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Kenya’s Prime Minister RT. Hon Raila Odinga opens Ecological Economics conference in Nairobi

Kenya’s Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Raila Odinga, was the key guest at the 10th Biennial International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE) conference in Nairobi, Kenya that was attended by over 250 scientists and practitioners from a broad range of fields and institutions in six continents.

Ecological economics is a trans-disciplinary field of academic research that addresses the metric of interdependence between human economies and natural ecosystems. Ecological economics brings together and connects different disciplines within the natural and social sciences connected to broad areas of earth science, human economics and natural ecosystems.

In his welcome address, Rt Hon Odinga said that the conference was timely in an era where Kenya, and the world in general, is experiencing unprecedented levels of high food prices, coupled with skyrocketing costs of energy.

The Prime Minister drew attention to the importance of the Mau Forest complex stating that the forest is important to the livelihoods of millions of people who live in the region, and depend on the major rivers it generates for survival and food production. He said “to us in Kenya, the debate on the Mau Forest Complex has captured the imperative for sound theory and good practice of ecological economics. As expected in a matter of resource conservation, the government’s effort to halt continuing human encroachment into the catchments areas has elicited mixed reactions; the complications generated has slowed restoration”.

The Prime Minister also pledged to support investment opportunities for clean and green development. He called on the conference participants to look for cooperation opportunities that will promote alternative strategies and ensure that the conference resulted in tangible outputs. “We are knowledgeable about the sound theories that underlie your work, but what we really need is to advocate good practical steps to take us from where we are today to a more sustainable future” Rt Hon Odinga asserted.

The five day conference, held under the theme Applying Ecological Economics for Social and Environmental Sustainability, took place from 7th - 11th August 2008 at the United Nations Conference Center in Gigiri, Nairobi. The conference, which was coordinated by the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS), was a result of the successful collaboration between the International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE), African Society for Ecological Economics (ASEE) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

Other key guests at the conference included Ms Angela Cropper, Deputy Executive Director of UNEP; Dr Kevin Urama, President of the African Society for Ecological Economics and Executive Director of ATPS; and Professor Peter May, President, International Society for Ecological Economics.

In his welcome remarks, Prof Peter May applauded the participants for taking part in the conference stating that ISEE had shown that it was a truly international society with a strong representation from the South. He noted that the challenge of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was to pursue harmonious social and environmental sustainability in the context of glaring poverty.

“Ecological economics has come of age in an era rife with risk and uncertainty, in which it is increasingly necessary to adopt prudence and precaution in the headlong pace of economic growth” Prof May asserted. He also acknowledged that National Research Council of Norway who were instrumental in offering financial assistance to encourage participation by African scholars, particularly women.

Dr Kevin Urama, in his opening address, stated that the ASEE was formed as a regional chapter of the ISEE in Africa. The aim is to strengthen the existing body of Africa based ecological economists and related research for the benefit of African countries and peoples.

“Today as the 10th Biennial Conference of the ISEE kicks off in Africa; I rest assured that the ASEE dream has come to stay. I rest assured that Africa will not be left out of the growing discourses of important global challenges that face our world today” Dr Urama declared. He added that the African continent remains a victim of human impacts of global ecosystems, such as, climate change. However, he strongly expressed hope that Africa will rise up to the challenge, choose a sustainable development path and become proactive in championing the principles of ecological economics in its national development agendas.” He said.

Dr Urama called on the participants to engage in deliberations that would be useful, intellectually stimulating and of practical relevance to policy makers and practioners. He urged delegates to produce evidence based scientific outputs and relevant outcomes that can inform and influence positive changes in the way we manage our world today for sustainable ecosystem services tomorrow.

The five day conference aimed to highlight the vision, methods and policy adjustments needed for ecological economics principles to be applied to the design and management of environmentally and socially sustainable development processes. The conference also sought to build capacity in this area in developing countries in the face of increasing global change and interdependence. The conference featured a number of plenary sessions, panel discussions, round tables, parallel sessions and social activities. Most of the participants were impressed by the presentations and discussions as well as the professional networking opportunities at the conference.

During the conference, Dr Brendan Fisher was awarded The Nicholas Georgescu- Roegen Award for an outstanding young scientist in the field of Ecological Economics. A jury decided that he was the best recipient based on the quality of his publications, his areas of research, his breadth of training in engineering, natural sciences and economics, and his ability to communicate his research results not only in high-impact academic journals but also in popular outlets including newspapers.

The 2008 Kenneth E. Boulding Memorial Award was also presented during the conference to Prof. Manfred Max-Neef and Dr Charles Perrings for their exemplary contributions to Ecological Economics.

At the closing ceremony of the conference, Hon Jackson K Kiptanui, the Assistant Minister for Environment and Mineral Resources read a speech on behalf of Hon. J. Michuki, Minister for Environment and Mineral Resources. In the speech, Hon Kiptanui thanked ISEE for choosing to host the conference in Kenya saying that it was an opportune time to discuss the mainstreaming of environment in the economic development policies in Kenya and Africa.

Hon Kiptanui further asserted that environment needs to be intrinsic to all government polices and called on the conference participants to make sure that Kenya’s unparalled wildlife and biological diversity can benefit local communities. He challenged the conference to start an in-depth discourse that can be forwarded to African policy makers for debate. He called on the conference attendees to rise to the challenge, choose a sustainable development path and become proactive in championing the principles of ecological development in Kenya’s national development agenda.

Posted on Friday 8th August, 2008




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