National Capacity Needs Self-Assessment for Global Environmental Management (NCSA) and National Adaptation Programme of Action for Climate Change (NAPA)
Up to 80 percent of Afghan people rely on the country’s natural resource base for their livelihoods. Natural resource management is therefore of paramount importance to sustainable development and improved local livelihoods. However, in developing countries and particularly in post-conflict countries such as Afghanistan, natural resource management is greatly affected by limited human, institutional and physical capacities. In the light of this situation, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) supports the implementation of the National Capacity Needs Self-Assessment for Global Environmental Management (NCSA) and National Adaptation Programme of Action for Climate Change (NAPA) Projects. These projects, which have been combined into one process in Afghanistan, support the identification of priority capacity needs for the implementation of the Rio Conventions, namely, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD), United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the identification of key activities that can mitigate the effects of climate change.
Afghanistan has implemented the NCSA and NAPA processes with support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and with funds from the GEF. This final NCSA and NAPA Report is supplemented by three Thematic Reports that specifically address the areas of biodiversity, desertification and climate change. The objectives of the NCSA are to: (1) identify, confirm or review priority issues for action within the thematic areas of biodiversity, climate change and desertification, respectively; (2) explore related capacity needs within and across the three thematic areas; (3) catalyze targeted and coordinated action and requests for future external funding and assistance; and (4) link country action to the broader national environmental management and sustainable development framework. The objective of the NAPA is to serve as a simplified and direct channel of communication for information relating to the urgent and immediate adaptation needs of Afghanistan to the effects of climate change.
The environment in Afghanistan is characterized by a precarious balance between low levels of precipitation and primary production. The disruption of traditional practices that has resulted from insecurity, migration, a breakdown of social structures, poverty and drought has led to over exploitation of the natural resource base. Today, we can observe a situation of biodiversity loss, land degradation for both natural and anthropogenic reasons, the denudation of bio-physical protection which accelerates wind and water erosion, and a real lack of productivity in the arid zones.
Impoverished soils are reducing carrying capacity, resulting in overstocking, cultivation of unsuitable land for cash and subsistence crops, and exposure of soils to wind and water erosion. Conflicts are generated by competing land uses and decreased natural resource and water availability. The consequences have included severe flooding, soil and wind erosion, deforestation, reduced pasture quality, decimation of wildlife populations, air pollution, decrease in the quality and quantity of water for irrigation and drinking, and so on, all compounded by macro level climatic changes, especially those related to precipitation.
While there is awareness within the government of some of the consequences of biodiversity loss and desertification, particularly in the face of climate change, the pressure for survival at the local level and economic growth at the national level in an insecure country has resulted in little substantive action being taken to address the issue. In this context the NCSA and NAPA processes, together with the Rio conventions themselves, provide Afghanistan with an opportunity to orientate national development in a manner that fosters national ownership, promotion of partnerships, adaptation and capacity building for sustainable natural resource management.
Image from report: Degraded watershed in Sar-Rostaq, Takhar: unstable uplands are eroding into lower agricultural lands
Constraints and opportunities for compliance with the Rio Conventions
The major constraints for the implementation of the Rio Conventions, as identified by the NCSA process, were cross-cutting for the three thematic areas (biodiversity, desertification and climate change) and therefore merited a synergistic intervention approach. They focused on: conflict and poverty; weak policy and legal frameworks for facilitating compliance with the Rio Conventions; weak inter-institutional coordination mechanisms; lack of strategies and plans for implementation of the Rio Conventions; low awareness of the Rio Conventions and associated issues; lack of data and information; inadequate technical capacities to comply with the Rio Conventions; unsustainable land and resource management practices; lack of infrastructure; inadequate funding; and limited research capacities.
Cross-cutting opportunities for improving compliance with the Rio Conventions include: existing supportive institutions; initial legislative framework; participatory approaches to natural resource management recognized; supportive international community; and potential for mainstreaming and tapping global resources.