Remarks by Amina Mohamed, UNEP Deputy Executive Director at the signing ceremony of MoU between UNEP and Government of Kenya Thu, Oct 25, 2012

Permanent Secretary Ali Mohamed,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The unique relationship between the United Nations Environment Programme and Kenya began 40 years ago as a result of the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden.

Here it was decided to establish what became UNEP and later that year Nairobi was chosen as its location.

It was historic also in the sense that the Kenyan capital became the first city in the developing world to host the headquarters of a United Nations agency. And it remains the case today.

UNEP now employs over one thousand local and international staff at its headquarters in Gigiri, which acts as a hub for a strategic network of regional offices in Thailand, Panama, the United States, Switzerland and Bahrain.

Forty years after that unique event, the signing of today's agreement represents another important 'first' in the organization's history.

For the first time, UNEP is signing a cooperation agreement to work on specific priority areas with a government at the country level. 

Today's Memorandum of Understanding provides a broad framework through which the Government of Kenya and UNEP will engage in environmental projects and programmes in the country.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Kenya is richly endowed with natural assets that are famous across the world.

Our biodiversity-the richness of our native flora and fauna-is unrivalled, and the bedrock of our tourist industry.

Our forests too, provide vital habitats for biodiversity. But they are also major economic drivers. The Mau Forest alone, for example, produces a wide range of vital ecosystem services.

These include carbon storage, water for a dozen river systems, and moisture for the tea industry. Together, they are worth over 1.5 billion US dollars each year.

In the Rift Valley lies another natural endowment - geothermal heat, which is powering Africa's biggest geothermal power plant. Today the Olkaria power station provides 150 Megawatts (MW) to the national grid, or roughly 15% of Kenya's total power generation. And this is only a fraction of its potential.

But Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite the wealth of Kenya's natural resources, and their importance to the development of the national economy, our environment faces major challenges. 

Biodiversity loss, deforestation, and the growing problems of land degradation and dwindling water resources, are among the most serious of these.

Some also have the potential to fuel conflict between communities, as has happened elsewhere in Africa, as competition for dwindling resources rises.

In Kenya, 80% of people depend on subsistence farming and livestock keeping. But the effects of climate change and desertification are posing major threats to these livelihoods.

In Nairobi, waste management remains a critical issue, and untreated sewage continues to pollute waterways. 

To meet some of these challenges, Kenya can increase forest cover to 10% as enshrined in its constitution. The country can embrace good land management practices, including zoning and rights to ownership of land, and deal with its solid waste in a more integrated manner.

Today, UNEP and the Government in Kenya will recommit to catalyzing and scaling-up such actions.

The agreement will further strengthen a partnership that has already led to a wide range of successful projects.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The cooperation between UNEP and Kenya started four decades ago with the establishment of UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, and has steadily increased over the years with a number of initiatives.

UNEP has provided support in many areas:-

The Rehabilitation and restoration of the Mau Forest and development of the Kenya: Atlas of Our Changing Environment.

Comprehensive Integrated Solid Waste Management Strategy for the City Council of Nairobi.

A National Cleaner Production Center to integrate cleaner and resource efficiency production in selected industries, businesses and commercial activities in Kenya for resource efficiency and cost savings.

Assistance in the country's transition to Green economy in different areas, particularly in the renewable energy sector and economic valuation of natural resources.

Assistance in the development of the award winning "Community Cooker" that uses rubbish as source of energy to cook in Kibera and  and conservation of Kenya's water towers, just to mention a few.

Furthermore another key achievement was the establishment of the UNEP Kenya Country Programme (KCP) on 1st April 2008 within the Regional Office for Africa, with the view to enhancing coherence in addressing country needs, improving our visibility in Kenya and triggering a better perception of UNEP's relevance and delivery in the country.

The KCP has scored commendable achievements some of which I just mentioned. This MoU will further support the development of a strategy aimed at enhancing UNEP's strategic presence, and project a consistent image of 'One UNEP', and not the mosaic of projects and programmes on the Kenyan landscape as is has often been the case.

UNEP has also been active in major public awareness campaigns in Kenya. These range from World Environment Day events, litter clean-up days, and the annual celebrations to mark United Nations Day each October. These are important platforms from which to engage the public on the environment.

UNEP has also trained Members of the National Assembly, Nairobi City Council, and other public bodies on climate change challenges facing the country.

These are only a few examples of a rich partnership that can will be strengthened and expanded under the new Memorandum of Understanding.

Specifically, this MoU will support capacity building on environmental assessment, environmental governance and the formulation of environmental policy.

It will further the shared goals and objectives of UNEP and the Government of Kenya in improving  the management of natural resources and in supporting the transition to a low-carbon, socially-inclusive green economy in Kenya.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Kenya will require good environmental stewardship to meet the challenges I outlined earlier. Robust governance and improved environmental education are essential for achieving this.

Good environmental stewardship also involves playing one's part in addressing global environmental challenges, and inspiring others to follow suit.

As part of this MoU, UNEP will also work with Kenya to support the country's implementation of multilateral environmental agreements. These are a range of conventions to which Kenya is a partycovering issues from climate change to wildlife trade. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The world of 2012 is far removed from 1972 when UNEP first took root in Kenya.

Communications, technology and economic development have transformed many people's lives for the better. But new phenomena, such as climate change and rapid urbanization, are posing new challenges to the environment and to human wellbeing.

It is essential that we work together and pool our collective expertise in meeting such challenges.

UNEP stands ready, as it has done since its inception, to support the Government of Kenya in implementing the right mix of policies to continue the country's transition towards an inclusive Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

Forty years ago, Kenya's founding fathers made history in welcoming UNEP to Kenya. This MoU - the first of its kind - is an important step in continuing that special relationship.  

May it help to being about the transformational policies, and positive action needed to continue Kenya's path towards a greener future, and ensuring inclusive, sustainable development for all and the Future We not only Want, but the Future We Need.

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