Three United Nations independent experts on
Monday called on the Kenyan government to respect the rights of
indigenous Sengwer peoples while implementing a climate change
project in northwestern Kenya.
expressed concerns about recent reports that indigenous Sengwer
peoples have been attacked and forcibly evicted from their homes
as a result of the implementation of the Water Towers Protection
and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation project, an EU-funded
water management project.
John H. Knox,
Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations
relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and
sustainable environment; Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the
situation of human rights defenders; Victoria Tauli-Corpuz,
Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, called
on the Kenyan authorities to urgently halt the evictions of the
Sengwer community and undertake impartial investigations of
urge the European Union to suspend funding for the project until
measures have been taken to uphold international standards on
indigenous peoples’ rights,” experts said.
indigenous people whose population is estimated at 33,000
inhabit forests straddling Elgeyo Marakwet and Trans Nzoia
counties in northwestern Kenya.
For centuries, the
Sengwer community has derived its livelihood from the forest
ecosystem while protecting it from both man-made and natural
The Ministry of
Environment in partnership with EU has since 2016 implemented a
climate resilience project on the foothills of Cherangany water
The project roots
for active involvement of indigenous communities in restoration
of one of the five major water towers in the country.
“The Sengwer are
facing repeated attacks and forced evictions by agents of the
Kenya Forest Service, which is an implementing agency in the
project financed by the European Union,” the experts said.
Over 100 armed
Forest Service guards entered the traditional lands of the
Sengwer in the Embobut Forest on Dec 25 last year, firing
gunshots, burning at least 15 homes and killing their livestock.
On Jan. 9, one of
the Sengwer leaders, was shot at by Forest Service Service
guards but while he managed to escape unhurt, his house was
burnt down and his property destroyed.
The experts called
on Kenya and the EU to ensure that the human rights of the
Sengwer peoples are respected, noting that consultations have
not been held with the Sengwer to seek their free, prior and
“We are concerned
that the project is being undertaken without a human rights
impact assessment,” the experts said.
UN agencies step
up efforts against environmental health risks
GENEVA (Xinhua) --
UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the World
Health Organization (WHO) have agreed a new, wide-ranging
collaboration on Wednesday to accelerate action to curb
environmental health risks that cause an estimated 12.6 million
deaths a year.
The two UN agencies
inked a deal in Nairobi, Kenya, on Wednesday to step up joint
actions to combat air pollution, climate change and
antimicrobial resistance, as well as improve coordination on
waste and chemicals management, water quality, and food and
It represents the
most significant formal agreement on joint action across the
spectrum of environment and health issues in over 15 years. The
two agencies will develop a joint work program and hold an
annual high-level meeting to evaluate progress and make
recommendations for continued collaboration.
collaboration creates a more systematic framework for joint
research, development of tools and guidance, capacity building,
monitoring of UN Sustainable Development Goals, global and
regional partnerships, and support to regional health and
“There is an urgent
need for our two agencies to work more closely together to
address the critical threats to environmental sustainability and
climate—which are the foundations for life on this planet. This
new agreement recognizes that sober reality,” said UNEP
Executive Director Erik Solheim.
“Our health is
directly related to the health of the environment we live in.
Together, air, water and chemical hazards kill more than 12.6
million people a year. This must not continue,” said WHO
Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Most of these
deaths occur in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin
America where environmental pollution takes its biggest health
Last month, under
the overarching topic “Towards a Pollution-Free Planet”, the UN
Environment Assembly convened environment ministers worldwide in
adopting a resolution on Environment and Health, calling for
expanded partnerships with relevant UN agencies and partners,
and for an implementation plan to tackle pollution.