Dr. Bakary Kante, the founder and chairman of the Africa Sustainability Centre is a leading African thinker-practitioner on sustainability, rule of law and environmental justice at global and national levels. From his early professional life as the Director General of the Ministry of Environment, in his native Senegal, he has been imbued with a deep passion for helping to lift Africa from its technology, sustainability, environmental justice deficit, shaped largely by the Continent’s colonial history.
Dr. Kante counts over 25 years of experience in diplomacy and high level political negotiations at international and national levels towards promoting international environmental governance, environmental justice and rule of law, having successfully provided visionary leadership within UNEP, first, as Special Policy Advisor to the Executive Director and later successively, as the Director of the Division of Environmental Policy Development and Law (DPDL) and Director of the Division of Environmental Law and Conventions (DELC). Dr. Kante was also appointed by the UN Secretary-General as member of the SG’s Task Force to assess environmental damage in the war-torn Balkans.
Prior to his appointment with UNEP, Dr. Kante had already distinguished himself as a sensitive, skilled and astute negotiator, having played a key role in forging African and Group of 77 consensus at global environmental negotiations. From 1984 until he joined UNEP in 1999, he led the Senegalese delegation to successive global and regional environmental negotiations and was elected Chairman of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation of the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change. He was also Senegal’s representative to the UNEP Governing Council from 1984 to 1998 and played a central role in the formulation of the Nairobi Declaration- a milestone in the evolution of UNEP- founded on the governance architecture agreed to by world leaders at the Rio Summit in 1992.
Being a firm believer in the critical role that the private sector and civil society plays in promoting sustainability, transfer of know-how and technology and environmental justice, Dr. Kante introduced innovative and creative approaches in UNEP’s policy guidance and advice programmes in support of the development and implementation of environmental strategies and programmes of action. These initiatives responded to global and regional challenges in areas such as, water management, land policies, energy, technology transfer and capacity building. He advanced the involvement of civil societies and other major groups in the work of UNEP and facilitated the provision of policy and technical assistance to governments in the field of environmental policy and law.
He played a vital role in promoting UNEP’s involvement in the work of the UN Development Groups, and spearheaded UNEP’s efforts to develop a number of major projects and programmes including the intergovernmental strategic plan on capacity building and technology support, and international environmental governance. In the field of Environmental Law and Conventions, Dr. Kante proactively encouraged and supported the negotiation of international and regional policy and legal frameworks for achieving sustainable development and the rule of law, including over a dozen multilateral environmental agreements, and also oversees the administration of all of the UNEP-administered Convention Secretariats.
Calling global biodiversity “The Capital of the Poor”, he has worked relentlessly to strengthen the international legal regime for the protection of biodiversity and for its effective implementation at national level, particularly in the developing countries. He is also credited with having successfully nurtured the initiative to bring the three global Chemicals and Waste Conventions – Rotterdam, Stockholm and Basel Conventions- under a single management regime based on their synergies and inter-linkages, without disrupting their legal autonomy.
Dr. Kante’s time as Director of UNEP’s Division of Environmental Law and Conventions was marked by over fifteen years of unrelenting efforts towards effecting major reforms in the global architecture for international environmental governance, centered round upgrading and further strengthening the role and impact of UNEP. These efforts reached fruition at the Rio + 20 Summit and were endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly and further reinforced by the Governing Council of UNEP in 2012/2013. His ground-breaking initiative to engage the leadership of Chief Justices, Auditor Generals and Attorney Generals in the pursuit of Environmental Rule of Law has already begun to yield admirable advances in the area of environmental justice in many countries.
As a senior diplomat, negotiator and policy developer in his native Senegal as well as at UNEP, he has acquired a deep understanding of Africa’s many challenges in the areas of sustainability and rule of law including, environmental rule of law. He also has a deep insight into practical and implementable African solutions for overcoming these challenges, in line with the Africa’s common history, culture and ethos. An inspiring and eloquent speaker in both English and French, he has a busy schedule of speaking engagements on creatively engaging and empowering major stakeholders to collectively and inclusively advance the goals of sustainability in all its dimensions, inextricably intertwined with equity, justice and the rule of law.