National Priority Setting Workshop in Botswana Identifies Key Priorities and Action for Strengthening Environmental Governance

More than 80 participants from various government sectors and stakeholders came together in Botswana, Gaborone from 3-4 November 2010 to discuss national priorities regarding access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters. These issues are covered by the Principle of the Rio Declaration, which was adopted at the Rio Summit in 1992 by Heads of States and Governments. The workshop was organized by Botswana’s Department of Environmental Affairs through a collaborative project with UNITAR. In his opening remarks, Mr. Phetogo Phage, Director of Botswana’s Meteorological Services, highlighted that the workshop marked a milestone in the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism’s Strategic Plan for strengthening partnership with stakeholders.

At the workshop, participants discussed and agreed on specific action to address gaps in the implementation of Principle 10 in Botswana.  The discussion revealed that many elements to support the implementation of the principle are in place, but that in practice a number of shortcomings need to be addressed through targeted action. Recommendations included establishing partnerships with the media in disseminating environmental information; developing collaborative strategies for enhancing capacity building for public participation; as well as training staff in environmental law. In his concluding remarks Mr. Stevie Monna, Director of the Department of Environmental Affairs, pointed out that proposals made at the workshop would be incorporated into an Action Plan and the Ministerial strategy for attaining the Millennium Development Goals under Botswana’s Vision 2016.
 
During 2010 the Department of Environmental Affairs had led a country-wide multi-stakeholder process to develop a National Profile on the three pillars of Principle 10. The profile pointed to a number of challenges, including limited access to environmental information and the lack of supportive legislation. Regarding the participation of the public in environmental decision-making, it became clear that although “kgotlas”, traditional meetings at village level, are widely used and offer opportunities for a number of situations, the mechanisms are not necessarily the best, hence the call for the consideration of alternative media for public participation and  information dissemination. The most challenging issue in Botswana seems to be access to justice. The right to seek redress is well recognized, but there is a major gap in understanding of its practical implications, and of relevant training for those involved, at all levels, including police officers and judges.

For further information please contact the National Focal Point for the project Ms. Arabang Kanego (akanego@gov.bw) or visit: http://www.unitar.org/egp/principle-10-botswana.

Environmental Governance Programme contact: envgov@unitar.org.