Disquiet as State officers ‘snub’ UNEA conference

George Kebaso @Morarak

The Kenyan government representation at the ongoing environment talks at the United Nations Complex in Gigiri is low and worrying ahead of today’s high-level meeting to be opened formally by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Since the meeting kicked off on Monday where ground-breaking research findings have been released followed by adoption of key decisions and resolutions, only Environment Cabinet secretary Keriako Tobiko, the highest government official  has been present.

He has been seen hopping from one forum to another, while his fellow line CSs for  Mining, Water and Irrigation, Tourism, Agriculture, Transport, Infrastructure and Housing, ICT and Finance, among others, are missing from the meeting.

Normally, top government officials are supposed to be part of the discussions especially those targeting the sectors they are in charge of so that they are able to report to the President key issues discussed and agreed. This happens before he opens the key segment of the meeting usually attended by other Heads of State, to give it top political goodwill.

Environmental challenges

“It is shocking that these key personalities are missing in the important talks that are being held on their soil. This should not happen, at least, not when Kenya is grappling with serious environmental challenges,” a delegate who wished not to be identified told People Daily.

On Tuesday, three key reports touching on the environment were launched. One on Mining and the Environment.

The Global Environment Outlook report, a UN Environment Programme’s flagship environmental assessment that reviews the state of the global environment, the effectiveness of policy response and the pathways that might be used to achieve a more sustainable future was launched.

The sixth edition of the Global Environment Outlook has been in preparation for more than two years by a group of more than 200 experts.

The report focuses on the transformational pathways that governments, business and citizens can follow to achieve a truly sustainable world.

On Tuesday, the Global Resources Outlook 2019 report by the International Resource Panel was also launched.

Over the past five decades, our global population has doubled, the extraction of materials has tripled and Gross Domestic Product has quadrupled.

The outlook analyses the demographics and socio-economic forces driving the extraction and use of natural resources globally, and will report on how these drivers and pressures have determined our current conditions.

Most polluted

At the same time, a book by the UN-Habitat in partnership with Tongj University of China was unveiled which cited Lake Victoria as one of the most polluted fresh water bodies in the world.

“When such findings are released, top government officials should be there so that they can push for policies required to support the findings,” another delegate said.

On Monday, Nairobi Women Representative Esther Passaris attended the opening session of the first plenary and on Tuesday, Senate Assembly Speaker, Kenneth Lusaka also attended.

But yesterday, People Daily, learnt that most of the ministries had not been formally invited to the meeting.

“The coordinating ministry, which is headed by Tobiko has not formally invited us to attend the meeting as protocol requires,” a CS who sought anonymity said.

Tourism CS, Najib Balala for instance has had to make personal arrangements through his office to meet with heads of delegations from the US, Belgium, Portugal, Spain and Czech Republic governments to discuss conservation matters today.

He told People Daily yesterday that he is lobbying – the five countries deemed to be notorious in supporting ivory trade – to influence closure of ivory markets.

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