NAIROBI, Kenya, June 23 – The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) opened on Monday at the United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON) in a show of, “solidarity,” with Kenya in the face of recent security challenges and travel warnings.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said the attendance of over 1,000 delegates from over 100 countries was a clear indication that “the world stood with Kenya as it faces security challenges.”
“Let me also say to those of you who made the journey here even though you were sometimes concerned about the security challenges, it is in moments like these that we share with each other the principles of solidarity and we look to our host country to make all the efforts possible to make this meeting one in which each one of you will feel this was the place to be,” Steiner said in his opening address.
Meanwhile, additional, armed, police officers were stationed outside the UNON and on the roads leading up to it, on foot and on the back of trucks.
On May 29, Kenya’s Permanent Representative to UNEP, Martin Kariuki sought to assure the delegates that Kenya had put in place adequate security measures to ensure their safety.
“They will have security escorts from the airport to their hotels and to the UNON so they have nothing to fear,” he said.
Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Environment Judy Wakhungu who addressed the delegates at UNEA’s opening ceremony focused on the strides Kenya has made in the area of green energy as well as calling for increased funding for UNEP.
“Kenya appreciates various developments that will contribute to the effective realisation of UNEP’s co-ordination and advocacy role for the environment within the UN system. We recognise that for this to be realised there’s need for increased financial support from the UN regular budget,” she said.
And she did not stop short of encouraging the delegates themselves to budget both time and money for experiencing Kenya’s attractions at a time when the tourism sector is reeling from the effects of insecurity.
The first lady Margaret Kenyatta was also expected to host a welcome cocktail for the delegates on Monday evening as Kenya takes a lead role in steering the Assembly’s agenda with one of the main agenda items being the illegal trade in wildlife.