African countries of multilateral environmental agreements relevant to the region;
  • Building African capacity in the field of environmental management.

Since the first session of AMCEN, a number of programmes, initiatives and activities have been developed to facilitate the effective implementation of its mandate towards environmental protection in Africa. It has implemented many concrete measures with regard to regional policy development, awareness-raising, advocacy, coordination, networking, knowledge management and dissemination, and training. Through its strong convening power, it has brought together African Governments, institutions and their development partners to deliberate and craft common positions on important issues for regional, international and global consideration.  

Institutional arrangements

In 1997, AMCEN by adopting its first-ever constitution, formalized its existence as the permanent African Ministerial authority on the environment and sustainable development. The Conference is the highest policy-making organ of AMCEN. It has a Bureau consisting of a President and four vice-Presidents (one representing each sub-region). The President of AMCEN presides over the sessions of AMCEN, meetings of the Bureau and conducts the affairs of AMCEN between its ordinary sessions. The Bureau is responsible for the implementation of decisions of the Conference as well as the relations between AMCEN and member states and observers between sessions. UN Environment through its Africa Office, has served as the Secretariat of AMCEN since its inception. The Secretariat works with the President of AMCEN and its Bureau in conducting the affairs of the Conference.

AMCEN at its 4th session, decided to set up a Trust Fund to ensure a sustainable financial base aimed at rendering the Conference more effective. The Trust Fund was established in 1991, on the basis of voluntary contributions. The main objective of the fund is to provide financial support, wholly or partially, for the functioning of the organs of AMCEN and the implementation of its activities. The Trust Fund is managed by UN Environment as the AMCEN Secretariat.