Forty years ago, in the Swedish capital Stockholm, history was made at a UN conference on the future of humanity and the planet that would propel Kenya into the centre of international environmental affairs. Amid rising concern over pollution, the land and the seas; the growing loss of species and the dying of forests as a result of acid rain, governments agreed that a UN body charged with coordinating a global response to such challenges should be established.
In June 1972 at the UN General Assembly countries lobbied to have this new environmental body. But in the end Kenya won the diplomatic battle and became the first developing country to host a UN headquarters. Founding President Jomo Kenyatta attended the inaugural celebrations on October 2, 1973. A Canadian, Maurice Strong, Unep’s first Executive Director, was present. Unep was originally set up to coordinate the rest of the UN system’s activities on environmental issues and to provide the science to member states on emerging trends in environmental change.