How sustainability can contribute to peace and security in the country

September 30, 2022 - Reading Time: 3 minutes - By Leah Waweru Kakai

Several parts of Kenya have been suffering from recurrent bouts of insecurity and conflict between neighbouring communities and peoples. For example, Northern Kenya has a long history of conflict and marginalisation with communities fighting over the few existing natural resources such as grazing fields.

The situation has been made worse by socio-political marginalisation and the devastating effects of climate change. At the moment, millions of people in the Horn of Africa are faced with the greatest drought in over 40 years. This means that the few available natural resources have been depleted or have become even more scarce, increasing inter-communal competition for access rights and ultimately, increasing the probability of hostility and violence outbreaks.

With this in mind then, sustainable development offers an opportunity for the private sector to contribute to peacebuilding and human security in war-zone areas across the country. Walk with me and I’ll share a few examples of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that we can ride on in pursuit of this.

The first example is SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation. Some of the Goal’s targets include:

·         6.1 By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all

·         6.5 By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate.

·         6.6 By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes.

·         6.B Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management.

I propose, therefore, that Implementing and supporting initiatives under SDG 6 to achieve these targets will reduce community marginalisation, reduce competition among communities for access and decrease inter-community hostility through integrated management of the water resource.

In addition, access to water facilities within villages will help reduce Sexual and Gender-Based Violence against women and girls who are, in most cases, responsible for domestic chores such as fetching water. These women travel far in search of water and this makes them easy targets of violence and hostility from bandits outside their villages or members of the neighbouring communities.

The second example is SDG 13: Climate Action which encourages all stakeholders to take urgent action to help combat climate change and its impacts. Some of the targets under this Goal include:

·         13.1: Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related disasters.

·         13.3: Build knowledge and capacity to meet climate change.

Initiatives geared toward climate change mitigation and adaptation such as training communities on regenerative agriculture and restoration of degraded forest lands and water catchment areas will contribute to peace and stability in several ways. For example, restoration of water catchment areas will increase the amounts of water that flow downstream reducing competition within the communities.

Likewise, empowering farmers in regenerative agriculture by providing drought-resistant seeds and practicing agroforestry will decrease food insecurity, improve land productivity and reduce competition for arable land. Lastly, green jobs such as the installation of solar energy panels will partially reduce the likelihood of young men joining terrorist groups to earn a living or support their families.

Our third and last example is SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. The Goal seeks to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all. Some of the targets under this Goal include:

·         8.2: Diversify, innovate and upgrade for economic productivity

·         8.6: Promote youth employment, education and training

I’m sure you have heard and probably said this statement at one time, “Opportunities for decent work in Kenya will reduce the luring of the youth to violent groups.” Do you agree?

Kenya has experienced politically instigated violence in the past and most of the rioters have been identified as jobless youth, especially from marginalised informal settlements. I, therefore, propose to you that the Sh50-500 given to these young men would no longer be attractive to most of them if they were given decent work opportunities to earn a living. We will have protected them from being used to cause violence and lead in looting during the electioneering period.

I trust that by now, we all appreciate the potential and value that sustainable development – spearheaded by the private sector – offers in promoting peace and security in Kenya.

As I conclude, I admit that this presentation has been extremely simplified to put the point across. However, it is important to note that insecurity is caused by a nexus of issues in reality and an integrated analysis is needed before strategizing on the course of action. The analysis should include a representation of all or most of the parties involved to ensure that the solutions will address their concerns and that no party will feel left out.

Having said this, I hope that organisations will be encouraged to mainstream sustainability within their business and contribute to the building of a better and more secure nation.

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