The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) opened its High-level Segment today with the participation of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco, H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and other high-profile figures, as the first session of the world environmental body entered its fourth day.
The High-level Segment is set to deliberate on two environmental topics of major international significance today and this evening: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Post-2015 Development Agenda, including Sustainable Consumption and Production, and the Illegal Trade in Wildlife.
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"Our gathering here today is indeed historic," said President Kenyatta during the opening ceremony. "It underscores the strength of global resolve to address grave environmental challenges."
Recalling that the concept of UNEA was born of the Outcome of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), which strengthened and upgraded UNEP, he added: "UNEA is indeed the fruit of this upgrading. And it could not come at a better time. We need a better balance between the environmental, social and economic approaches to development."
With the opening of UNEA, he said, the environmental component was "no longer the poor cousin of this trio".
"UNEA is a historic event for all of us," said Oyun Sanjaasuren, the Minister of Environment and Green Development of Mongolia and President of the first session of UNEA. "The world today faces an increasing number of challenges which require a firm resolve."
"We need to capitalize on this opportunity," said John W. Ashe, President of the 68th Session of the General Assembly and Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations. "We need to send a clear message that we are planning for a future in which there is a single agenda in the United Nations, and that is a sustainable one."
Describing the day's events, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said: "Today, the post-2015 development agenda, sustainable development and sustainable consumption and production will take centre stage, and tonight, the illegal trade in wildlife."
"Together, we can move forward," he added.
"This Assembly is the first of its kind - it will serve as a platform to achieve the Future We Want," said Prince Albert. Quoting the late Kenyan environmental activist and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Wangari Maathai, he stressed: "We cannot tire or give up. We owe it to the present and future generations of all species to rise up and walk."
Also during the opening ceremony, the renowned Senegalese musician Baaba Maal sang and played the West African instrument known as the kora.
UNEA will close its doors on Friday, 27 June 2014, following a Ministerial Plenary on the SDGs and Post-2015 Development Agenda including Sustainable Consumption and Production and a number of press conferences.
About the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA)
UNEA is the highest-level UN body ever convened on the environment. It enjoys universal membership of all 193 UN member states as well as other stakeholder groups. With this wide reach into the legislative, financial and development arenas, the new body presents a ground-breaking platform for leadership on global environmental policy. UNEA boasts over 1200 participants, 170 national delegations, 112 delegations headed at minister level and 40 events during the five-day event from 23 to 27 June 2014 at UNEP's Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.