I witnessed an exciting and busy week in Nairobi from 15th – 19th February. History was being written at the United Nations complex in Gigiri; the headquarters of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), the world’s highest decision making body on environment. That week saw more than 400 senior government officials from the member states, gather to negotiate 24 draft resolutions.
This was the 2nd Open Ended Committee of Permanent Representatives (OECPR-2), held in preparation for the 2nd United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) meeting, to be held in May this year, under the theme “The Environmental Dimension for Agenda 2030”.
Moreover, there were forty delegates representing nine Major groups and Stakeholders. Children and youth was one of such major groups. This is a noble group because the impact of climate change and environmental issues affect them most and for an extended time deep into their future. The success in implementation and realization of sustainable development goals (SDGs) on the environment, also depends on them. I was humbled to represent the group in the meeting.
Throughout the meeting, it was evident that UNEP’s decision making body (UNEA), acknowledges the role of children and youth in the realization of the SDGs. This was through some draft resolutions discussed, which affect them directly such as: Investing in human capacity for sustainable development, through environmental education and training and sustainable management of natural capital; for sustainable development and poverty eradication among others. This was of importance because eradication of poverty and ignorance, are key to youth empowerment.
Additionally, OECPR-2 was such a milestone meeting, because it provided an organizational mechanism for the engagement of civil society and other stakeholders in environmental policy making process. This gave an equal opportunity to the stakeholders and state officials in the legislative process. The marginalized groups like indigenous people, women, children and youth also got a chance to be heard; making it all inclusive and transparent.
The meeting was for me an opportunity to network. Meeting people from various countries with whom we share common ideals was of great importance. We found common ground for supporting each other, and to air our views and grievances on a wider global platform.
I found the meeting to be very informative. I managed to get a lot of information of varied nature, which is essential for the campaign on environmental conservation, youth and children affairs. Besides, engaging with environmental experts not only gave me insights into how much has been done on environmental conservation and rehabilitation, but also the task that lies ahead.
However, it was with great concern, that i noted the low number of youth delegates at the meeting. Logistical obstacles such as accommodation and travel costs, coupled with lack of information about the meeting, are partly to blame. It is my wish that UNEP and other stakeholders look for ways to have more youth on board.
As we look forward to the 2nd UNEA, let our clarion call be ‘CLIMATE ACTION NOW!’, because a healthy environment equals to a healthy people.
Guest Blog by:
Brian is a second-year medical student at the Moi University in Kenya.