The Programs Manager for the Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA), David Ngigi Munene, engaged the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) who doubles as the UN Undersecretary, Mr. Achim Steiner, 101.
The 101 encounter with Mr. Steiner happened during the close of the 15th Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum (GMGSF) hosted by UNEP at the United Nations’ Headquarters in Africa. The GMGSF preceded the Second United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA2) that took place between 23rd and 27th May 2016. Mr. Steiner had just concluded a moderated dialogue session with the Major Groups and Stakeholders of the UNEA when I walked up to him with the intention of congratulating him for hid excellent performance at the UNEP over his ten-year term. This congratulatory moment would later evolve naturally into a lengthy conversation concerning his tenure at UNEP, the role of young people in environmental stewardship, and CYNESA’s work.
Concerning his tenure at UNEP, I congratulated Mr. Steiner for having transformed the UNEP into an organisation that engages in dialogue more openly with growing opportunities for consultations with non-government stakeholders. Mr. Steiner took up directorship at the UNEP at a time when environmental policy development was largely a closed-door reserve of member states devoid of the voices of major stakeholders like civil society organisations and young people. It was during Mr. Steiner’s tenure that the UNEP even began recognising the role of Faith Based Organisations and religion in stewarding sustainability. UNEP has enabled the publishing of documents such as “The Faith We Share and the World We Want” that evidence this transformative progress.
In line with this recognition of the place of religion and faith in stewarding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Mr. Steiner and I discussed the importance of bringing young Africans up to speed with their role as implementers of the SDGs and the definers of the future. As the network of young Catholics in Africa caring for creation, CYNESA brings on board young Catholics and non-Catholics to dialogue and action in response to the twin challenges of environmental degradation and climate change. Mr. Steiner congratulated CYNESA for supporting UNEP’s work in their own unique way and urged that we continue to ensure that we own the global goals to ensure transformation of Africa by 2030.
There was a light moment when the discussion switched to the closure of Mr. Steiner’s tenure at UNEP and the commencement of his tenure at Oxford University on Thursday, September 1, 2016. When I told him that he had left a legacy at UNEP and nothing could negate that now, Mr. Steiner stated that the UN could only fire him. Mr. Steiner and I laughed when I stated, “…and when you are fired by the UN, who else can fire you really…?”
Evidently, whenever everyone took to podium either in his presence or absentia, the gonging message revolved around how Mr. Steiner had done an exemplary job in rallying the world together behind the environmental agenda including the birthing of UNEA following the adoption of resolution 67/251 by the General Assembly during the Rio+20 summit.
David N. Munene.
David is the Programs Manager at CYNESA.