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Africa in the News: "UNEP Commends Environmental Policy"

 The New Times (Rwanda): UNEP Commends Environmental Policy



Rwanda has gained recognition from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for a rather simple, but significant, environmental effort. The country has banned plastic bags altogether and since the law was enacted in 2005 it has been successfully enforced. This effort has been attributed to a larger appreciate for the benefits of protecting the environment and developing in a sustainable way.UNEP Director, Achim Stiener, recognized that Rwanda “has set an example for other African states to follow.”


This initiative on plastic bags is only a small piece of a larger commitment to environmental sustainability that the Rwandan government has successfully and responsibly engaged in.  Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), Rose Mukankomeje, made it clear that “that the country is "going green" in all sectors of the economy, from schools to agricultural activities and towns.”  This all encompassing effort is formally expressed in Rwanda’s latest constitution which includes an amendment which serves as a “new organic law on the environment—article 3, which stipulates that every person has the right to live under a safe and clean environment.” President Paul Kagame has also made an effort to emphasize the importance of sustainable development as a key element to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The Rwandan government has taken a holistic view of environmental sustainability noting that all long-term development efforts have a relationship with the environment. This view has necessitated that efforts to protect the environment has been a major priority.


Through the banning of plastic bags, and other successfully implemented programs, Rwanda has set a shining example for other countries to follow. Their initiatives, like the banning of plastic bags or locally organized cleaning efforts, do not require external assistance or much spending. Rather, the key factors are “leadership, determination and a willingness to address issues.” After years of war, which took a significant human and environmental toll, Rwanda has successfully begun the transformation towards improving and sustaining a healthy environment.  While the will to improve the quality of the environment exists in many African countries Rwanda has proven that if the will exists, development and environmental sustainability can be a reality.



An article from the BBC titled “Rwanda gets tough on plastic bags”: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4619748.stm


An article from ‘The New Times’ (Rwanda) titled “Govt to Support Plastic Recycling Factories”: http://allafrica.com/stories/201102280001.html


A video on the ‘Poverty and Environment Initiative” in Rwanda: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NA2mwKP2CcQ



1.       Do you think that the attempt to develop in an environmentally friendly way puts Rwanda at an advantage or disadvantage? Why?

2.       Do you think the environmental damage caused by civil war contributed to Rwanda’s commitment to protecting its natural resources?

3.       Do you think some development should take place, even if it harms the environment or uses unrenewable resources, to provide people with basic needs (i.e. food, shelter, water, electricity, etc.)? Where would you draw the line?

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sarah little