President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya officially opened the 26th Session of the Governing Council of countries which oversee the work programme and budget of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi.
President Kibaki told the delegates from some 140 countries that the United Nations system in his country was doing a commendable job adding that his government would continue to lend maximum support to the two UN agencies headquartered in Nairobi, UNEP and UN-HABITAT.
“The government of Kenya fully supports the international environmental governance process and the incremental steps already being undertaken by UNEP. Kenya remains fully committed to continue playing its role as host to UNEP and the entire U.N. fraternity,” President Kibaki said.
The Head of State said the gathering was one of the strongest voices on environmental sustainability, and a beacon of hope to the peoples of the world, who look up to UNEP and the Global Ministerial Environment Forum: “Indeed the people look up to this forum, to provide the necessary leadership and guidance in the ever increasing challenges of the global environment,” he said
President Kibaki said that since the last meeting of the UNEP Governing Council, the world had faced numerous catastrophes linked to environmental degradation. He cited unprecedented floods, widespread wildfires and devastating droughts.
“These challenges continue to negatively impact on our development goals. It is however encouraging that during the past year, both in Nagoya and Cancun, the hopes of the world were rekindled by agreements that underlined commitments towards collective action,” President Kibaki said.
In a message read on his behalf, the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon lamented the continued environmental degradation and challenged the delegates to come up with measures to counter the scourge.
In his address to the gathering, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mr. Joan Clos said the partnership between his agency and UNEP was bearing fruits especially in addressing the problems linked to rapid urbanisation and climate change.
“The Vancouver Conference of 1976 identified rapid urbanisation as one of the biggest challenges facing mankind. The Rio Earth Summit of 1992 came up with the idea of sustainable development,” he said.
The Executive Director said UN-HABITAT was promoting better urban planning. On his part, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said the world had seen tremendous changes since the Rio Summit and said that as the world prepares for the next Rio Summit in 2012, it was imperative that such changes were looked at keenly.