It is a great honour and privilege to be here with you all as we join the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of Peace, under the theme: “Shaping Peace Together”.
This day comes at a time when the world is at a crossroads; we are facing what could as well be described as the cataclysmic event of our time – the COVID-19 pandemic, just as we were gearing up to usher in a decade of action towards the achievement of the SDGs.
Perhaps one may pose the question, why commemorate the International Day of Peace, when we have COVID-19 to deal with? Indeed, during the establishment of this day in 1981 by resolution 36/67 of the United Nations General Assembly, member states recognized the need to dedicate this day to strengthen and call to attention the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.
That is the reason why our work on conflict prevention and peacebuilding promotes social cohesion and empowering nations and communities to become inclusive and resilient to external and internal shocks. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no doubt that these are threatened.
The United Nations and the World Bank, in a recent report titled, “Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict”, noted that billions of dollars can be saved if conflict in all its forms is prevented. The latest Global Peace Index (2019) ranks Kenya at 125th position out of 163 countries assessed. The Women, Peace and Security Index for 2019/20 ranked Kenya 98th globally - an improvement from the 2017/2018 ranking of 107. The need for us to continue investing in interventions that promote the culture of peace, a culture of dialogue and prevention, therefore cannot be overemphasized.
Ladies and gentlemen,
On this day, we are called upon to design new comprehensive approaches, to address root causes to conflicts, strengthen the rule of law and promote sustainable development, based on dialogue and respect. We are also reminded that our efforts towards realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be in futility if we do not invest in building solid foundations for realising peace that lasts.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development affirms that “there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.” It is in that respect that UNDP works with governments and their peoples, in over 170 countries, to promote peaceful and inclusive societies, in tackling development challenges related to poverty, climate change, gender equality, water, social justice, among others.
As we continue to see the negative impact of COVID-19, now seeing a second wave in some countries, we know that these are not normal times. Whilst the focus has been on mitigating the health and socio-economic impacts, COVID-19 has the potential to significantly impact governance, peace and security and reverse development gains made in recent years. Globally, UNDP has released a report showing that, since measurement began in 1990, Human Development is on course to decline for the first time.
However, while COVID-19 creates clear challenges to government effectiveness and citizen participation with attendant risks to peace and security, the pandemic also presents renewed opportunities for enhancing governance or achieving breakthroughs to lasting peace.
Let me commend the Government of Kenya, non-state actors and peacebuilding partners for developing a “National Peacebuilding Strategy on COVID-19 Preparedness, Response and Recovery”. This strategy reinforces our collective commitment and agility not only to respond to the current pandemic, but also build foundations for lasting peace, social cohesion and sustainable development.
We all know that the barriers to peace are complex and steep, Kenya alone cannot solve them, neither can any country in the world. Doing so requires new forms of solidarity and joint action, starting as early as possible. This is the spirit of the call by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, for investing in prevention to sustain peace, bringing together Governments and civil society, along with international and regional bodies. That is why the theme today of “Shaping Peace Together”, becomes so vitally important and relevant.
As UNDP, we are proud to be taking a lead role in ensuring this happens here in Kenya through a variety of programmatic interventions. Through the critical role that both national and county governments play in advancing peaceful and just societies, within and across our borders, the dividends of peace are already accruing to communities along two of Kenya’s border regions. Our investment in Peace and Development programmes targeted at communities on the Kenya-Ethiopia and Kenya-Uganda border regions illustrate the importance of partnerships in securing and sustaining peace.
As you may have seen or read in the press, on 12th and 13th September 2020, UNDP together with the Ministry of Devolution and ASALs, the County Governments of West Pokot and Turkana, launched peace dividend water projects in Nasal (West Pokot) and Urum (Turkana). These programmes have modelled what deliberate partnerships can deliver to communities for sustainable peace and development.
As we continue with our interventions in conflict prevention and peacebuilding in Kenya, we will prioritize building capacities for conflict prevention and management, we will facilitate dialogue and consensus building while analysing and assessing conflict in all its forms. These are fundamental in deepening democratic governance and achieving the SDGs.
As I conclude, allow me to reaffirm UNDP’s commitment to accompany the government and people of Kenya in ensuring that the country builds on gains made in fostering a peaceful and prosperous nation. Let me appreciate all our development partners for their continued support to UNDP’s Governance, Peace and Security work, but more broadly, to all our other development programmes that address the underlying causes as well as the impacts of instability and conflict.
We are in very challenging times, we have no choice but to build strong partnerships at international, national, county and community levels for us to succeed. Our common enemy today is a tireless virus that continues to threaten our health, our security and our very way of life. This is the enemy we must jointly fight and defeat by effectively implementing the strategy we are launching today.
Asanteni sana and God bless Kenya!