President Uhuru Kenyatta To Chair United Nations Ocean Conference In Portugal

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President Uhuru Kenyatta will, today, Monday, 27th June, co-chair the second United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon with his Portugal counterpart Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

The conference co-hosted by Portugal and Kenya and was initially scheduled for the year 2020 but was postponed to this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is aimed at accelerating the adoption of science-based innovative solutions to challenges facing oceans and the global marine ecosystem.

Speaking ahead of the Kenyan Head of State's arrival in Lisbon, Kenya's ambassador to Portugal, Prof Judi Wakhungu, revealed that besides the UN meeting, President Uhuru Kenyatta will pay a two-day state visit to the Portuguese Republic on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Kenya's ambassador to Portugal, Prof Judi Wakhungu
Kenya's ambassador to Portugal, Prof Judi Wakhungu

"Our two Heads of State will be presiding over the high-level opening of the ocean conference together with the UN Secretary-General."

"This is very special. It is historical because this is the first time in history that a Kenyan Head of State has been recognized by our hosts, the Republic of Portugal," Prof Wakhungu said in reference to the two-day state visit.

Ambassador Wakhungu said that despite the global meeting being postponed twice due to Covid-19, Kenya and Portugal were ready to co-host a successful 2022 UN Ocean Conference.

The two countries were declared hosts for the conference after the 2017 inaugural UN Ocean Conference co-hosted by Fiji and Sweden in New York.

"I must applaud Portugal and Kenya for staying the course, for their tenacity and finally hosting this important meeting," Prof Wakhungu, who also serves as Kenya's envoy to France, Serbia, Vatican City and Monaco, said.

As such, Prof Wakhungu said oceans are a key aspect of human life, emphasizing the importance of the conference to Kenya and the world, especially now that humanity is increasingly facing the negative impacts of climate change.

"The conference is focusing mostly on the Sustainable Development Goal 14. All the Sustainable Development Goals are connected, but 14 deal specifically with the oceans…Over 70 per cent of the earth is the ocean. We sometimes take this for granted, but it is indeed very important," Prof Wakhungu said, adding that 30 out of the 54 African countries are maritime nations. Globally, there are 83 maritime nations.

Ambassador Wakhungu said Kenya had prioritized the blue economy as a key driver of her socioeconomic transformation agenda, adding that the conference builds on the successes of the inaugural UN Sustainable Blue Economy Conference held in Nairobi in 2018.

"Kenya registered its intention that a blue economy must be part and parcel of our livelihoods. We must protect our marine life; marine security is important to Kenya," Prof Wakhungu said.

She added: "Our maritime training must be enhanced. Most importantly, we need to protect our oceans from illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, which has continued to be a dearth in our marine ecosystems. But also very importantly, from an environmental point of view, we must expand our marine protected areas".

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