On January 17, 2019 In Statements and Speeches

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am glad to join you in today’s celebrations for the Africa Environment and Wangari Maathai Day which is also the World Wildlife Day.

These celebrations bring together the people of Kenya, my Government, the African Union, United Nations Agencies in Nairobi International environmental organisations and Representatives of the Diplomatic Missions and other key stakeholders in environmental conservation.

It is an occasion for all of us to reflect on our splendid natural heritage and our obligation to protect it for posterity.

The African Union designated 3rd of March as Wangari Maathai Day, to be observed annually and throughout the continent in conjunction with the Africa Environment Day. The decision was in recognition of the numerous environmental challenges confronting the African continent. Over the years, these challenges have been aggravated by loss of biological diversity, climate change and desertification.

What is being done to protect biodiversity is little compared to the cumulative threats to our environment today. This calls for all of us to work much harder to cause positive change before it is too late.

The African Environment and Wangari Maathai Day showcase good practices in environmental management. Experts will lead us in sharing experiences and discussing policies and regulations from many parts of the continent.

The aim is to encourage the sharing of these practices and experiences, promote dialogue at regional and national levels. This will promote the entrenchment of environmental issues into the mainstream of various planning and policy instruments at all levels, in all countries.

This year’s celebration of Africa Environment and Wangari Maathai Day has additional significance as indicated by the theme. We now recognize the vital role played by women in environmental management and sustainable utilization of natural resources.

Conservation of biodiversity and protection of our environment is therefore a function of women’s empowerment.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You will recall that in 2004, Prof. Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize. Her efforts to link peace, sustainable development and democracy finally received universal acclamation. She was not only the first African woman to win the award, but the first environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize for peace.

Her work demonstrated that environmental protection was in itself a path to peace.

The decision by the AU in 2012 to recognize the life and work of the late Prof. Wangari Maathai is an immense honour her memory, and to the people of Kenya. Her contribution and dedication to environmental sustainability, biodiversity conservation and empowerment of marginalized groups - especially women - have received due recognition. Her legacy is the enduring reminder to all humanity of the need to respect, protect and nurture Mother Nature.

As Kenyans, we are proud to host this year’s celebrations. We are highly privileged by with the full participation of the African Union in honouring Prof Maathai’s monumental work in forest conservation. I call on every Kenyan to do something special in recognition of this honour, and for Prof Maathai’s memory. I have urged all Kenyans before to set aside 10% of their land for trees. Today, I call on everyone to ensure that this portion is filled with trees, and that every tree felled is replaced with 5 new ones.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, we are also marking the second World Wildlife Day. This day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly to commemorate the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). In its resolution, the General Assembly reaffirmed the intrinsic value of wildlife. It also underlined wildlife’s various contributions to our health and happiness.

Wildlife confers immense ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational, and aesthetic benefits to sustainable development and human well- being.

The World Wildlife Day is an ideal opportunity to celebrate wildlife. Our natural heritage includes many beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora. Today, we must do more to raise awareness of the urgent necessity and tremendous benefits of conservation.

At the same time, this Day reminds us of the urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime. Wildlife crime continues to pose wide-ranging economic, environmental and social threats. I am proud to observe that my Government has made significant progress in reducing wildlife poaching. This has called for intensive investment and cooperation with many stakeholders. A lot remains to be done. Today, I call on everybody to join or sustain efforts to prevent the poaching of our wildlife.

This three-way commemoration represents the multilateral convergence and international consensus that has developed on the critical issue of environmental protection, conservation of biodiversity. It also speaks to the massive threats confronting us and the need for effective collective action.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Wildlife has great socioeconomic value for the people of Kenya. It is a critical pillar of our tourism industry.

According to our Vision2030, tourism is a key sector, expected to drive and sustain double-digit economic growth. In the last three years, poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking have become growing challenges for Kenya. These vile crimes threaten biodiversity as well as human peace and security. They also undermine our socioeconomic aspirations.

Elephant and rhino poaching are driven by demand for ivory and rhino horn in the international markets.

Concerted local and international efforts are therefore required to disrupt and destroy the illegal systems and illicit economy which are sustained by ivory and trophies from endangered wildlife species. Ivory and wildlife trophies must be put beyond economic use everywhere in the world.

Traditionally, Kenya has played a leading role in wildlife conservation and the fight against poaching. In 1989, Kenya led the international community in stopping the international ivory trade by symbolically burning its ivory stockpile.

In response to this ground-breaking intervention, the international trade was banned. As a result, ivory trade, which serviced demand in Europe, the US and Japan, collapsed.

Twenty five (25) years after the historic banning of ivory trade, new demand from the emerging markets once again threatens Africa’s elephants and rhinos. African countries are concerned about the scale and rate of the new threat to our endangered wildlife species.

We are committed to combating the menace robustly and persistently until we dismantle the entire vile economy. Today, I once again assure the international community that Kenya’s resolve preserve humanity’s shared heritage in wildlife. Our commitment to save our great species, especially the elephant and the rhino, remains as strong as ever.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the international level, we are seeing great collaboration between various international institutions and agencies in combating illegal wildlife trade. I am proud of the work being done under the aegis of United Nations General Assembly Resolutions, CITES decisions. I also commend the interventions of international agencies such as INTERPOL, UN Office of Drugs and Crime, the World Customs Organization and the regional Nairobi-based agency, Lusaka Agreement Task Force.

Kenya is proud to host INTERPOL’s new regional office on environmental crime. I believe that it is a significant boost in the global fight against illegal trafficking. At the political level, I am aware that several international conferences have been held to reaffirm the global community’s resolve to deal with poaching and illegal wildlife trade. I wish to assure you that Kenya remains firmly at the forefront of all activities aimed at sustaining the momentum in the fight against these evils.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Over the past three years, a number of countries have destroyed contraband elephant ivory and rhino horn. They include Belgium, Chad, China, Hong Kong, Czech Republic, Gabon, France, Philippines, and the USA. I commend these international partners for their solidarity and commitment. As part of Kenya’s continued policy to put ivory beyond economic use, and consistent with international norms regarding disposal of seized contraband, I will today burn fifteen (15) tonnes of ivory at this historic site in Nairobi National Park.

In order to underline our determination to eradicate poaching, my Government shall burn the rest of the stockpile within this year. We hope the rest of the world will follow our action in the same manner. Our message must remain clear. Many of these tusks belonged to elephants which were wantonly slaughtered by criminals. We want future generations of Kenyans, Africans and the entire world to experience the majesty and beauty of these magnificent beasts. Poachers and their enablers will not have the last word.

As I conclude my remarks, I take this opportunity to thank all our partners, both locally and internationally for the support they have offered in environmental conservation and management of natural resource.

Thank you and God bless you.

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