Name: Ambassador Dr. Josephine Ojiambo

Nationality: Kenyan

Country of Residence: United States of America

Current Position: Deputy Permanent Representative, Kenyan Mission to the United Nations, New York

How did you get to the role you are in today and what advice would you give aspiring earth champions?

It took a lot of hard work, integrity, humility and patience to get to where I am. I had to leave my comfort zone and study material on thematic areas that were outside my area of specialisation – health and gender.  I also did a lot of volunteer work and community service, something I continue to do as an Ambassador. In addition, I engaged the Kenyan government on many levels before I was appointed as an Ambassador.

For the earth champions, please know that we are in this together. Let us not give up, despite the challenges we are facing in this cause. Let us be persistent like the hummingbird that the late Professor Wangari Maathai talked about. The hummingbird that picked drops of water in its tiny beak and dropped them on the huge forest fire to try and save the forest. Meanwhile, as the hummingbird tried its best, the elephants alongside other animals with trunks that could carry more water just watched the fire consume their habitat – the forest. Let us do the best that we can, in our own small ways. Our efforts will pay off in due time.

What are the priorities in terms of gender equality at Rio+20?

I support continued commitment to the full implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and its key actions for further implementation, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and intend to pay special attention to gender equality and women’s empowerment, especially sexual and reproductive health.

This time round, many recommendations by women have been brought to the decision-making table and well-respected females, such as the Brazilian President, UN Women Executive Michelle Bachelet and the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton will be present. The voices of the women who have worked hard to promote sustainable development need to be taken into consideration. If these vital voices are ignored, we might be back in Rio twenty years from now to discuss the same issues we faced in 1992. Women are mothers and just as they protect their own children from harm, they can also nurture the planet and protect it from further destruction.

To what extent has health been incorporated into discussions around sustainable development?

Health has been incorporated into cities, energy, jobs, disasters and food. Agriculture and food are of particular relevance. Global trends point to many points of convergence between policies to support more sustainable food production, and health-oriented aims of reducing obesity and malnutrition, as well as hunger. But, while the potential for health improvement through sustainable agriculture may appear substantial, food systems are highly complex. In this context, health-related indicators can be a valuable assessment tool and a robust measure of the success of sustainable development policies that yield optimal benefits for health, development and environmental sustainability.

What do you believe should be achieved at Rio+20?

All stakeholders should reach a mutual understanding about the need for immediate change. Voices of concern should be listened to, the calls for action should be heeded and efforts to put into practice the recommendations by governments, NGOs, Major Groups, Indigenous Peoples and other stakeholders should begin. I recognise that different delegations and interest groups might have particular reservations regarding specific issues of sustainable development, however if nothing is done to avert and repair the damage on our planet, then humanity is in danger. Without sustainable development, other goals, such as achieving international peace, will be at risk. The fast growing global population will need to compete for scarce resources, and social injustice and gender-based marginalisation will continue. The UN and other stakeholders have invested so much time and resources in the processes leading to and during Rio+20, let us not disappoint the 7 billion people looking to the Summit for solutions.

Favourite quote

“In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear, and give hope to each other. That time is now!”

The late Professor Wangari Maathai, (First African Woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize).

More information

The hummingbird story: