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Give Unep its rightful status, Uhuru urges member States

George Kebaso and Evelyn Makena @PeopleDailyKe

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday intensified calls to the United Nations community to support the strengthening of the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) headquarters to enable it effectively respond to the increasing environmental challenges.

The Head of State indicated that little has been achieved by member States in a decision by Heads of State, during the 2012 Rio+20 meeting in Brazil, to consolidate the functions of the Unep headquarters in Nairobi.

Many countries lauded the decision made in June 2012 as a major step forward to the ‘Future We Want’ decision by the UN General Assembly (Unga) to ‘strengthen and upgrade’ Unep and establish universal membership of its governing body.

However, from his speech at the opening of the high level segment of the 3rd Session of the UN Environment Assembly, Uhuru regretted that without concrete commitments by the 193 members including increased funding, the decision remains to be seen as a mere promise.

This, he said, would continue to hamper Unep’s functions including effective response to pollution that has reached a crisis level. “Five years ago in 2012, the world gathered in Brazil at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, during which it re-affirmed its commitment to the environment,” said Uhuru.

“In the outcome document, ‘The Future We Want’, the summit committed itself to strengthening the role of United Nations Environment Programme as the leading global environmental authority.”

The President said he believes that Unep would solely set the global environmental agenda and requires a committed support to promote the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the UN system. He said Kenya remains wholly committed to strengthening and supporting Unep to achieve this noble goal.

“Now, as then, I would also like to encourage other member states to consider raising their voluntary contributions to help United National Environment Programme discharge its mandate effectively,” added the Head of State. He challenged Unep to take steps to strengthen its headquarter functions as part the Rio+20 Summit dictates.

He, however, expressed optimism that the renewed focus on reforms within the United Nations — led by the Secretary General — will also strengthen Unep, and in particular, the urgent efforts being undertaken to consolidate its headquarter functions Nairobi.

Yesterday, Guyana President Brigadier David and his Trinida and Tobago counterpart Anthony Thomas Aquinas attended the session. The two Heads of State from the small Caribbean Islands joined President Uhuru Kenyatta during the opening of the Unea 3rd Session.

The two leaders called for meaningful partnerships in dealing with pollution. “Pollution is like cancer and we have to embark on how to eradicate it,” said Aquinas. On Monday, Uhuru urged Unga President Miroslav Laják, who paid him a courtesy call, to use his networks to help consolidate and strengthen Unep and UN-Habitat headquarter functions in Nairobi.

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