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#SurvivalSunday | How can the UN🇺🇳 best serve the people of Kenya?

Survival Sundays are monthly radical grassroots consultations to harness ideas to solve the most urgent threats of our times. They are a core campaign activity of our bid to become UN Secretary-General: the United Nations is too remote, isolated and out of touch with the people of our planet. Through #SurvivalSundays, we change this, involving individuals and communities from around the planet. And we mean it: our teams of volunteers will then take those ideas, work on them and we will push them in our electoral campaign. 

Consultations

On May 5th, 2024, Atlas organised its first Survival Sunday event to crowdsource ideas about how the United Nations could best serve the people of Kenya. The consultations were performed, as part of Colombe’s UNSG campaign, and ahead of the United Nations Civil Society Conference, which will take place in Nairobi on May 9-10, and as part of our efforts to bring peoples’ voices to the UN halls. Around 100 people attended the full in-person event, which lasted from 1.00 to 6.00 pm.

Opening

Andrea Venzon opened the day by explaining the urgency of finding solutions to the biggest survival threats we are facing and how the United Nations, despite its flaws, can play a massive role in this fight. He went through the programme of the day, the “rules of the game” and explained how the results of the consultations would be used both to inform Atlas’ positions at the UN Civil Society Conference and the wider Atlas’ political programme.

He then introduced Colombe Cahen-Salvador, Atlas’ UNSG candidate. Colombe led the participants through key areas where the U.N. could play a better role in their lives, from fighting deadly flooding to ensuring more equitable access to financing for the country. She then highlighted the urgency of putting our best ideas and energies into this process, as time for reforms is running out.

 

Panel

The event was opened with thought-provoking remarks by the following speakers: Nerima Wako-Ojiwa (CEO of Siasa Place), Boniface Mwangi (photojournalist, politician, and activist), Stella Nderitu (Director of Programs and Partnerships of ELF-Africa), and Colombe Cahen-Salvador moderated the panel and enabled the audience to participate.

The panel started off with a discussion on the main issues facing Kenyans today, from high youth unemployment to poverty and climate change. The conversation then focused on how could the United Nations play a role in quelling these challenges. Several people described the UN as an institution that must be dismantled, serving solely the interest of the US and a few countries and rarely achieving its purpose. Others explained that it is too distant from the people. A panellist defined this situation as “un-United Nations”. Grievances were also discussed around the unequal treatment of people coming from different member states: for example, one person mentioned how difficult is for someone from Kenya to receive a visa from most Western countries, while it’s almost a given the other way around. Several specific policy solutions were also aired during the conversation, with Colombe mentioning the need to create a global truth and reconciliation commission to address colonial crimes. Once more, the debate turned around the difficulties of implementing such programs when the most influential nations were not interested in addressing their torts. The idea of African voices uniting at the negotiating table through the African Union or similar blocs was first mentioned here.

Such panels can help in setting the stage and ensuring that participants think outside of the box.


Identification of Issues

Following this panel, participants were asked to identify at least three issues they thought the United Nations ought to do more about 

People were divided into four groups and asked to designate a spokesperson to take notes and present the results. 

The spokesperson of each group was then asked to present the issues identified. Here are the main issues/pain points that came up: 

  • The unfair access to international financing that Kenya and other African countries face. 
  • The failure of the UN to fulfil its promises and goals in stopping climate change.
  • The lack of climate justice.
  • The UN’s inability to stop conflicts and hold countries accountable to the law in case of violence and conflicts. 
  • The UN’s lack of efforts to stop cross-border weapon trafficking (weapons are often not produced in Africa yet cross countless borders in the continent to get to conflict areas).
  • Poverty, including the lack of access to free/affordable education, rising unemployment, food security and sovereignty
  • UN structural issues:
    • The UN is not serving people
    • The UN is not delivering on its mandate 
    • It is serving only certain interests
    • It is undemocratic and some countries’ agendas dominate the UN
    • The priorities of the people aren’t reflected
    • The UN does not deliver on its mandate and goals, and no one can hold it accountable
  • The inability of the United Nations to protect the sovereignty of some member states.

Prioritization of issues

Many issues were outlined, and participants then prioritised the ones they wanted to tackle or thought were the most important. They all had three votes and proceeded to vote. 

The top three issues were selected to be tackled in the next phase. Participants were given stickers to place on the post-its they thought were most important. The three main issues were: 

  1. Poverty (39 votes)
  2. Debt (24 votes) 
  3. Climate Change (22 votes) 

 

Creation of Citizens’ Proposals

Following the prioritization of issues, citizens went back to their group to create proposals that would best address any or all of the three issues selected. They had around one hour to do so. They were asked to make concrete proposals that could benefit Kenya and other countries.

They were then asked to present their solutions to the audience again. Here are the solutions that came up: 

  • The UN should tax multinationals, and the funds should go to poverty reduction efforts 
  • TheU.N. should launch a fund for upskilling and free or affordable education.
  • The UN must have the competencies to hold multinationals accountable (for their climate impact, evasion of taxation, etc.) through sanctions and the creation of clear rules.
  • The UN must 1) establish a fun to support youth-led, grassroots community organisations working  on the issues mentioned above, 2) minimize the bureaucracy to deploy the funds, and 3) invest in capacity-building of young people in this space. 
  • The UN must establish new priorities, focusing on meeting every human being’s basic needs—food, shelter, and clothing.
  • The UN must ensure the implementation of carbon-emission reduction at national and local levels, with clear directives to stop pollution instead of just incentives. For example, fossil fuel companies shouldn’t just pay but also stop digging. 
  • The UN should support regional integration to better represent people at the UN, and have more power to negotiate.  
  • The UN must implement and enforce fairer trading systems to avoid imbalances favouring powerful countries (including farming subsidies)
  • The UN must ensure we respect climate red lines by banning the exploration of new pipelines, prohibiting the insuring of new pipelines, and putting a place a non-proliferation treaty for fossil fuels.
  • The UN must ban fossil fuel subsidies and invest in renewables instead.
  • When it comes to international loans, there needs to be strongeraudit systems on aid and grants, including through citizens’ oversight.
  • Creating a new climate mitigation fund for the most vulnerable
  • The UN must take a stronger role when it comes to debt by 1) supporting  in negotiating better terms and timelines, 2) swapping debts; 3) ensuring there are no unfair interest rates and clear rules are in place. 
  • Redesigning the governance of the IMF to guarantee a better representation of African countries
  • Supporting climate tech transfer to developing nations for the green transition
  • Banning lobbyists and multinationals at climate conferences

 It is worth noting that during this process, a few solutions were neither precise nor practical, which meant that the facilitators engaged in longer discussions with the groups to formulate those proposals. 

Prioritization of citizens’ proposals

Many solutions were outlined, and participants then prioritized the ones they preferred, or thought were the most important. They all had three votes and proceeded to vote:

  • Creating a new climate mitigation fund for the most vulnerable (19 votes)
  • Channelling funds into youth-led, grassroots community organizations to mobilize against the issues mentioned above, minimizing bureaucracy to deploy the funds, and supporting the growth of young people in this space (17 votes)
  • Re-imagining the strategic priorities of the United Nations, focusing them on human’s basic needs (food, shelter, and clothing) (11 votes)
  • The UN must have the competencies to hold multinationals accountable (for their climate impact, evasion of taxation, etc.) through sanctions and the creation of clear rules. (10 votes)

The session was then concluded with the facilitators announcing the results, repeating the next steps, and thanking everyone! 

Next steps

  • These solutions will now be given to Atlas’ policy team to refine/review, and our membership will then vote on them at our upcoming Summit. 
  • We will bring those demands to the UN civil society meeting in Nairobi this week, and share them widely!

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