Mr Ruto warned that rising nationalism is undermining collective action and the international community’s ability to guarantee fundamental rights. He argued that as a result, countries in the Global South are demanding more democratic and inclusive global governance as they seek to get their economies back on track.
Better to dismantle from below
Mr Ruto invoked the oft-heard phrase “Build Back Better” and added a new clause calling for the global economic recovery to happen from the bottom up by bringing the marginalized working majority into the economic mainstream.
“The bottom billion,” he said, “relentlessly goes about their daily struggle to survive in a crowded arena characterized by scarce opportunities and a generally precarious existence.”
He went on to praise the “Hustlers” who are surviving against overwhelming odds and urged taking action to bring them into the mainstream.
response to drought and famine
Referring to the climate crisis, Mr Ruto noted that droughts and heatwaves in Kenya, the magnitude of which has not been seen in decades, have forced the country to focus more on famine relief, education support, social protection and health systems. 3.1 million people in the country are fed, he said, as water becomes scarcer and food prices rise.
Mr Ruto recalled that the Stockholm+50 meeting, which commemorated the anniversary of the first UN Human Environment Conference in 1972, was co-hosted by Kenya.
The Kenyan President pointed out that at this international meeting, states had reached a consensus on the urgent need to take action to address environmental impacts, but “little progress has been made on the necessary actions”.
Kenya, he said, is responding to the climate emergency by investing in climate-resilient agriculture as part of a 10-year strategy for growth in the agricultural sector, which “will continue to hold the key to creating equitable and sustainable growth” for the Kenyan people.
This sector, as well as others, including education and health, increasingly relies on digital access and, according to Mr. Ruto, offers a “useful shortcut to poverty reduction and promoting inclusive development”.
The President called for stronger global partnerships to improve ICT (information and communications technology) infrastructure in developing countries to bridge the digital divide between the Global South and the rest of the world.
Ongoing engagement with UN organizations
Kenya is the host country of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat), and Mr Ruto reiterated the “vital role” the organizations play in promoting global environmental sustainability and social development and green and sustainable cities.
Mr Ruto announced that his government has made more land available to the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON) to facilitate the modernization of its complex.
The ocean and blue economy, the President said, remains a development priority for Kenya, believing significantly increased investment can end hunger, reduce poverty, create jobs and boost economic growth.
He reported that Kenya is reviewing its National Blue Economy Strategy to strengthen community structures – in participatory management of freshwater, coastal and marine resources and ecosystems – and called on development partnerships to get involved in capacity building in Africa for sustainable use of marine resources invest.
Work towards a national vision for the future
Over the past decade, Mr Ruto said, Kenya has implemented its National Vision 2030, a blueprint to transform the country into a “re-industrialising, upper-middle-income country offering all its citizens a high quality of life in a clean and safe environment by 2030”.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the government, he said, to intervene in the economy in new ways, such as the implementation of a stimulus plan, a Covid-19 Economic Recovery Strategy and a Covid-19 Socio-Economic Reshape Recovery Strategy, which all aimed at mitigating the adverse effects of the pandemic.
Mr. Ruto went on to indicate that the support of the international community is necessary, without which Kenya risks losing its development gains. He called for additional liquidity and better “fiscal space” to enable Kenya to increase social investment, support climate change adaptation and mitigation, address security needs and solve development finance challenges.
In addition, the President, along with other leaders, called on multilateral lenders to extend pandemic-related debt relief to the hardest-hit countries, particularly those affected by the devastating combination of conflict, climate change and COVID-19. He also called on the G20 group of leading economies to suspend or reschedule middle-income countries’ debt repayments during the recovery phase of the pandemic.
“Reform Security Council”
As Head of State of a country that is a non-permanent member of the Security Council, Mr. Ruto said Kenya has continued to advocate closer cooperation between regional mechanisms and the Security Council as an effective means of achieving international peace and security.
“We are committed to finding a stronger African voice in the Council,” he said, “and achieving a consensus-driven, rules-based multilateral system.”
However, he also noted that the Security Council needs to be reformed to make it more democratic: “Given the magnitude and variety of the challenges the world continues to face, there is an urgent need for a more fit-for-purpose United Nations that will have legitimacy and effectiveness in the Dealing with threats to international peace and security.”
Mr. Ruto continued to lament the failure of multilateralism in relation to Africa, noting that Africa had last been the focal point of a strong and effective multilateral consensus during the Berlin Conferences of 1884-1885 [which led to imperial European powers effectively divided up much of Africa between them].
“We have an urgent moral obligation to do better,” he continued, “and right this wrong.”
Nonetheless, the President concluded that strengthening multilateralism is the only sustainable path to a peaceful, stable and prosperous world for all.
“This is the imperative of our time,” he explained, “and the call of this moment. It is time, with a stronger conviction that none of us are truly safe until we are all safe, to start working on the trust deficit.”