COVID-19 PROTOCOLS

5,000 delegates to miss major Nairobi UN meeting

Unep says the meeting, which begins next Monday, has gone online due to Covid-19

In Summary

• That 2019 meeting attracted about 5,000 participants from 179 countries, including five heads of state and government, 157 environment ministers and deputy ministers.

• The first session of Unea-5 will be conducted virtually on February 22-23, 2021, with a refined agenda that will focus on urgent and procedural decisions.

UN Environment headquarters in Nairobi.
UN Environment headquarters in Nairobi.
Image: Courtesy

Their presence was probably the boost Kenya’s hospitality sector needed to recover from the Covid-19 driven slump.

However, the more than 4,000 delegates who throng to Nairobi once every two years for the UN Environment Assembly, are not coming this year.

The meeting has instead gone online and will take place from Monday to Friday next week.

Unea is the world’s highest-level decision-making forum on environmental issues and takes place in Gigiri every two years.

Unep said in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Unea leadership in October last year decided the assembly should take place in a two-step approach.

The first session of Unea-5 will be conducted virtually on February 22-23, 2021, with a refined agenda that will focus on urgent and procedural decisions.

United Nations website: https://www.un.org/en/

“Substantive matters that require in-depth negotiations will be deferred to a resumed in-person session of Unea-5 in February 2022 in a format to be defined and agreed on at a later stage,” Unep said.

This will be the fifth assembly since 2014 when membership to Unep expanded to the current 193 countries.

The overall theme of next week’s meeting is “Strengthening actions for nature to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.

This will be the second meeting since Inger Andersen, a Danish diplomat, was appointed the new executive director of the Unep in February 2019.

In the last Unea meeting in March 2019, countries committed to significantly reduce single-use plastic products by 2030.

That 2019 meeting attracted about 5,000 participants from 179 countries, including five heads of state and government, 157 environment ministers and deputy ministers.

At the opening of the high-level segment, Uhuru Kenyatta recognised the contributions of indigenous African groups and traditional spiritual leaders to natural resources management.

He said Kenya was committed to reinforcing the role of Unep in Nairobi as the global leader for protecting the environment.

Emmanuel Macron, President of France, warned that the international community was not on track to limit global warming and reduce biodiversity loss.

Other heads of state and government to address the meeting were Maithripala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka, Andry Rajoelina, President of Madagascar, and Édouard Ngirente, Prime Minister of Rwanda.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed also attended Unea-4.

UNEA resolutions are not legally binding, and the content may be repetitive from one session to the next.

Nevertheless, they represent the joint aspirations of the international community, frame consensus around actions to be taken, and help coordinate development aid and technical assistance.