Managing Climate Change is Critical for Human Development in Kenya

May 6, 2014

UNDP Resident representative and UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Nardos Bekele-Thomas (centre) launches the 7th National Human Development Report with the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Devolution and Planning, Anne Waiguru (second right).

United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in partnership with the Government of Kenya has launched the 7th National Human Development Report themed Climate Change and Human Development: Harnessing Emerging Opportunities. This follows the realization that effects of climate change and related disasters have the potential to adversely impact the majority of Kenyans given that about 75% of the population depends directly on land and natural resources for their livelihoods. The reports show that human development aspirations of Kenyans cannot be achieved through a business-as-usual approach and the country must build in climate change variability within the overall development planning.

The report indicates that Kenya has experienced an increase in intensity and frequency of extreme climate events with negative socio-economic impacts on almost all sectors of the economy and human development. Production sector, such as agriculture and tourism, are suffering significant losses from uncertain weather patterns, with direct consequences for the well-being of the population. Health challenges, for example, are worsened by the effects of rising temperatures on the incidence of certain diseases such as malaria. The cumulative impacts of climate change over the next two to three decades have the potential to reverse much of the progress made in advancement of human development, the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and Kenya Vision 2030.

Speaking during the launch, Nairobi, The UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Ms. Nardos Bekela Thomas said it will take a concerted effort to roll back the effects of climate change. “We want to commit our financial and technical assistance to work with the Government of Kenya and its people as well as other development partners to help mainstream the policy recommendations advanced in the 7th report into national and local development strategies, policies and plans.” UNDP’s assistance to the government is geared towards mainstreaming climate change in national and county planning and budgeting processes. 

The report also shows that women are more vulnerable to climate change than men, primarily because they constitute the majority of the world’s poor, and also because they are more dependent on natural resources which are susceptible to the effects of climate change for their livelihood. This compounded by unequal access to resources and decision-making processes, limited mobility places women in rural areas in a position where they are disproportionately affected by climate change. Furthermore, women face social, economic, and political barriers that limit their coping capacity. The report recommends that policy makers should identify gender-sensitive strategies to respond to the environmental and humanitarian crises caused by climate change.

Human development is concerned about people centered development going beyond the traditional thinking that income alone is sufficient to achieve development. Principles of human development are equity within and across groups, efficiency in the use of resources, empowerment in terms of provision of resources and opportunities for people to participate in the development process, sustainability (of environmental, social, economic and political policies), and inclusiveness.

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