Resident Representative speech at the Council of Governors’ leadership transition

January 29, 2021

Walid Badawi UNDP Resident Representative for Kenya speaking at the Council of Governnors leadership transition.

Hon. Eugene Wamalwa, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Devolution and ASALs
Acting Chief Justice, Hon. Lady Justice Mwilu
Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, Chairman, Council of Governors
Governor Wa Iria, Vice Chairperson, Council of Governors
Governor Prof. Kivutha Kibwana, Whip, Council of Governors
Chairpersons of constitutional Commissions
Mr. John Burugu, Acting Chair of the Intergovernmental Relations Technical Committee
Hon. Florence Mwangangi, Deputy Chair of the County Assemblies Forum
All governors and deputy governors present
H.E. Simon Mordue, European Union Ambassador
Henri-Louis Larsen, HOC Danish Embassy

(protocols observed)

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.

A very good afternoon to you all I am honored to be able to deliver some remarks on this most auspicious occasion.

As the Resident Representative for UNDP, I am very proud of the key role that my agency has played in supporting devolution  -  devolution in Kenya is an unprecedented and monumental accomplishment and I congratulate the Government of Kenya on this.

Globally, UNDP has implemented hundreds of programmes on local governance devolution, and decentralization in over seventy-five countries and on all continents. These programmes focus on different aspects of local governance and quite closely mirror the sectors covered by the Council’s committee structure.

UNDP has facilitated and continues to support countries and institutions in the localization of numerous global and regional frameworks including Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, including in Kenya and with the Council.

In so doing, UNDP has learned from its global experiences, that bringing governance closer to the people pays off in greater levels of human development. As the Council and its 47 member counties have demonstrated through their successful interventions, this is also the lesson here in Kenya. A government that is close to the people can better engage and respond to the needs of its citizens and bring local solutions to local problems, particularly in critical service delivery areas.

UNDP is particularly gratified to be a close partner and supporter of the Council of Governors since its inception in 2013, when the Secretariat was established. Along with the support of our development partners, this partnership has grown from strength to strength.

UNDP has supported devolution from its initial design in the 2010 Constitution, through the Task Force on Devolution, and through until today without pause. This support has reached all counties, national and regional institutions and, of course CoG.

As the Chair of the United Nations Devolution Working Group in Kenya, UNDP has played a leading role in the coordination of the overall UN system’s support for devolution. Over the past seven years, UNDP has been both the Chair and Co-Chair of the Donor Group on Devolution. Both these groups serve to coordinate support for devolution to ensure that complementarity, efficiency, and effectiveness of both our individual and collective efforts. I thank the U.K. for their leadership role as the group’s chair for the past several years and I recognize today the new chairs of the Donor Group on Devolution: Denmark and the World Bank.

In 2020 devolution faced its greatest test – COVID-19. Recognizing that the devolved system was key to tackling this pandemic, UNDP reached out and partnered with county governments to provide health workers, health supplies, provided county level health communications, embraced innovation, amongst other forms of support. Nowhere was our support for the Council of Governors more evident than in our COVID-19 response.

A strategic outcome of the COVID-19 support to the CoG is the formulation of the County Government COVID-19 Social-Economic Reengineering and Recovery Strategy. This strategy launched late last year, by His Excellency, President Kenyatta, not only benefited from the analysis of KIPPRA and many of the governors in this room, but that of the wider UN system which has developed global and other national recovery strategies. UNDP now looks forward to supporting the implementation of this strategy with CoG.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Council of Governors has proven to be a cornerstone of the success of devolution. Naturally, any great institution needs strong leadership which is why we’re here today. The current leadership of the Chair, Governor Oparanya, Vice Chair, Governor Wa Iria and Whip, Governor Kibwana, as well as Committee Chairs, can look back on its accomplishments with great pride. These accomplishments cover many important sectors:

  • the successful Universal Health Coverage pilot programme will serve as a basis for improved healthcare going forward;
  • there’s been great progress on the long-standing County Assets and Liabilities issue;
  • integrating climate change and the broader SDGs into county planning processes including spatial planning;
  • developing partnerships between counties and various stakeholders in multiple sectors, including the energy sector;
  • and, of course, the recent strengthening of the Council’s Secretariat will help ensure its long-term sustainability.

On big issues, CoG’s leadership was able to keep devolution’s priorities front and centre through wins in the high court and in the complex political arena where many interests and stakeholders must be dealt with – the issue of funds transfers to the counties is only one example; navigating the threats posed by COVID-19 and an economic downturn is another, as is managing the many interests and challenges in the health sector – indeed, a great deal has been accomplished during your terms.

Let me also acknowledge the effective management and collaboration that has enabled UNDP to be a vital partner in supporting COG, namely through the leadership of the COG CEO, Ms. Jackie Mogeni, and proudly to add, a former UNDP staff, herself.

Other countries have taken note of your success with many delegations coming to visit and learn from Kenya’s experience and we’ve also seen many scholars writing about the great Kenyan experience. UNDP will also be contributing to document and telling the successful story of Kenya’s devolution journey.

The new Chair, Vice Chair, Whip and Committee Chairs are critical positions that will guide CoG over their coming terms and through a critical period as we continue to manage COVID-19 and work towards a strong recovery where we build back better and, of course, head into the 2022 elections – in fact, the peaceful and consensual nature in which CoG elects its leadership is exemplary, something that can serve as a model for 2022.

UNDP looks forward to working with CoG and its new leadership as we continue to support devolution to improve the lives of Kenyans.

Asanteni sana.