Ms. Sharif meets Kenya’s top editors, roots for UN Habitat Assembly

Nairobi, 2 May 2019—UN-Habitat Executive Director Ms. Maimunnah Moh’d Sharif this week met with members of the Kenya Editors’ Guild and drummed up support for the forthcoming UN Habitat Assembly holding in Nairobi between 27 to 31 May 2019.

Ms. Sharif held a fruitful debate with the editors in a session that delved into challenges and opportunities posed by the rapid urbanization being witnessed across the globe. She said she has often seen the media as allies in her work especially when she served as the mayor of Penang in her native Malaysia.

The Kenya Editors’ Guild is the umbrella body bringing together some 140 editors drawn from print, broadcast and online media. Being the gate keepers of their media outlets, they are key stakeholders that need to be engaged if a message is to be passed to the intended audience.

Many national and local governments are overwhelmed by the rapid pace of urbanization, she said adding that in some cases, urbanization leads to poverty, pollution, unequal distribution of resources and services, and a cycle of inequality, violence and war over natural resources.

“UN-Habitat’s support to the Government of Kenya’s priorities under Vision 2030 and the Big Four Agenda is being implemented through the Habitat Country Programme Document for Kenya 2018-2021, signed by the Executive Director and Cabinet Secretary Mr. James Macharia and launched in July 2018.

Increasing requests from county governments offer an opportunity to broaden UN-Habitat’s support geographically and in terms of content. UN-Habitat is working on a package of assistance to county governments to be presented to the Council of Governors. So far, county governments have requested for assistance mainly in the following areas: spatial planning, youth livelihoods support, local revenue generation, local economic development and waste management,” she said.

Ms. Sharif who was accompanied by the Director of External Relations Division Ms. Christine Musisi, Special Adviser Mr. Neil Khor and the head of Communications Branch Ms. Susannah Price said the upcoming UN Habitat Assembly was the perfect opportunity for the world to discuss urbanization and the various issues around it. “UN-Habitat has more than 40 years’ experience dealing with stakeholders and we want to leverage on this to bring UN-Habitat closer to the people,” she said in a response to a question from one of the journalists.

In his presentation, Mr. Khor, a former journalist, challenged the editors to look for more inclusive stories as well as the opportunities available in urban centres. He welcomed the journalists to critique UN-Habitat whenever they felt that the agency was not doing something right.

The chair of KEG Mr. Churchill Otieno challenged UN-Habitat to give Kenya priority since the country played host to the agency. “Kenyans want to see and feel your presence in the country. We know you are doing much worldwide but we would want to see more of you here,” he said.

The Executive Director listed some of the projects UN-Habitat was executing in Kenya, adding that the agency has footprints in almost half of the country’s 47 counties starting with Turkana to the north to Kilifi in the south. Such interventions ranged form sustainable housing to lakefront development and one stop youth centres, among others.

Mr. Ochieng’ Rapuro who edits the region’s largest weekly, the East African, lamented the many by-laws ecisting in many of Kenyan urban centres which he said in many cases hindered faster development and asked whether UN-Habitat could assist in reviewing some of these.