Why the Kenyan President’s personal engagement with the UN is a big deal

by Siddharth Chatterjee | @sidchat1 | United Nations
Tuesday, 15 November 2016 11:45 GMT

The President meets Mrs Jumwa Kabibu who after 50 years of misery underwent a successful UN supported fistula surgery. Photo Credit: Newton/UNIC

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President Uhuru Kenyatta warmly welcomed dozens of U.N Agencies, development partners and senior Government officials to the State House on 02 November 2016 to discuss the joint development plan from 2014 – 2018. 

He is perhaps the only head of state in Africa to take on this responsibility personally and believes in the transformational power of the Government-UN partnership to address national priorities for sustainable development. (Speech/audio). 

The United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) is a critical document that guides government and U.N, partnership, ensuring the UN system is fit for purpose and contributes effectively to national development priorities. 

The framework is nurturing a partnership grounded in dialogue and learning, leading to concrete action and progress.  Important progress has been made in areas like HIV/AIDS, clean water, energy, food security, and the environment during the past 2 years of this UNDAF(PDF document). 

“I am impressed by the progress achieved since our last meeting in August, 2015. It is truly encouraging to see the Vision turn to Action,” he said during this year’s review. 

He was alluding to progress resulting from a joint Government-UN approach to addressing issues such as poverty and various vulnerabilities; progress coming from commitment to joining up efforts and pooling respective expertise and resources to make an impact on Kenyans. 

Testimonials abound regarding this impact. (Watch UNDAF video). They include a 70 year-old lady who received treatment after suffering fistula for 50 years; matatu (public transport vehicle) owners who have improved the terms and conditions of matatu drivers and conductors as per international labour and a women’s community group bordering the Amboseli National Park who are part of conservation efforts through livelihood programmes. 

The UNDAF has leveraged the devolved system of government with tremendous results in some counties. The innovative Governments of Kenya-Ethiopia Cross-border Program on Peace and Socio-economic Developmentsupported by the UN has potential of being replicated in other parts of the world. 

These are the kind of stories coming out of the UNDAF review process, whose emphasis is on accountability for results.  The stories tell of impact across most of the major pillars of the country’s Vision 2030, which also overlap with UN priorities such as peace, security, and poverty reduction. 

The UNDAF in Kenya is recognized by the UN Development Group as a best practice in creating an alliance shaped by common interests and shared purpose, and bounded by clear principles that encourage autonomy and synergy. 

The Framework was developed according to UN Delivering as One principles (DaO) aimed at ensuring Government ownership, demonstrated through UNDAF’s full alignment to Government priorities and planning cycles, and internal coherence among UN agencies and programmes operating in Kenya. 

The partners have also been able to jointly recognize and agree on the national, regional and global realities that should inform their interventions. For instance, both the Government of Kenya and the UN are aware of Kenya’s looming youth bulge with 1 million young people joining the work force annually and the need to turn it into a demographic dividend, lest it turn into a demographic disaster. 

“We must focus on our youth and provide alternatives to crime, violent extremism and despondency,” the President said during the review. 

Kenya is on a journey to realizing Vision 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals. The UNDAF has demonstrated that it presents the best opportunity for powering the implementation of Kenya’s development agenda. Kenya’s engagement with the United Nations Country Team and indeed all development partners brought together under a solid framework is therefore a plus for the people of Kenya. 

The UN and Government must not relent in pursuing more gains.  New realities are bringing about new threats to social and economic development, calling for new approaches, but also creating new opportunities for collaboration. 

These new approaches may for instance involve deepening private-public partnerships to engage a third force – private companies – that have unique innovation and implementation capabilities.  This engagement can only develop better and more integrated solutions to important national challenges. (RC Speech Audio). 

Ultimately, this framework is not about the UN or the Government or non-state actors, but is aimed at achieving a transformation in the lives of every Kenyan and ensuring that “no one is left behind”.

 

Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya.