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UN Environment and URI–Africa commit to work in partnership

The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with United Religions Initiative–Africa (URI) to collaborate on leveraging the wisdom, power and influence of faith-based and spiritual communities.

The agreement was signed at the UN Environment Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya by Dr. Juliette Biao-Koudenoukpo, UN Environment Director and Regional Representative Africa and Ambassador Mussie Hailu, URI Regional Director for Africa and Representative to the African Union and UN office in Africa.

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Amongst others, the two organizations have agreed to the following preliminary and overarching areas of cooperation:  

  • To collaborate and maintain a close and continuing working partnership on the issue of faith and environmental sustainability;
  • To enhance and facilitate interfaith cooperation and foster a consistent working partnership between UN Environment and religious leaders from different faith traditions on environmental sustainability issues; 
  • To promote the role of religious leaders, ensuring the health and productivity of ecosystems and conserving biological diversity for human well-being, and creating public awareness through churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and other worship places on the importance of the environmental pillar in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063 “Africa we want” of the African Union;
  • To mobilize interfaith and faith-based organizations, religious and spiritual leaders for the implementation of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative of UN Environment;
  • To actively engage followers of different religions in Africa in environmental campaigns, promoting the Green Rule Initiative and observing the World Environment Day on the 5th of June of each year.

On the occasion of the signing of the MOU, Dr. Juliette Biao-Koudenoukpo said, “Great leaders such as the late President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanzania have always had a high respect for spiritual guidance. Religious leaders therefore play a key role in guiding not only their members, but also world leaders to take action in safeguarding the environment pillar of sustainable development. Our work has just begun.”

On his part, Ambassador Hailu said, “URI highly appreciates and recognizes the great work of UNEP since its establishment in 1972 for the promotion and protection of the environment, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally-sound policies and practices, and providing a structure to support systems of environmental governance in the world and to bring sustainable development. It is for this reason URI-Africa presented its Africa Peace Award to UNEP in 2015. I do believe that the signing of this MOU will cement the working partnership established between the UNEP–Africa Office and URI–Africa, and this will pave the way for the two organizations to further enhance their collaboration on a global level.

“UN Environment and URI share common objectives with regard to the conservation, protection, enhancement and support of nature and natural resources, including biological diversity, and this cooperation agreement will help to enhance the collaboration of the two organizations to further these common goals and objectives within their respective mandates and governing rules and regulations,” Amb. Hailu added.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment.

United Religions Initiative (URI) – a PaRD member – is a global grassroots interfaith network that cultivates peace and justice by engaging people to bridge religious and cultural differences and work together for the good of their communities and the world.