VOA NEWS/ Sarah Kimani

NAIROBI — Delegates at the United Nations Environment Assembly, meeting in Kenya, held a moment of silence Monday for the victims of Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash.

At least 5,000 delegates, including environment ministers, experts, and activists gathered Monday at the United Nations offices in Nairobi.

They paid respects to the 157 people who died in Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash.

The victims came from more than 30 nations and included 22 U.N. staff members. Six of them worked in Nairobi.

The acting director general for the United Nations in Nairobi, Maimunah Sharif, fought back tears as she paid tribute to her colleagues.

“We will not forget this tragedy, nor those that perished in it. Let us not forget that our colleagues were willing to travel far from home and make this world a better place to live,” she said.

The crash of the Boeing 737 MAX 8, flying from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, came as delegates were flying to Kenya’s capital for a U.N. Environmental Program conference.

Outside the complex, which hosts several regional U.N. offices, the U.N. flag was lowered to half-mast in honor of those who died.

“As you can see we are flying our flag at half mast. We are in mourning,” said Sidharth Chatterjee, resident coordinator for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Despite the tragedy, the assembly continued with a call for countries to adopt innovations and technologies to better protect the environment.

“In the draft ministerial declaration, i am asking the member states to define ambitious national targets for reducing waste generation, increasing the reuse of products and to significantly reduce single use plastics by 2030,” said Sim Kisler, the U.N. Environmental Assembly president.

The annual gathering of environment ministers, experts, and activists lays out global actions to try to deal with environmental challenges.

Joyce Msuya, acting director for the United Nations Environment Program, said the world must take action quickly to counteract the effects of climate change.

“We have compelling science that lays out the urgency with which we must act,” she said.

Ministers will adopt a declaration on ways to deal with challenges which include biodiversity loss, pollution and climate change related poverty.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who helped push the global agenda on climate change, is expected to join the summit on Thursday.