UNDP Kenya Resident Representative Walid Badawi

{Salutations}

·       Hon. Kalonzo Musyoka – former Vice President and Party Leader for the Wiper Democratic Movement

·       Hon. Dr. Amos Kimunya, Majority Leader – National Assembly of Kenya

·       Hon. Sen. Abshiro Soka Halake, Chairperson – CMD Kenya who joins us virtually

·       HonVeronica Maina, SG of the UDA

·       Mr. Edwin Sifuna, SG ODM, Vice Chairperson – CMD Kenya

·       Mr. Frankline Mukwanja, Executive Director, CMD

·       Dr. Annette Schwandner, Country Representative, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Kenya

·       Representatives of political parties

·       Representatives of state and non-state institutions

·       The captain of Alliance HS

·       Members of the invited academic institutions. Alliance High School and Booker Academy and our audiences in Nakuru, Kakemega and Mombasa

·       Ladies and Gentlemen here and following us virtually

·       All protocols observed

As we commemorate the International Day of Democracy today, let me extend a warm appreciation to the Centre for Multiparty Democracy, and its leadership, for inviting me to give some remarks at this 3rd edition of the People’s Dialogue Festival. This is indeed a great opportunity for us to reflect, dialogue and debate on how our democracies can be transformative, inclusive and resilient enough to ensure that no one is left behind!

Firstly, let me acknowledge the constructive partnership between UNDP, the UN system in Kenya and the Centre for Multiparty Democracy Kenya around democratic governance. The role of the CMD-Kenya to serve as a neutral catalyser among the diversity of political parties in Kenya, is an effort that deserves to be applauded. We are proud of the partnership between the UN and CMD-Kenya forged under the former Strengthening Electoral Processes in Kenya (SEPK) programme, implemented between 2015 and 2019, that allowed a close collaboration with CMD-Kenya through UN Women for the promotion of women’s political participation.

Secondly, let me acknowledge all the other partners that have made today’s event possible including the Government of Denmark.

Now, coming to my main topic today “democracy and sustainable development”, let us take advantage of such a diverse dialogue space to reflect on the state of democracy in Kenya and identify opportunities to work together. This dialogue is timely coming just a few days after the UN Secretary General launched on Friday last week a new roadmap for the next 25 years of multilateralism entitled, “Our Common Agenda”. This new “common agenda” was proposed by the UN Secretary General during the presentation of his 2021 Report which was highly consultative. This agenda “is, above all, an agenda of action designed to accelerate the implementation of existing agreements, including the Sustainable Development Goals”.  

Before going into more details on “Our Common Agenda”, it is important to reflect on where Kenya stands in terms of democracy. According to the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance, Kenya ranks   14th out of 54 countries with an overall governance score of 58.5 out of 100 showing a “slow improvement” with an increase of 3.7 points in the last 10 years (absolute trend). In terms of Participation, Rights & Inclusion, Kenya currently scores 51.6 out of 100 and scores the same for Security & Rule of Law.

According to a recent public opinion poll published by the Afrobarometer, in Kenya, only 23% of young people interviewed believe that the Government has performed “fairly well” or “very well” in addressing the needs of young people. Also, 24% of young Kenyans interviewed did not vote in the last election and 47% indicated that they were close to a political party. As part of the same public opinion poll, in Africa, the young people interviewed indicated that they are Not at all/Not very satisfied with the way democracy works in their country.

These are important expressions that we need to embrace and take into consideration to shape our efforts to engage in a meaningful and peaceful manner with the youth of Kenya.  

While these statistics point out certain areas of improvement, for example on enabling opportunities for peaceful participation of the youth during elections, we see that Kenya is moving in the right direction. Kenya has one of the most progressive Constitutions in the world which instills a sense of national pride. Under the umbrella of democracy, Kenya has been able to carry out crucial processes that are examples for others to follow, including Devolution and establishing many robust institutions. The innovative approach to give voice to youth through the National Youth Council and the regular organization of general elections are also examples of Kenya’s commitment to public participation and democracy. Additional efforts to promote social cohesion and peace are necessary, but we see an important level of commitment from national stakeholders and support from development partners and the UN. I would also like to recognize and applaud the level of maturity and effectiveness around the separation of powers and adherence to the rule of law that we have witnessed repeatedly in the country, most recently with the BBI ruling, demonstrating the independence of the Judiciary and the respect by the Executive and other stakeholders to these court rulings.

Coming back to “Our Common Agenda”, I would like to mention some of the cornerstones of this promising approach outlined by our Secretary General, which include

·       Re-embracing global solidarity.

·       Renewing of the social contract between Governments and their people and within societies.

·       Ending the “infodemic” plaguing our world by defending a common, empirically backed consensus around facts, science, and knowledge.

·       Delivering more for young people and succeeding generations and to be better prepared for the challenges ahead.

·       Working to build a stronger, more networked, and inclusive multilateral system, anchored within the United Nations.

Democracy is intrinsically linked to a renewed social contract referred to by the UNSG, it is important to highlight the prominence that this agenda is giving to the active and equal participation of women and girls and the promotion of updated governance arrangements for better service delivery by the state including the universal access to the Internet by 2030 as a basic human right. This is complemented by an invitation by the UNSG to all countries to conduct inclusive and meaningful national listening consultations, so all citizens have a say in envisioning their countries’ futures. In summary, this new social contract is based on three foundations: (a) trust; (b) inclusion, protection and participation; and (c) measuring and valuing what matters to people and the planet.

Which brings me to The “Leave No One Behind” principle which is one of the cornerstones of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which “sets out a vision for sustainable development grounded in international human rights standards, putting equality and non-discrimination at the centre of its efforts, and encompassing not only economic and social rights but also civil, political, and cultural rights, and the right to development”.

The 2030 Agenda, for which Kenya has led the global preparations, this has become the universal framework of the international community to foster a more coherent, efficient, and meaningful support to member states and their citizens in the search of prosperity, equity, and peace. When we speak of democracy we recall the global push towards SDG  16 which promotes “PEACE, JUSTICE AND STRONG INSTITUTIONS”.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The very notions of democracy are today under threat as we face a global crisis brought on by a global pandemic that is fundamentally changing the very way we live. Poverty has risen for the first time in decades, with the vulnerable or marginalized populations bearing most of the impact; horizontal societal distrust and distrust in government has been recorded across the globe; suboptimal public participation and civic space at a time when citizens demand accountability, and the rising problem of information pollution- disinformation, misinformation, hate speech, are but some of the manifestations. To this list, one may also add climate change and its impacts, armed conflict, social unrest, among the development challenges that are exerting a lot of pressure on governments, populations, and democracies around the world.

Our reflections during this open dialogue, must therefore conclude with a strong call for action, a call to the youth, to leaders, to institutions, to civil society, to political actors, to the private sector, to us the development partners, to all the citizens of the world, but more particularly, to the people of Kenya. This call is for active and meaningful participation in renewing the social contract and deepening democracy based on peaceful coexistence, compassion, and empathy that must prevail despite the difficulties.

In Kenya, UNDP and the UN system are working closely through different initiatives with support from international development partners as well as with state and non-state actors with the main purpose of ensuring the maximization of resources and alignment of interventions with national needs and strategies, including the Big Four agenda, Vision 2030 and the Medium-Term Plan 3. Principles of national ownership and accountability are the foundations of these multistakeholder mechanisms. Some relevant examples of initiatives around democratic governance that UNDP is proud to be supporting in Kenya include: the UN Joint Programme on Devolution, Civil Society Democratic Governance Facility:  Amkeni Wakenya, Transcending Foundations of Peace, and our recently launched Deepening Democracy Programme. These initiatives, together, seek in the short term to contribute to national efforts to foster a conducive environment in the lead up to the 2022 elections. In the long term, they seek to contribute to consolidating democracy, building social cohesion and sustaining peace in Kenya.

We acknowledge that the challenges we face are great, yet they are not insurmountable. The hope that “we can do better together” is the main catalyser for the international community, UNDP, and the UN system. For this reason, among others, we are constantly looking for new and more effective ways to support the people in need under a collaborative approach where both multilateralism and national ownership are strongly promoted. 

However, we live in a dynamic world that requires us to adapt to change… to be resilient. For that reason, we continue to reinvent ourselves, to use innovation and exploration, to take advantage of big data and artificial intelligence, to develop disruptive but effective approaches, and to explore new alliances to strengthen and expand this “architecture for human development”, these are some of the bold commitments and aspirations contained in UNDP’s new Strategic Plan 2022-2025 just endorsed by our Executive Board.

We shall continue working together for a better present and a better future giving particular attention to the youth of Kenya, who constitute the diverse, vibrant, and capable segment of our population that is full of hope, energy, and desires for peace and development- in larger freedom as per the preamble of the UN Charter. I am always inspired to listen to the youth of Kenya that is why we have established the UNDP Kenya YSB.

As I close, let me remind us once again of the intrinsic link between democracy and human rights which is captured in article 21(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”

Kenya is a beacon of hope and stability in a region that is facing multiple and over-lapping challenges, there is a golden opportunity presented by the 2022 elections and the roadmap leading up to it, to once again demonstrate to the world the critical link between democracy and sustainable development and how integral these are to achieving “Our Common Agenda”. Let us not miss this opportunity.

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