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The resumed fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) took place from 28 February – 2 March 2022.

The overall theme for UNEA-5 was “Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”. This highlights the pivotal role nature plays in our lives and in social, economic and environmental sustainable development. Immediately after UNEA-5.2, the Assembly will held a Special Session of the Assembly on 3 – 4 March 2022, which is devoted to the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the creation of UN Environment Programme in 1972 (UNEP@50)The special session was held under the theme “Strengthening UNEP for the implementation of the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

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Jambo, karibu Kenya, the greeting that met several of the participants who landed in Nairobi for the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (Unea-5.2). The event run from 28th February and conclude on the second day of March under the theme “Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.

Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau had announced earlier in the week that the 50th anniversary marking the creation of UN Environment Programme (UNEP@50) will also be hosted at the UNEP headquarters in Gigiri, Nairobi, thereafter.

The Environment Assembly meets every two years with the aim of identifying and dissecting global environmental policies as well as developing international environmental law through its resolutions and calls to action, Unea ensures intergovernmental action on the environment.

Over the years Kenya has partnered with UNEP to implement various activities that have overseen improvements in socio-economic spheres, particularly in forest conservation, a ban on single-use plastics championed by NEMA Kenya, environmental management legislation, including the Waste Management Bill that currently being discussed in parliament.

The two conferences brought together at least 2,000 delegates from 193 UN member states and was also attended by high-level delegates among them, four Presidents, from the Republic of Botswana, Maldives, Nigeria and South Sudan, the vice President of Tanzania and of Iran, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and Namibia, the UN Deputy Secretary General, the president of the General Assembly as well as several ministers of Foreign Affairs and of environmental ministries.

While still in the midst of a global pandemic, health and safety precautions were taken into account with all participants requested to download a self-reporting application on their smart-phones and willingly share their Covid-19 statuses on a daily basis after taking self-administered rapid antigen testing given by the UN at no cost.

Every participant had high expectations of the anticipated outcomes from UNEP@50 commemoration which included the promotion of a more systematic approach to environmental challenges experienced in the world currently, strengthening UNEP through a renewed long-term vision building on the Rio+20 outcome document, strengthening of environmental integration as well as a reflection on the historic achievements, impacts and importance of international law.

Given the 93% success rate of the single-use plastic bag ban by NEMA Kenya, more progress was made as world leaders in Nairobi endorsed a landmark agreement to end plastic pollution in the next two years. The heads of state and environmentalists from 175 countries made the historic resolution against plastic production.

The resolution ‘End Plastic Pollution: Towards a legally binding instrument’, aims to tackle plastic pollution in marine and other environments through reduction in product design, consumption and waste management. In the words of Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), “the agreement is the most important international multilateral environmental deal since the Paris climate accord”.

NEMA Director General. Mamo B. Mamo, EBS accompanied the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Keriako Tobiko, EGH, SC, as they attended the High-Level Dialogue: Looking back 50 years of the UN Programme.

The pair also participated in the UNEA 5.2 side event on circular economy in Kenya which was also attended by Denmark Minister for Environment, UNEP Executive Director, Inger Anderson, Lea Wermelin, Environment Principal Secretary, Dr. Chris Kiptoo, CBS and KEPSA CEO Carole Kariuki among others. The side event concluded with the launch of the National Marine Litter Management Action Plan (2021 2030) and National Sustainable Waste Management Policy.

A NEMA delegation led by Dr. Catherine Mbaisi, Mr. Stephen Katua, Dr. Ann Omambia, Dr. Mumbo, and Ruth Nderitu attended and participated in the Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre (MTCC Africa) side event ‘Reconditioning the Future’ under the theme ‘Decarbonization of Africa's shipping sector through Energy Efficiency.’ The meeting was led by the PS, State Department for shipping & Maritime, Nancy Karigithu, CBS, The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Ngumi and Mr. Rob de Jong, Head of the Sustainable Mobility Unit at UNEP.

The NEMA team also participated in the event "Sustainable Oceans - The road to Lisbon: The 2022 United Nations Oceans Conference organized by The Governments of Kenya and Portugal to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

As the week-long celebration concluded, significant gains were made towards our common sustainability goals and there was no doubt that Kenya remains a strong advocate for the environment and will continue to hold steadfast to its pledge of 1972 to support UNEP in the execution of its mandate.

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