STATEMENT BY HIS EXCELLENCY HON. UHURU KENYATTA, C.G.H., PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA AND COMMANDER IN-CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE FORCES DURING THE GENERAL DEBATE OF THE 74TH SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2019 IN NEW YORK.
The President of the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly, Ambassador Tijjani Muhammad-Bande,
Secretary-General of the United Nations, H.E. António Guterres,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am indeed delighted to participate in this 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
I congratulate the President of this Session, Professor Tijjani, a son of Africa and of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Professor Tijjani, you can count on the full support from Kenya.
I also take this opportunity to commend your predecessor Ambassador Maria Fernanda Espinosa, who throughout her tenure remained steadfast in her promotion of, and commitment to, a rules-based international system and multilateralism.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The theme for this year’s Session: “Galvanizing multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate action, and inclusion” is timely. It helps us to engage a range of complex and intertwined global challenges that confront humanity today.
We, collectively, have a solemn duty to ensure the world is a better place for future generations. We must bequeath our children a politically stable, environmentally healthy and socially cohesive world. We, the leaders gathered in this great hall, are and must be the bridge to that future world.
Our actions today will determine whether that future will be bleak: with depleted resources, with higher poverty levels, and fragmented, warring nations. Or on the other hand our actions today will bestow upon our children better living standards, prosperous, vibrant and cohesive societies, endowed with sustainably managed resources. Mr. President, never have we, the global leaders, faced such a stark choice—to either redeem the future or destroy it.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The envisaged prosperous future calls us all to take bold actions that give meaning to the theme of this Session of the General Assembly.
In this regard, allow me Mr. President, to reflect on a number of actions that can contribute to the desired future:
First, we must put people at the core of development. We must support our populations, particularly the youth, to be productively engaged, to shape the future and not to fall victim to it. In this regard, we must accelerate the implementation of the SDGs. Critical to this is the generation of big disaggregated data to help us plan, target interventions, and to monitor implementation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In Kenya, we have heavily invested in education and health, in an effort to achieve social inclusion, develop knowledge and competencies, and secure the future by not leaving anyone behind. We have now achieved 100 percent transition from primary to secondary school, and free secondary school education for all day scholars.
To enhance equal opportunity, we have also provided re-entry for girls who drop out of school after falling pregnant. We provide free sanitary towels to all school-going girls. Kenya’s children now enjoy an average of 10.7 years of schooling, the highest in the region.
To drive our economy, Kenya is tackling the burden of diseases and is on the path of achieving Universal Health Coverage by 2022.
We provide access to a health benefits package that prioritizes primary health care interventions, reduces the cost of medicines and increases the number of people with insurance cover.
Second, Mr. President, you cannot have development without sustainable peace.
In the Horn of Africa region, a complexity of factors has, in the last three or so decades, led to multi-layered threats to peace. These are exacerbated by the disruptive effects of climate change, introducing ecological vulnerabilities to a delicate security context.
The ability of terrorist organizations to execute their plans with impunity, has introduced another dimension to the security terrain in our region.
The commitment to pursue peace and security remains at the core of Kenya’s Foreign Policy. I am pleased to say that combined efforts to advance peace and security in the region continue to bear fruits.
I take this opportunity to congratulate The Sudan for coming to a path of sustainable peace, which they negotiated amongst themselves with the help of the African Union. Kenya shares the optimism of the people of the The Sudan. We believe that the transitional process will pave the way for democratic elections in 2022.
I warmly commend the role of the Women of The Sudan for driving and facilitating this most satisfactory and lessons laden outcome, that makes Africa proud.
I am also encouraged by progress made in South Sudan. Security has improved with a decrease in violence across the country since the signing of the Revitalized Peace Agreement and I am convinced the pending issues can be resolved in a consultative and collaborative manner.
I commend Dr Riek Machar for travelling to Juba for the face-to-face meeting with his brother and colleague, President Salva Kiir, to engage on the outstanding issues.
Kenya supports the creation of all-inclusive transitional mechanism and institutions to undertake the required political processes and reforms. This will ensure smooth transition to the next phase of the peace process.
In the same spirit, my administration continues to reach out to the Federal Republic of Somalia in an effort to find an amicable and sustainable solution to the maritime boundary dispute between us. In this regard, I welcome the decision of the African Union Peace and Security Council of 3rd September 2019 that urges both parties to engage.
As we all know, the UN Charter privileges the use of negotiation as the most preferred mechanism for settlement of disputes. Similarly, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides for the delimitation of maritime boundaries between states amicably. It is in this normative framework that informs Kenya’s call for the resolution of this dispute through negotiation.
We remain hopeful that the Federal Government of Somalia will be amenable and committed to the search for a mutually acceptable and sustainable solution to this dispute.
Third, Mr. President, we must act together to protect our shared destiny. Pressure from population growth, diminishing resources and climate change put stress on natural resources such as water, food, arable land and energy. We leaders must turn to sustainable resource management models to help restore the balance in our ecosystem.
I congratulate the Secretary General for convening the Climate Action Summit. We must implement and scale up affordable solutions that help us leapfrog to sustainable and more resilient economies that reduce green-house emissions, and push global warming below 1.5 degrees celsius.
Kenya and Turkey co-lead the Infrastructure, Cities and Local Action aspect of the Summit whose aim is to build better climate resilience initiatives for the urban poor. We urge countries to place the vulnerable urban poor communities at the centre of their climate action plans.
Together with 13 other Heads of State and Government and the Special Envoy for the Ocean, Kenya is a member of the High Level Panel for Sustainable Ocean Economy that seeks to develop and support solutions for Ocean health and wealth in policy, governance, technology and finance.
In the Horn of Africa we witness a confluence of climate change and conflict. Cyclic droughts pressure food supply, cause competition over land, water and other resources, and become a driver of conflicts.
We welcome the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C, that points to the urgent actions needed to avert catastrophic global climate change.
On its part, Kenya has embarked on programmes for sustainable proactive Climate Action.
We have banned the use of single-use plastics and intensified our national tree planting campaigns in order to restore our water catchment areas. We target to increase our forest cover from the current 7 percent to 15 percent by 2022.
We are focused on development of clean energy. Today, Kenya is among the top ten global producers of geothermal electricity. Recently, we launched a 300 MW Wind Project, the single largest wind power project in Africa, and have several renewable energy generation projects in the pipeline.
The fourth area that we need to secure a better future, is financing for development. We need an estimated US$2.5 to 3 trillion annually to finance SDGs and Climate Action and target the critical needs of our populations.
We need to introduce innovative financing models that reorients private capital, create new instruments and modalities that strengthen regulatory framework to de-risk investments.
Recognising the untapped potential to raise capital through issuance of Bonds to ordinary citizens, the government of Kenya, in conjunction with private sector players, launched a mobile centered government bond called M-Akiba in 2017 so that Kenyans can, with as little as US$30, participate in the Government Securities Market.
We have provided financial facilitation through a revolutionary Micro Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) credit financing scheme dubbed ‘Stawi’, which means ‘Prosper’ in Kiswahili that enables small business enterprises to overcome constraints, including lack of collateral and perceived credit risk.
The fifth area, Mr. President, is the use of technology to drive development. Digital revolution offers opportunities to accelerate the achievement of SDGs in multiple ways, including e-commerce, online jobs, improved service delivery, increasing transparency, improved targeting for social safety net programs and expanding financial inclusion.
Taking advantage of mobile phone financial services, we in Kenya have more than tripled financial inclusion, from 26 percent in 2006 to 82 percent in 2019.
In May 2019, we launched the Kenya Digital Economy Blueprint to develop “a digitally empowered citizenry, living in a digitally enabled society.” We hope to champion the growth of an Africa wide digital economy.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, the agenda outlined requires not less partnerships, not less collaboration and international cooperation. We therefore need to re-energize and reform the multilateral system in order to guarantee our common future. We must reaffirm the values of the UN Charter that embraces a common humanity, safeguards a rule based international order, and underscores equality and respect of all humanity.
I applaud the Secretary-General for his continued reform efforts. Kenya is honoured to host the United Nations Offices in Nairobi, the only one in the global south and looks forward to facilitating the establishment and hosting of the regional United Nations Global Service Delivery Model Centre (GSDM).
We also welcome the positive response by the UN General Assembly to the concerns raised by Member States calling for better coordination on urbanization, human settlement and environmental governance matters.
In this regard, in March of 2019, Kenya was proud to host a successful 4th Session of the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA); and the Third Session of the One Planet Summit (OPS) with France also in March of this year also the First Session of the United Nations Habitat Assembly (UNHA) in May this year.
Kenya fully supports strengthening of the governance and Member States’ oversight over UN-Habitat.
Mr. President, I thank the African Union for the endorsement of Kenya’s candidature to the United Nations Security Council for the year 2021-2022. And our pursuit for solutions to global challenges convinces us that we are well placed to contribute constructively in the Security Council.
When the world had given up on our region, we opened our doors to millions of people fleeing insecurity. To this day, we remain host hundreds of thousands of refugees.
Our investment in The Sudan negotiations led to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. And we continue to support stabilization efforts in both Sudan and South Sudan.
When the world had turned away from Somalia, we engaged and invested in the Eldoret and Mbagathi peace processes that led to the formation and hosting of the Transitional National Government in Kenya that ultimately led to formation of Transitional Federal Government in Somalia.
We have over the years contributed more than 40,000 peacekeepers and engaged in post conflict reconstruction and development efforts across the world.
We, therefore, hope that our experience, our competencies and unrelenting search for peace and prosperity in our neighbourhood, on our continent and the wider world, will persuade the entire UN Membership to support the African Union candidate, for the non-permanent seat of the United Nations Security Council during the elections slated for June of 2020. I request for the vote of each and every member of our United Nations family.
In closing, I invite you all of you to Kenya in November this year, when together with the Kingdom of Denmark and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), we will convene the Nairobi Summit on the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25).
This is our opportunity to reaffirm the recognition of people’s rights, choices, and well-being as a path to a sustainable and integrated development. Our deliberations in Nairobi will undoubtedly secure our future and shared destiny.
I Thank You.
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