Speech by UNDP Resident Representative During the National Summit of Public Benefit Organisations (PBO) Leaders
Distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen;
I am delighted to be part of this Second National Summit of PBO Leaders in Kenya..
The civil society movement in Kenya has, for decades, remained one of the most vibrant on the African continent. It has been a shining example to budding civil society movements in other countries of how issue-driven citizens’ organizing can contribute immensely to nation-building. Your success in many important areas has won the admiration of your peers in many places on our continent and beyond.
We cannot tire of mentioning your enduring contribution to the review of the Constitution of Kenya that led to the adoption of an extraordinarily progressive text. Your efforts to complement Government by delivering basic services to some of the hard-to-reach areas of Kenya resonates with the desire to ‘leave no one behind’ in the quest to attain the Sustainable Development Goals. Your unrelenting work to provide civic education in far-flung areas of the country, to promote accountability of state and non-state players alike and to strengthen citizens’ participation in governance and development in general has been exemplary. These are achievements that you should be most proud of.
As you congregate here for this moment of reflection, I know that a number of things could be weighing on your minds. I believe that the desire to have elections in August this year that are not only free, fair and credible, but also peaceful is one of them. The debate on civil society operating environment has been going on for some time now. The drought situation in the country is so bad that it threatens to slow down economic progress and expose more people to poverty. The threat of terror remains as present as ever. And many more. These are not simple problems with simple solutions. They cannot be solved by any one of us. They call for concerted efforts and a close partnership between Government and civil society.
As the United Nations, we are under no illusion nor can we make the claim that the relationship between CSOs and the Government is not without differences. We have been privileged as UN to have been part of your journey to review the laws governing the NGO sector in Kenya. We have had the privilege to support initiatives that led to the adoption of the Public Benefits Organisations Act, 2013 either directly as UNDP through our Civil Society Facility, Amkeni Wakenya, or through the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN agencies.
As I informed you at the First National Summit of PBO Leaders in October 2016, the UN has continued to encourage the Government of Kenya and other stakeholders to complete this task and put this chapter behind us by operationalizing the PBO Act. We strongly believe that the Act will provide an enabling legal environment for PBOs to contribute to the timely achievement of Kenya’s Vision 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals. We reiterate here today our commitment, to the best of our technical and financial ability and in a manner that is consistent with our mandate, to provide such technical and other assistance as may be asked of us to enable you, the Kenyan people, to achieve this objective.
This Conference is taking place in the midst of the Mass Voter Registration exercise, which will come to an end in twelve days’ time. Your role as CSOs in mobilizing all eligible citizens to register as voters and in working with Government to identify and address gaps and shortcomings cannot be over-emphasized. You have done it in the past and we hope you can do it now. As the United Nations, we have confidence in your ability to provide accurate, timely and objective information to the people of Kenya wherever you work. As one of the few impartial actors in what is essentially a contested process, we hope to rely on you to deploy your skills, networks and resources to build a Kenya that is founded on the universal values of peace, justice, respect, human rights, tolerance and solidarity. You can count on us to work together with you in these regards.
As I conclude, I would like to re-assure you, that we are as much partners of Civil Society as we are of Government. We do not take sides with one against the other. Instead, we work, often behind closed doors, to facilitate dialogue between the two essential parts of society. This is true of the UN in Kenya as it is of the UN everywhere.
Finally, as you put your minds together to seek solutions to the challenges facing Kenya, I encourage you to keep one thing in mind- that the people of Kenya are looking up to all of us. As Secretary General Guterres said when he shared his vision recently, “our duty to the peoples we serve is to work together to move from fear of each other, to trust in each other. Trust in the values that bind us and trust in the institutions that serve and protect us”.