The Permanent Mission of the Republic of Kenya to the United Nations Programme on Environment (UNEP), the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the UN Office at Nairobi (UNON) is located in Gigiri, Nairobi. Its mandate is to articulate and advance Kenya’s interests in the United Nations system with a particular focus on these bodies.
Nairobi as a Major UN City
The headquartering of the UN Environmental Programme in Nairobi is one of Kenya’s great diplomatic achievements. Through deft diplomacy in 1972 by the Kenyan government – supported strongly by the Group of 77 Developing Countries – UNEP became the first major UN agency to have its headquarters in the ‘third world’. In 1976, UNEP moved to its new offices in Gigiri on Limuru Road in a large plot of land donated by the people of Kenya to the United Nations. The headquarters was designed by Nairobi architects David Mutiso and Braz Menezes, the same pair who designed the Kenyatta Conference Centre – probably Nairobi’s most iconic building which for a long time also housed the Kenya Missions to UNEP and UN-Habitat. Today, Nairobi is a full-fledged diplomatic hub, particularly following the upgrading of UNEP to universal membership and as the ‘leading global environmental authority’. Nairobi can now rightly be dubbed the Environment Capital of the World, allowing the country’s cutting edge efforts in growing a Green Economy to join with global efforts and expertise. The country’s profile has also grown in no small part due to UNON which is the UN’s only global headquarters in the Global South. Finally, but certainly not least, Kenya is also the leading regional platform for the UN’s delivery of humanitarian and development in Eastern and Central Africa. Currently, there are at least 25 UN agencies operating in the country, with dozens of UN programs represented. In the UNON compound alone, over 3,500 local and international staff report for duty daily.
The Duties and Responsibilities of the Kenya Mission:
1) In co-ordination with all relevant Kenyan governmental institutions, and, in particular, the ministries of Environment and Mineral Resources, Housing, and Foreign Affairs and International Trade, promote Kenya’s national interest(s) through international co-operation, solidarity and a rule-based multilateral system by: (a) Contributing to resolutions by the UN Environment Assembly of UNEP and the UN-Habitat Governing Council; (b) Advancing Kenya’s interests in Multilateral Environmental Agreements, the World Urban Forum, the African Ministerial Conferences on the Environment and Urbanisation, and the UN General Assembly; (c) Facilitating the work of the Nairobi-based African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (AMCHUD) Secretariat.
2) Protect Kenya’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by remaining appraised of potential threats emanating from decisions, positions, and norms propagated in the UN system.
3) Sustain and support the relevance and effectiveness of UN offices in Kenya with a particular focus on UNON, UNEP, and UN-Habitat.
4) Engage in public diplomacy through participation in events hosted by Kenya as well as permanent missions accredited to Kenya.
5) Meaningfully participate in the activities and decision-making of the Africa Group and the G77+China.
6) Advance Kenya’s leadership on environmental and urbanisation issues through strategic partnerships with academia, research institutions, and think tanks.
7) Strengthen the presence of the UN and international organisations in Nairobi by (a) providing hosting support to UN Missions in Nairobi; (b) serving as a liaison between the Government of Kenya and UNON; (c) offering a complementary port of call for all UN agencies in Nairobi; (d) participating in the UNEP & UN-Habitat Committees of Permanent Representatives.
8) Promote Nairobi as a hub for international conferences and multilateral diplomacy, in line with Vision 2030’s goal to promote tourism marketing.