One of Seychelles’ youngest executives is calling for countries to put more trust in young people as leaders on climate change issues.
Twenty-nine year-old Angelique Pouponneau - a former vice-chair of the Commonwealth Youth Council and 2016 Queen’s Young Leader – heads the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT). Currently worth about $22 million, the trust supports community-led projects on marine conservation and climate change.
Ms Pouponneau shared her experiences at a side event organised by the Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network, at the COP25 climate change conference taking place in Madrid this week.
She said: “[At first], there were very few young people benefiting from the SeyCCAT trust fund, simply because they were not applying. Many young people have great ideas, but sometimes the complex application form scares them off, or they don’t have the confidence to put in a proposal.”
However, she said that donors are equally worried that their funds are not being used.
Taking an approach of inclusivity and access, the trust fund tripled its disbursement rate under her leadership, rising from $250,000 for six projects in 2017, to $890,000 for 21 projects in 2019. More than half (52 per cent) of the projects are led by women, and 22 per cent by young people.
Ms Pouponneau continued: “Seeing a young person lead an organisation is very empowering for other young people, and that has led to other young people being willing to approach this organisation.”
The trend is complemented by Seychelles’ ongoing practice of including large groups of young people in its official delegation to climate change negotiations.
The country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Ambassador for Climate Change, Ronald Jumeau said: “One of the things about empowering youth, that it’s not just for them to take the stage, but then when they’re there, they deliver to prove that it’s worth putting them where they are... It’s not about tokenism.”
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland welcomed the progress. SeyCATT is a key element of Seychelles’ blue economy road map, developed with Commonwealth support.
In her keynote speech, the Secretary-General said: “The face of leadership on climate change is changing. It is becoming younger and more inclusive. We are a Commonwealth, with more than 60% of the Commonwealth’s 2.4 billion population under the age of 30.”
The Commonwealth works in partnership with young people through the Commonwealth Youth Climate Network to build their capacity to engage in climate policy-making and action.
The Commonwealth also launched a policy toolkit to enable governments to support youth entrepreneurship in the blue and green economies, developed in partnership with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The Secretary-General concluded: “It is our duty to enable the necessary regulatory environment for young people to sustain their social enterprises and improve their access to finance, education and skills development, in order to fully harness their power of innovation.”