Activists ask UNEA to order the global industry to abide by resolutions on safe environment


February 26, 2024

African environment activists have called on the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6), underway in Nairobi, Kenya, to order the global industry to turn the tide on the menace of solid waste, mainly plastic pollution and hazardous agrochemicals.

According to Philip Kilonzo, a Nairobi-based environment activist and a smallholder dry-land farmer, several groundbreaking resolutions have been made since UNEA-1. Still, there has never been any global commitment to ensure that they are implemented.

“A good example is the declaration to end the use of disposable plastic materials issued at UNEA 5.2,” said Kilonzo. “But what have we achieved? On average, African countries have made quite progressive commitments, and actions are evident in countries like Kenya and Rwanda. But countries like Korea are headed in the opposite direction, with plastic bags being used to wrap everything, including oranges and bananas.

He added: “Most of the plastics end up in oceans, and since oceans have no boundaries, they transport them to countries that are making efforts to abide by international rules.”

Integrated approaches for a water-secure world

So far, the 2024 UNEA will push for implementing the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, advancing integrated approaches for a water-secure world, and going for responsible mining and sustainable mineral and metal use.

The assembly will also seek action on advancing cooperation concerning nutrients, especially phosphorus, reviewing climate-altering technologies and measures, and aligning the financial system for sustainability.

However, African activists feel that agriculture should have been one of the major factors, considering this year’s theme; ‘effective, inclusive and sustainable multilateral actions to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.’

According to Dr Million Belay, the Coordinator for the Alliance for Food Sovereignty for Africa (AFSA), agriculture is one of the main sources of environmental degradation and pollution globally. “As a continent, we need to shift towards sustainable agriculture, heal our soils which synthetic fertilizers have acidifed, move away from agrochemicals, some of which have been banned for use in their countries of origin,” he said.

Unacceptable risks to human health and the environment

A report released in 2023 by Route to Food Initiative (RTFI), a program of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, confirms that African countries are being used as dumping grounds for some of the most hazardous agrochemicals.

The report titled Toxic Business: Highly Hazardous Pesticides in Kenya revealed that almost half of the pesticides used in Kenya (44 percent) of the total volume are already banned in the European Union due to their unacceptable risks to human health and the environment.

So far, the country’s Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) is reviewing the status of some active ingredients on selected pesticides considered Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) for phased withdrawal by December 2024.

Unique platform for decisions and new ideas

“The world has reached the peak, and we must change the mode of production and consumption and address climate change comprehensively,” said Dr Mithika Mwenda, the Executive Director of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance.

“The delegates should reflect on all the resolutions and decisions made in the past five years to see how different countries have implemented them,” he added, noting that the assembly should develop a global framework for implementing the decisions and declarations.

UNEA, held in Nairobi every two years, is the highest decision-making body on environmental matters in the UN system. The assembly provides a unique platform for decisions and new ideas to chart a bold plan of collective environmental action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Isaiah Esipisu is an independent journalist and a media consultant. He is the continental Coordinator for the Pan Africa Media Alliance for Climate Change (PAMACC).