By Lewis Kihumba
5e session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2) took place in person and online from 28e February – 2n/a March 2022, in Nairobi, Kenya. The theme of the session Strengthening actions for nature to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals physically brought together around 3,000 participants. Established in 2012, the UNEA is the highest-level meeting on the state of the environment, with member states deliberating on critical environmental issues. It is also the supreme decision-making body of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
UNEA 5.2 came on the heels of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP 26), held in November 2021, with the world facing loss of nature and biodiversity, changing climate change and pollution threatening the world. Some of the key topics discussed during UNEA 5.2 included how to tackle plastic pollution, careful management of chemicals and waste, green recovery, and how to protect nature and biodiversity.
Participants at UNEA 5.2 were drawn from Member States and included government officials, UN representatives, non-governmental organizations and (NGOs) international governmental organizations (IGOs), among others. BirdLife International was well represented at the event, with the assembly following the hugely successful 1Planet1Right campaign which saw the right to a healthy environment adopted by the UN Human Rights Council as a human right .
For Ludmilla Duarte Souza and Luma Santana de Souza Dorea from Brazil, and Peter Okeyo Orimba from Kenya – all students at the University of Nairobi (UoN), participating in UNEA 5.2 via BirdLife was an eye-opening experience. Ludmilla and Peter are undertaking a doctorate in environmental policy, while Luma is undertaking a doctorate in international environmental law. The trio participated in the meeting as observers, participating in the deliberations and developing the written content. Additionally, Peter participated in the pre-UNEA 5.2 sessions, as part of the Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum, where he helped develop joint global statements for the main sessions.
“BirdLife Africa is developing relationships with various universities to share knowledge and expose African students to the real world of conservation and policy,” said Ken Mwathe, policy and communications coordinator at the BirdLife International Africa office. “UNEA is an excellent forum where students of environmental policy and law can experience international policymaking in action. We are delighted that the students at the University of Nairobi took advantage of the opportunity we gave them to learn so much,” he added.
“The partnership with BirdLife International that allowed our PhD students in environmental policy and law to attend UNEA 5.2 was extremely beneficial. This gave them hands-on exposure to international environmental diplomacy in the quest to resolve the Triple Planetary Crisis. I hope we will leverage this partnership for the benefit of both institutions and the environment,” noted Collins Odote, Professor of Law at the University of Nairobi.
For Ludmilla, this experience provided insight into different approaches to solving critical environmental issues and the rise of young environmental activists, while for Luma, this involvement gave him access to different opinions and contexts of environmental issues. in different countries. For his part, Peter noted that this experience will be instrumental in informing sustainable extractive sector policy in the Nairobi Metropolitan area of Kenya.
As the world faces a natural and climate crisis, the trio recognized that it is very important to involve young people in the decision-making process. In addition, there is a need to change our relationship with the environment, to adopt sustainable practices and to include the marginalized and those bearing the brunt of climate change the most.
“At the end of the UNEA 5.2 global event, I had one certainty: the solution for the sustainable development of the planet will only be found if we leave historically marginalized peoples – such as indigenous peoples, women farmers, communities tribes, young militants – to show and lead the way.
Ludmilla Duarte Souza
“Global environmental governance is the only way out for effective governance of emerging environmental issues, and we must strengthen collective action to address nature and climate crises.”
Peter Okeyo Orimba
“Participating in UNEA 5.2 and seeing the active participation of young environmentalists sharing lessons at the UN event in Kenya, was a great experience. This new generation of eco-activists want to work with politicians, businessmen and scientists to seek sustainable solutions that also reduce the socio-economic inequalities of the planet. To me, this means that there is a ray of hope to achieve sustainable development, while thinking about the future generation.
Luma Santana de Souza Dorea