NAIROBI — Kenya is expected to host the first United Nations Environment Assembly next month. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, world environmentalists, government officials and lobby groups will be discussing how the international community can addresses environmental challenges facing the planet.
Speaking to reporters in Nairobi, Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Program, says experts in finance, social sciences, law and development will take part in the UNEP meeting, which will aim to shape a global agenda for improving the environment, on issues as diverse as climate change and illegal trade in wildlife products.
“In terms of substantive focus of the United Nations Environment Assembly, there are two themes that ministers will focus on," he said. "In particular, one is the theme of sustainable development goals, including sustainable consumption and production."
Steiner said the Environment Assembly will address the "dichotomy" between environmental sustainability, on the one hand, and economic and social development on the other. He promised the meetings in Nairobi will provide governments with the science and policy options to help guide them, as well as a platform for international cooperation.
The UNEP director acknowledged that environmental challenges around the world are weighty issues that require input from all member states and partners.
The assembly is expected to tackle the growing problem of illegal wildlife trade, which has been aggravated in East Africa by a sharp rise in poaching, and other environment-related crimes.
Kenya’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Martin Kimani, notes Kenya's keen interest in the debate over how to suppress illegal poaching.
“This, as you know, it’s a crucial matter for us," he said. "Our country has challenges in this regard, but they are challenges that everyone from the president on downward have met very robustly."
Kimani says Kenya needs global endorsement of its efforts to enforce international agreements restricting trade in prohibited wildlife products, but also broad cooperation.
Increasing demand from East Asian countries like China and Thailand, where ivory is is believed to have medicinal properties, has led to a sharp increase in poaching in Kenya and neighboring Tanzania.
Kenyan officials say they recovered more than 13 tons of ivory last year at the port city of Mombasa alone.
The government has deployed more game wardens to protect Kenya's elephant and rhino population. More stringent penalties for poaching and illegal wildlife trading now include lengthy prison terms and fines of more than $200,000