The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was established on May 25, 1963. On 9 September 1999, the heads of state and governments of the OAU issued the Sirte Declaration (named after Sirte, in Libya), calling for the establishment of an African Union. The Declaration was followed by summits at Lomé in 2000, when the Constitutive Act of the African Union was adopted, and at Lusaka in 2001, when the Plan for the Implementation of the African Union was adopted.
The African Union was launched in Durban on July 9, 2002, by the then South African President, Thabo Mbeki, at the first session of the Assembly of the African Union. The Union’s administrative centre is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and the working languages are Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, and Swahili. The African Union counts 53 member States with Marocco being the only African State that is not a member. Geographically, the African Union covers an area of 29,757,900 km² and for 2010, the United Nations Population Division estimated a population total of 1 033 043 000.
Considering that the African continent is extremely rich in natural resources, the protection and conservation of the environment is an overarching aim within the African Union. That this is indeed the case is reflected throughout the African Union’s entire legal framework.
The Constitutive Act of the African Union, which was adopted in Lomé, Togo in 2000, provides in its Article 13 that the Executive Council coordinates and take decisions on policies in areas of common interest to the Member States. This includes, foreign trade; energy, industry and mineral resources; food, agricultural and animal resources; livestock production and forestry; water resources and irrigation; and the environment and its protection.