UNEA-6: Leaders Call for Global Environmental Diplomacy

Heads of State and Government, Ministers, senior United Nations (UN) officials, members of civil society, and representatives from the private sector convened at the headquarters of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi for the High-Level Segment of the sixth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-6). World leaders seized this opportunity to articulate their commitment to accelerating multilateral action on the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

The presence of heads of state, including the host of UNEA-6, President William Ruto of Kenya, alongside dignitaries such as President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, President Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, Transitional President Brice Nguema of Gabon, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, and Prime Minister Ariel Henry of Haiti, among others, underscored the global significance of this assembly.

Leila Benali, President of UNEA-6 and Minister of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development for the Kingdom of Morocco, articulated, “I hope that the UN Environment Assembly will demonstrate that challenges are best addressed when the community of nations and citizens of the world join forces with an open mind. Our efforts today will be crucial to secure our world – for the benefit of people and the planet.”

The UN Environment Assembly stands as the world’s preeminent decision-making body on environmental matters, with membership encompassing all 193 UN Member States. It convenes biennially to shape global environmental policy and define the work of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

President Ruto remarked to delegates, “UNEA-6 is the first intergovernmental global meeting following COP28. This places upon this Assembly a tremendous responsibility to expeditiously deliver on its agenda in full, and thereby demonstrate the power of international cooperation and effective multilateralism.”

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President William Ruto addressing the convention of UNEA-6

Heads of State and Government voiced concerns over the escalating impacts of climate change on communities, recognizing the imperative for robust multilateral responses to address the transboundary nature of environmental challenges.

In a video message, UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized, “This Assembly plays a vital role in driving environmental action. And you have shown before that you can unite and deliver – most recently with your historic decision to negotiate a plastic treaty. I urge you to do so again – and go further.”

Over 7,000 delegates from 182 UN Member States, including more than 170 Ministers, participated in UNEA-6, deliberating on 19 resolutions and two decisions covering diverse issues such as the circular economy, climate justice, solar radiation modification, sound management of chemicals and waste, and mitigation of sand and dust storms.

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Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, asserted, “We can push back against the triple planetary crisis if we show unity of purpose…The purpose is to conserve and restore the natural world and our lands, which sustain life. Purpose to keep harmful chemicals, pollution, and waste out of our ecosystems and bodies.”

She further emphasized the broader significance of the Assembly, stating, “This is where the global community gathers to think big and dream bigger. To reimagine how we can work better, smarter, harder, and faster – together. To hold the future that we want in our mind’s eye and make it happen.”

UNEA-6 featured a series of leadership dialogues, multi-stakeholder discussions, and more than 30 official side events and associated activities. The Assembly also underscored the importance of cooperation with multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), devoting a full day to strengthening the convergence of actions and sharing experiences while enhancing the visibility of MEAs.

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